Manually Migrating Mail to a New MacBook Pro


debi

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I asked this on another forum, and just got a question as an answer: “Why don’t you use Migration Assistant.” Well, because I don’t want everything migrated. Sorry if I should’ve posted this somewhere besides OS forum, but here’s my original post (below). The thing I’m really wondering about is which to do first (account set up versus folder copy). I worry that if I set up my accounts, the new Mac will just try to pull all the new stuff from the email server (overlooking the old, filed stuff), but that if I do the folders first, my account set up won’t recognize that the folders are already there, and will end up making extras. I want to start with Mail (I’ve got over twenty years of stuff I keep on file) and make sure that looks OK before installing newer versions of third-party apps, copying cleaned up data folders, etc.

I just got a new MacBook Pro and want to migrate data from my old one manually, staring with Mail.

I have four IMAP accounts, but organize most of my mail into folders stored locally on my Mac. It’s my understanding that I can copy the Mail folder from inside my Library folder to get all my old emails and folders onto the new Mac. Is that correct?

Obviously, I’ll also need to set up the accounts. Should I copy the Library info before setting up the accounts, or should I set up the accounts first?

TIA,
debi
 
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Cory Cooper

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Hello,

Which model Mac, OS X/macOS version, and Mail version on the Mac you are currently using?

Older versions of OS X/macOS would allow you to simply drag the entire Mail folder from your Home folder's Library folder as you stated. But, newer versions don't, because the emails are stored in Containers and multiple places. Probably the best way, without using Migration Assistant, would be to export all of the mailboxes to an external hard drive, then import them after you setup Mail on the new Mac.

C
 

debi

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Cory,

Thanks for your quick response, and sorry for my delayed one (been a little busy with holiday fun and such, and took a tech hiatus too).

My current MBP is a 15", mid-2015, with Sierra 10.12.6 and Mail 10.3 The new one is 15" MBP with Mohave 10.14.5 and Mail 12.4. In case you can't tell, I'm not that good at keeping up with updates. I tend to be a bit wary of newer software that hasn't been heavily tested yet and am generally reluctant to rock the boat once I have a stable combination of packages. But that's just me. This new Mac will give me a chance to catch up a bit.

I'm curious about those containers you mentioned. My experience with digital containers is limited to the FileMaker field type used for binary data. Can you please explain a little more about that?

I'm trying not to do anything on the new Mac until I get this Mail thing resolved. I did launch Mail inadvertently, however, when trying to get the version info. Apparently that created a couple of things in my Library's Mail folder: "PersistenceInfo.plist" and a "V6" folder. The latter has a single "MailData" folder with about eight items (TextEdit and property list files); the plist file, when opened into TextEdit, apparently references the V6 folder. Should I remove those before I move forward, or leave them in place?

I compared this to my old Mac's Library's Mail folder. There is a LOT of stuff in there, including folders that are V2, V3, and V4. Frankly, I'm not sure if those incremental "V"s are from upgrade processes or disk recoveries. Also, I looked for a MailData folder, but could only find a MailData.mbox file. FYI, I suffered a major partition issue and data loss a few years ago, and went through a slow, tedious process of reinstating my mail structure. It was painful enough that I forgot exactly how I did that. I think I still have some orphan emails as well as some garbage left from that. In the Mail program, I can also see that I have a "Recovered Messages" section for three of my four accounts.

One of the other things that confuses me is that, on my old Mac in that Library Mail folder stuff, I have a bunch of Sent .mbox files, such as Sent Items.mbox, Sent Messages (debi).mbox*, Sent Messages.mbox, Sent Objects.mbox and just plain ol' Sent.mbox. (*"debi" is one of my accounts, and I have another like this for another of my accounts, but not for my other two accounts). Is this normal? Is this a problem? Is there a reason there are so many similar things like this (looks like I have a few dozen all told)?

Hopefully, this gives you enough background on my current system to help me further.

