Learn to Clean up the macOS Mail Auto-Complete List

Delete old addresses from the Mail app address-completion list

What to Know

  • Open Mail and select Window in the menu bar. Choose Previous Recipients.
  • Select the entry or entries you want to remove. Choose Remove From List.
  • Remove an email address on a Contact Card directly from Contacts.

This article explains how to clean up the macOS Mail auto-complete list in macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Mountain Lion (10.8).

Clean Up the Auto-Complete List in MacOS Mail

The Apple macOS Mail application has a good memory when it comes to recalling the people you emailed in the past. Its memory is so good that Mail never forgets any email address. You must manually remove it.

You can remove the email address of a single person or remove all the old addresses you no longer need by selecting multiples at once in the auto-complete list.

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.

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

    Mail app menu showing Previous Recipients
  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. You can also sort by name or email address.

    Previous Recipients list for macOS Mail app
  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 in macOS Mail app

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.

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