macOS Mail: How to Keep Emails on the Server

One feature of POP email accounts is that you choose how your emails behave after they've been downloaded to an email client. With the macOS Mail application, you decide whether to have your emails deleted or kept on the email server.

If you opt to keep mail on the server, you can grab a second copy from this online "backup" if you inadvertently delete an important email. You can also download the same messages to another email program on another device.

If you choose to have all mail removed from the server immediately after you download it in macOS Mail, you don't risk having your mailbox filled with hoards of old mail, but you miss out on the opportunity to download those messages on other devices.

You can have the best of both worlds by keeping a copy of emails on the email server for a specified amount of time, rather than indefinitely.

Information in this article applies to the Mail application in macOS Catalina (10.15) through macOS Sierra (10.12)

How to Keep Mail on the Server With macOS Mail

  1. Launch the Mail application on your Mac. From the Mail menu bar, choose Preferences in the drop-down menu to open the Mail system preferences.

    Preferences in Apple Mail
  2. Select the Accounts tab at the top of the Mail preferences screen.

    The Accounts tab in Mail
  3. Highlight the POP email account you want to edit in the left pane.

  4. Choose the Account Information tab and place a check in the box next to Remove copy from server after retrieving a message.

    The Account Information tab and "Remove copy from server" option
  5. From the drop-down menu just below the check box, choose After one dayAfter one week, or After one month.

    • For example, if you select after one week, the messages remain on the email server for a week after they download to macOS Mail, and then they are removed from the server. You can download the same messages on other computers and devices within that week only.
    Accounts Preferences for Mail on a Mac

    There's also a When moved from Inbox option that you can pick. It deletes emails from the server only after you move the messages away from the Inbox in Mail.

  6. Close the Accounts window and return to your email.