For the export/import processes you've suggested, do I have to do each Mail folder and sub-folder on its own? I have a lot of folders, and some are pretty deeply nested, so any shortcuts in that regard would be a huge help.

Thanks again for your help!

miao,
debi
 

debi

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Hello,​
Which model Mac, OS X/macOS version, and Mail version on the Mac you are currently using?​
Older versions of OS X/macOS would allow you to simply drag the entire Mail folder from your Home folder's Library folder as you stated. But, newer versions don't, because the emails are stored in Containers and multiple places. Probably the best way, without using Migration Assistant, would be to export all of the mailboxes to an external hard drive, then import them after you setup Mail on the new Mac.​
C​
Cory,​
I think the Import option may have been something I did before, after a partial restore (see above), and may be why some of my emails are still such a mess. If things ended up in one big Import file, I probably gave up after refiling the bulk of them into newly-created folders. Also, I seem to remember that some of them would not move (Mail gave error messages saying it couldn't) and I have a pile of leftovers.​
I've been reading about export/import to do this, but I'm still not clear on a bunch of things:​
1. Can I select EVERYTHING in the sidebar and export them all at once? Does that include my Inbox at the top, Flagged, Drafts, etc., (each of which have a section for each of my four accounts)? What about all my folders that "On My Mac"? These are probably the most critical, as I image much of the rest will be restored automatically via IMAP from the server, no?​
2. When importing, is there anyway to keep the folder structure rather than just getting one big folder from which I will have to re-file everything?​
3. Back to an earlier question: move (whether by copying or importing) the emails first, or set up the accounts first?​
4. How about if I do a TimeMachine backup on a new external drive and backup ONLY my emails? Maybe just exclude everything except the Library/Mail folder? and then do an automatic migration from Time Machine?​
My goal is to keep all my Mail, spend as little time and effort as possible, and possibly end up with a cleaner start on my new Mac.​
TIA for any advice from anyone!​
miao,​
debi​
 

Cory Cooper

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No worries.

The containers are different than your FileMaker reference. It's more about the way and where the newer versions of macOS/Mail store the emails, as you have found out and explained in your reply.

Normally, you can export a mailbox, and it will also expport all the sub-mailboxes with it. However, depending on the macOS differences, the import mailbox structure can change dramatically, and will take some sorting.

From my limited experience with exporting:
1. I believe you can select multiple and export them simultaneously. If it fails however, it may be difficult to determine which completed and which it stopped on.
2. It depends on which version exported them. No matter what, you will need to move them from the Imported folder back to where they were.
3. You will have to setup at least one account to enable Mail to open the Messages window and import mailboxes.
4. As I mentioned, because of the differences in the way versions of Mail store things, that probably wouldn't work.

Honestly, the easiest way to store your mail and enable ease of migration to new versions of macOS and new Mac, is to create the mailboxes on the individual email providers IMAP servers, not on your Mac. Then, you can simply setup an account and all of the mailboxes will sync. I know that doesn't help currently, but you may consider that in the future. The caveats to that are any storage limits the email providers may have, and your email is stored on their servers - not really a privacy concern for most people, but some prefer not to.

Hope that helps a bit.

C
 

debi

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Aaargh!

Re-filing everything from a single import folder?? I think I'd rather... do something horrible to myself. I already have un-filed items leftover from getting my current Mac 3 years ago. And I'm not too keen on re-establishing folders on my IMAP provider; besides which, I have to keep up on my Inbox regularly as it is, even with all my local organizing, to avoid "almost full" messages from them (iPage).

Oh well. I may try some experimenting with a fifth, small account; or I may end up using the Migration Assistant after all.

Thanks again for taking your time to help!
 
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Cory Cooper

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I totally understand the frustration. Mail can be a difficult animal to tame.

Sometimes a local Mac user group will have folks that are good with issues like this. It can be difficult to offer support via a forum, without being able to go hands-on.

Let us know how the account testing goes.

C
 
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