How to Delete All Emails from Mail in Mac OS X
If you use the Mail app on a Mac, it’s fairly likely that you regularly delete emails that you determine to be unnecessary, junk, or that simply aren’t needed. Typically this is a selective process where particular email messages are removed as needed, but in some situations you may want to go all out and delete every single email that is in a particular Mail account, or even remove all emails from the entire Mail app on a Mac, without removing the associated email account from Mail app. In other words, while the email messages are removed from Mail, the email account remains in Mail on the Mac so that it can continue to be used.
You should be making regular backups of your Mac with Time Machine, so don’t skip a backup before you do this. If you do not have a backup made, and you delete all email in Mail app, those emails will be gone forever. Thus, this delete all emails approach should be used with discretion, and not applied universally just to declare email bankruptcy or clear up space.
This is not a recommended action. Outside of some specific reasons to delete every email from a Mac, this is simply not necessary for the majority of Mac OS X users, and you could end up removing emails that you wanted to keep.
How to Delete ALL Email in Mail for Mac OS X
This is irreversible, do not delete all emails unless you want them to be permanently removed from the Mac Mail app (and possibly from anywhere, depending on your backup and mail server):
- Open the Mail app in Mac OS X if you haven’t done so already
- At the primary inbox screen, select “Inbox” from the sidebar under Mailboxes
- Now pull down the “Edit” menu and choose “Select All”, this will select and highlight every email message contained in the mailboxes of Mail app
- Now go back to the “Edit” menu and choose “Delete” – this deletes every single selected email from Mail app in Mac OS X, and since we just chose Select All that means this sends all emails into the Trash of Mail app
- Once the Inbox has become empty, right-click (or Control+Click) on the “Inbox” in sidebar, and choose “Erase Deleted Items” this completely erases every email from Mail in Mac OS X that has been stored in the Trash, which is every single email in this case
- The Mail app inbox is now completely blank, with zero emails at all – all of them have been deleted
You can repeat the process with the “Sent” folder, the “Draft” folder, and other folders in Mail app if you want to as well if desired.
This is really only necessary for particular situations with particular types of emails and Mail usage; perhaps you used the Mail app for a junkmail account and you don’t want the junk mail taking up space on the Mac hard drive any more, but you still want to email address itself kept around. Or maybe you just want to declare the ultimate email bankruptcy by removing every message from Mail on the Mac. Many people who rely on web mail clients like Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo never delete any email at all, and since it is stored on a remote server they don’t worry about any potential space the thousands of accrued emails can take up. That’s one major perk to using a web based email service, but for those who use the Mac Mail app you may be a bit more discerning.
It’s worth mentioning that if you had the same email account setup on an iOS device, you may want to repeat the same process and delete all email from Mail on iPhone or iPad using a similar process, which, like the Mac approach, completely removes the emails from the iOS device, and is also irreversible (without a backup made, anyway).
And again, this trick does not remove the email account from the Mac, it only removes the email messages themselves. The actual email account will stay on the Mac unless it is removed separately.