How to Recover Deleted or Lost Apple Mail Emails on Any Mac

Recover deleted emails on Mac

Despite being invented nearly half a century ago, email still remains one of the most useful communication tools in the world. The only problem is that email is not exactly bullet-proof, and it doesn’t take much for critically important messages to become accidentally deleted or lost, which is why so many Mac users are desperate to learn how to recover deleted emails on Mac.

If you’re among them, then this article is for you because it describes multiple solutions that you can use to recover permanently deleted emails on any Mac.

How Are Emails Stored on Mac?

Most Mac users rely on the Apple Mail app when it comes to reading and composing email messages. This easy-to-use email client has been included with all versions of Apple’s operating system since Mac OS X Panther, which was released in 2003.
Emails on Mac
Apple Mail supports all email services that rely on POP3, Exchange, or IMAP, and it comes pre-configured to seamlessly work with iCloud, Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL Mail, and other major email services. As a user, you can simply enter your email address and password, and Apple Mail will take care of the rest.

When you add an email account to Apple Mail, the email client creates a local cache with email messages in the following hidden location (you can open it using the Go to Folder option in Finder):


Inside this folder should be at least one subfolder with a cryptic alphanumerical name. This subfolder will contain a .mbox file, which is essentially a file archive holding a collection of email messages. You can open it using Finder and then navigate through its various subfolders until you reach a subfolder with .emlx files.

Files with the .elmx extension are simply text files created by Apple Mail corresponding to individual email messages, and you can open them using any text editor, such as Apple’s TextEdit.

Just don’t expect to see a nicely formatted email message. Instead, you’ll see the source code of the message displayed as plain text, and you need to decipher what’s formatting and what’s the actual content of the message.

How to Restore Deleted Emails with Data Recovery Software?

Data recovery software like Disk Drill allows you to take advantage of the fact that deleted files, including deleted .emlx files from ~/Library/Mail/, physically remain on the hard drive until they are overwritten by new files.

As long as you begin the recovery process in a timely manner and use a reliable data recovery software application, you should be able to recover a deleted Mailbox file created by Apple Mail on Mac without any issues.

We recommend Disk Drill because it offers leading data recovery performance, support for the Apple Mail message format, polished user interface, and many extra features intended to make recovering deleted emails and other data on Mac computers painless.

To recover deleted emails using Disk Drill: 

  1. Download and install Disk Drill.Disk Drill Installation on Mac
  2. Click the Search for lost data button next to the system drive.Scan the Drive
  3. Wait for the recovery process to finish.
  4. Enter “emlx” into the search field to view all recoverable .emlx files.
  5. Select the email messages you want to recover and click the Recover button in the bottom-right. You can click the View icon to display individual email messages before recovery. Recover emlx files
  6. Specify the recovery directory and confirm.
  7. Don’t recover the lost email messages to the system drive because you could overwrite them.

The Basic version of Disk Drill can preview all recoverable email messages for free, but you need to upgrade to Disk Drill Pro to recover them.

How to Recover Emails from a Backup?

If you’re using Apple’s backup utility, Time Machine, to keep your data safe, then you should be able to relatively easily recover your deleted or lost emails without any third-party software.

To recover emails from a Time Machine backup:  

  1. Launch the Apple Mail app.Apple Mail in the doc
  2. Click the Time Machine icon located in the Menu Bar and choose Enter Time Machine.Enter Time Machine
  3. Go back in time using the timeline on the right edge of the screen until you find a backup containing the deleted emails.
  4. Click Restore to recover your emails. Restore lost emails

You can, of course, use any backup software you want, but Time Machine comes with all recent versions of macOS, so there’s a good chance that it will help you get back your emails.

How to Retrieve Emails Stored in the Cloud?

In many cases, it’s possible to retrieve emails from the cloud a long time after you’ve deleted them in Apple Mail. That’s because various email service providers offer their own methods for retrieving deleted emails, and Apple Mail doesn’t always let you take advantage of them.

To retrieve deleted Gmail emails: 

  1. Open Safari and go to:
  2. Log in with your username and password.
  3. Open the Trash folder.
  4. Select the email message you want to retrieve and move it back to your inbox.Recover deleted emails in Gmail

To retrieve deleted Outlook emails: 

  1. Open Safari and go to:
  2. Log in with your username and password.
  3. Open the Deleted Items folder.
  4. Select the email message you want to retrieve and choose the Restore option to move it back to your inbox.Recover deleted Outlook emails

To retrieve deleted Yahoo emails: 

  1. Open Safari and go to:
  2. Log in with your username and password.
  3. Open the Trash folder.
  4. Select the email message you want to retrieve and choose the Restore to Inbox option to move it back to your inbox. Recover deleted yahoo emails

Most other email service providers make it similarly easy to recover deleted email messages, but the individual recovery steps might be slightly different.

When It’s Not Possible to Recover Deleted Email on Mac?

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to recover deleted emails on Mac. Why? Because at least one of the following conditions must be met for deleted emails to be recoverable:

  • A backup of the deleted emails must exist (solution: recovery from a backup).
  • The deleted emails must still be physically present on the hard drive (solution: data recovery software).
  • The deleted emails must be stored on the email server (solution: recovery from the cloud).

In case none of these conditions is met, then you most likely won’t be able to recover deleted emails on Mac no matter which solution you try.