Where Your Computer Stores Attachments from Mac OS X Mail

Find the files from your emails

When you open an attached file from Apple's Mac OS X Mail, the appropriate application pops up, ready for viewing or even editing. If you do edit the file and save it, where are the changes you made? The email still contains the original attachment, and opening it again brings up the unedited document.

Fortunately, you can still find the updated document on your hard drive. Here's where to look.

Where Attachments Opened From Mac OS X Mail Are Stored

When you open an attachment from Mac OS X Mail, a copy is placed in the Mail Downloads folder by default. To find that folder's common location:

  1. In the Finder, select Go to Folder under the Go menu.

    The keyboard shortcut is Command+Shift+G.

    The Go to Folder command
  2. Type the following path into the window:

    ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.mail/Data/Library/Mail Downloads/

    The path to access Mail downloads in macOS
  3. Click Go.

    The Go button

Files you have opened in Mail will be in sub-folders. You can arrange them by creation date, for example, to find the most recently opened file fast:

  1. Click the gear icon in the Finder window's toolbar.

    The Gear icon in the Finder
  2. Select Group By > Date Created from the menu.

    Some versions of macOS may call the menu Arrange By.

    The Group By > Date Created option in macOS
  3. To sort without grouping, Make sure list view is enabled in Finder for the Mail Downloads folder. You can do this one of three ways:

    • Click the list view icon at the top of the window.
    • Select As List under the View menu.
    • Press Command+2.
    The List View option in the Finder
  4. Click the Date Created column header to sort by creation date. Click again to reverse the sort order.

    The Date Created header in the Finder
  5. If you don't see a Date Created column, right-click any column header in the Finder window and select Date Created from the menu.

    The Date Created visibility setting.

Make Mac OS X Mail Store Attachments on the Desktop

If you want to keep track of files opened from Mail more tightly, you can change the folder used to save attachments and downloads, to your desktop, for example.

  1. In Mail, select Preferences under the Mail menu.

    The keyboard shortcut is Command+, (comma).

    Preferences in Apple Mail
  2. Go to the General category.

    The General tab in Mail preferences
  3. Under the Downloads Folder menu, click Other.

    The Downloads Folder options in Mail
  4. Navigate to the folder you want to use and choose Select.

    The Select button

Mail Manages the Files Automatically

Mail will never delete a file you opened, edited, and saved. It will, however, remove any files associated with deleted messages. You can prevent this by changing the setting under Remove unedited downloads: to Never.

The "Remove Unedited Downloads" option in Mail preferences