Learn to Clean up the macOS Mail Auto-Complete List

Delete old addresses from the Mail app address-completion list

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MacOS Mail has a good memory when it comes to recalling the people you've emailed in the past. Its memory is so good, Mail never forgets any email address until you manually remove it.

Sometimes, you run across an old address that you never email anymore, and it gets in the way when you send a message to someone with a similar address or to the a person who no longer uses that old address.

You can remove the email address of a single person, but instead of deleting just one entry from the list, you can remove all the old addresses you no longer need by selecting multiples at once using the auto-complete list.

The information in this article applies to the Mail application on Macs running iOS X 10.8 Mountain Lion through macOS 10.14 Mojave.

Clean Up the Auto-Complete List in MacOS Mail

To clean up the auto-complete list of previous recipients' addresses in macOS Mail:

  1. Open Mail on your Mac by clicking the Mail icon in the Dock.

    Mac Doc showing Mail icon
  2. Select Window in the Mail menu bar and choose Previous Recipients in the drop-down menu.

    Mail menu bar showing Previous Recipients option
  3. In the Previous Recipients window, click the Last Used header so that the addresses are sorted with the least recently used on top. If the list contains many entries dated several years ago, you can safely batch-remove them by year—either because you don't contact that person anymore or that person uses a newer email address.

    Previous Recipients window in Mac Mail
  4. To select a group of old entries, click the first entry and then Shift-click the last one to highlight them all. Review the list. If you see one or more entries in the group you don't want to delete, Command + Shift individual addresses to unhighlight them.

  5. Click Remove From List to delete all the highlighted old entries.

    Previous recipients list with old addresses marked for deletion

To unselect a group of highlighted entries, Option-click on one of them, which unselects all but the entry you option-click on.

How to Remove a Single Old Address

If you don't want to work on a wholesale level, you can search for specific individuals using the search box at the top of the Previous Recipients screen. Enter a person's name and immediately see all the email addresses Mail has stored for that person along with the dates you last used them. Depending on the last date of use, you may be able to safely remove all but the most recent email address for that person.

If you have an email address entered on a Contact card for someone in the Contacts app, you can't delete the address in the Previous Recipients screen. You have to remove it from the Contact card.