Importing Mail .mbox files

Reader Ed Flesch has a tiny bone to pick with me in regard to some advice offered in a Mac 911 column. He writes:

In your Mac 911 column, which is carried in our User Group newsletter (NCMUG), you offered advice to Reader N.N. re: archiving Mail messages. One option you suggested was dragging a Mail mailbox to the desktop, where a Mail-friendly mbox file is automatically created. I did this and the process went well.

Then, to restore that file to Mail, you said to “Choose File - > Import Mailboxes, choose Mail for Mac OS X… click Continue and navigate to the folder you created earlier.” This didn’t go so well. When I tried this I got the following Error message: “No valid Mail for Mac OS X files were found.” This was true for both of the two files I attempted to restore.

What have I missed?

Nothing other than the eensie-weensie detail that would have made my advice work properly. That advice is this:

For reasons best known to Apple, when you export a Mail 2.x (Tiger’s version of Mail) mailbox in this way and then attempt to import it using the steps I described, it works only if you select the folder that encloses the .mbox folder.

So, for example, let’s say you’ve exported a mailbox you named “Miscellaneous.” Dragging it to the Desktop produces a folder called Miscellaneous.mbox. If you choose File -> Import Mailboxes, choose Mail for Mac OS X, navigate to the Miscellaneous.mbox folder, and click Choose, Mail will report that No Valid Mail for Mac OS X Files Were Found.

However, go back and read, very carefully , what Mail tells you to do when you first invoke the Mail Import Mailboxes command:

You will now be asked for the location of a folder containing mailboxes created by another copy of Mail for Mac OS X.

See? You need to find the folder containing mailboxes rather than the mailboxes themselves.

I agree, it’s goofy, but that’s the way it works. If you’ve dragged a mailbox to the Desktop, you must select the Desktop as the target and then click Choose. When you do so, any mailboxes that sit on the Desktop (or within folders on the Desktop) will appear, ready for import.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

Comments