Q&A: Archiving mail

Q I am going to replace my Mac Pro with a new computer, and have amassed around 250,000 emails. Now is a good chance to archive many of them, to free disk space and start with more manageable mailboxes. What is the best way to do that? Could I leave mail on the various servers from which I receive them and have them archived there?

A One very simple but effective way of archiving important emails is to periodically move them into a new folder within your mail client. Once that folder is large enough, drag and drop it onto a folder within your Home folder, and write that out to a couple of optical disks. You can then remove the archived folder from your mail client, copying it back if you need to refer back to its contents.

Comments If you are concerned about future accessibility, use Emailchemy ($29.95) to convert custom mailbox formats to the standard mbox, which should be future-proof.

Automatic archiving systems normally work on mail servers; unless you have special accounts, providers of external mail services will not do this, and you should be very wary about relying solely on anyone else’s archives.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 28 issue 05, 2012.