Setting obsolete versions of the Apple Mail program to use IMAP

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This page is obsolete.

It contains instructions for an old version of the Mac OS X "Mail" program that is not included with new Mac computers. Unless you have a Mac running the older "Lion" or "Mountain Lion" operating system, you probably want to read the current Apple Mail page instead, which explains how to use IMAP by default.

With the Apple Mail application, you can optionally use IMAP connections for reading incoming mail. Using IMAP (instead of the older POP method) allows you to keep your messages on our servers instead of downloading them to your computer.

Keeping messages on our servers can be useful if you read mail using different programs or devices. For example, if you use Apple Mail, Webmail and an iPhone, IMAP allows each method to know what messages you’ve read using other methods, and to share a single “Sent Mail” folder on the server.

Configuring IMAP

To configure IMAP with SSL, you will:

  • First follow our standard instructions to set up Apple Mail, choosing IMAP instead of “POP”.
  • Specify folders for storing Drafts, Sent Items and Trash.

1. Follow our standard instructions for setting up Apple Mail

Follow the standard instructions to add an account to the Mail program, with one change: choose “My incoming mail server is a IMAP server” (instead of “POP”) in step 3.

2. Setting Sent and Trash

Once the account has been set up, there’s an additional step needed to to keep Mail folders in sync with other programs or devices that might connect to the mailbox.

The mailbox folders will initially look similar to this:

screen shot

Note that there are “Sent” and “Trash” folders with plain icons. (There may also be other folders; you can ignore them if so.) The plain icons indicate that Apple Mail doesn’t consider them to be special folders that it should use for storing sent mail or deleted mail.

To fix this, click the plain Sent folder for the new mailbox. Then click the Mailbox menu and choose Use this Mailbox for > Sent, like this:

screen shot

Repeat for the Trash folder by clicking the plain Trash folder, then choosing Use this Mailbox for > Trash.

After doing this, the Sent and Trash folders will move up to the global “Sent” and “Trash” sections with custom icons of a paper airplane and a trash can. There will no longer be separate copies of these folders at the bottom of the list.

If you have multiple accounts in Apple Mail, you may need to click a small triangle next to the global “Sent” or “Trash” sections to see the matching folder. (The triangle may not appear until you send your first message in the case of “Sent”, or until you delete your first message in the case of “Trash”.)

3. Remove old accounts (optional)

If you previously set up a POP account for this address in Apple Mail, you will need to copy over existing messages to your new IMAP account. Do not delete the old account from Mail just yet, because that will delete mail from your computer. Instead, follow the instructions on our “Safely Deleting Old Mail Accounts” page.

You’re finished!

Mail is now set to use IMAP. Send yourself a test message to make sure it works.