How to Fix “Import Failed” Mail Error on Mac

Mar 30, 2021 - 52 Comments

Mail Import Failed error on Mac

Rarely, Mac users encounter an “Import Failed” error message when trying to open the Mail app in Mac OS, with a brief Message Import splash screen. The import failure prevents the Mail app from opening any further, and therefore renders the Mail app and inboxes unusable. This can happen on any version of Mail for Mac, sometimes at random, or sometimes after updating system software, if user accounts have been migrated, or in many other situations, including if the Mac hard drive is too full without available disk space.

The full error is usually encountered immediately upon launch of Mail app on the Mac, stating “The import failed – An error occurred during import. Make sure you have available space in your home folder and try again.” However, the problem is often unrelated to disk space, and can often be resolved by performing some other steps.


It’s a good idea to backup the Mac before beginning this process.

Fix “Import Failed – Error Occurred During Import” in Mail for Mac

First, you’ll want to make sure your Mac has plenty of hard disk space available, but as stated earlier this error often shows up unrelated to the amount of storage available despite what the error message says. Assuming you have sufficient disk space, proceed with the following:

  1. Quit out of Mail app if it’s still open
  2. Open the Finder in MacOS, then pull down the “Go” menu and choose “Go To Folder”
  3. Enter the following path, then click Go
  4. ~/Library/Mail/

  5. Locate the latest V# folder (V8, V7, V6, etc), select it, then choose “Get Info” from the File menu
  6. Click the Lock icon and authenticate, then make sure your Name (Me) has “Read & Write” privileges, and then click on the Gear icon and choose “Apply to enclosed items” and confirm
  7. Fix Mail permissions on Mac

  8. Open the latest V# folder (V8, V5, V6, V7, etc) and then do either of the following, depending on the situation:
    • If the “MailData” folder exists, open that and then move any files that start with “Envelope Index” to the Desktop
    • If the “MailData” item is an alias, move the alias out of the V# folder and onto the desktop

    Move the Mail data alias outside of the Mail folder

  9. Open the Mail app again and go through the Import process, it should work fine now
  10. Mail import working successfully on Mac

Once you’re in the Mail app, you might want to rebuild the mail inboxes if there are any issues with searching, finding email messages, or performance.

Solution 2: Safe Mode Mail Import

Another solution to resolve the “Import Failed” error in Mail on Mac has been offered in our comments, which some users are having success with as well. Here are the steps for this particular troubleshooting method:

  1. Reboot the Mac into Safe Mode by restarting and holding down the SHIFT key
  2. Once the Mac has booted into Safe Mode, open Mail app
  3. Perform the Import while Mail app is in Safe Mode with Mail app > File > Import Mailboxes (some users do not need to perform any import, simply opening Mail app in Safe Mode has been sufficient)
  4. Quit Mail app, reboot Mac as usual
  5. Re-open Mail app in MacOS and it should work again as expected and without errors

Thanks to QrT Larsen and Kevin who left this trick in our comments, which has been working for some users as well.

You can find a ton of additional Mail app tips and tricks here if you’re interested.

Did this resolve the “Import Failed – Error Occurred During Import” error in Mail for Mac for you? Did you find another solution that worked? Let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

52 Comments

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  1. Kyle McAdams says:

    This worked for me as well. I tried everything else so booting into safe mode. Do what it says above. And it worked. Restarted back normally and it opened just fine. Thanks

    • Peter Frean says:

      Unfortunately nothing seems to work for me! I don’t know how to make space on my ‘home folder’ and I think my mail has too many messages – 175000! Several times I have had 17 hours to go and then it stops and says not enough space but where do I go from there??

  2. Kevin says:

    Tried the method several times but kept getting stuck. But, the suggestion of Qrt Larsen worked.
    1. Boot into SAFE mode
    2. Open Mail and perform import.
    3. Reboot

    Silicon Mac running macOS 13.6

    Thank you!

    • Petra says:

      Kevin THANK YOU soooo so much for leaving your comment here. It is what helped me fix this after 24 hours of failing!!!

      I am also still on 13.6. and waiting for a longer time to go to 14.01. just to be sure not to have a mess up

  3. Qrt Larsen says:

    I tried this to no avail many times. I tried many other options, deleting Plist files and even nstalling MacosX all over…. and so on. The only thing that did the trick was to boot the Mac in SAFE mode (Google it, it´s easy) and load Mail (in this step I succeeded). Close Mail. Shut down Mac. Reboot as usual. Load Mail. This worked for me thanks to the Apple hotline. ;)

  4. Carly says:

    Did not work after uploading update yesterday….so annoying, now we can not read our e-mails.

  5. Manuel says:

    Works just by moveing the ” Envelope ” files in a New Folder in the same place. You dont have to move them on Desktop.

  6. Dan says:

    Result! This worked, many thanks

  7. Jeannina says:

    Had that problem after a Software Update.

    It worked perfectly! Thank you so much for sharing this fix!!!

  8. mommy says:

    Thank you for this!!! I had tried everything else and nothing worked. Apparently it was getting stuck on the Outbox(on my Mac). Once I found that in V7 and put it on the desktop the import worked!

  9. Catalina Apple Mail Problem says:

    Does not work.

    High Sierra updated to Catalina, encountered the Apple Mail problem:

    “The import failed – An error occurred during import. Make sure you have available space in your home folder and try again.”

  10. Tom H says:

    Worked for me. After import, I found that several folders I had set up in mail under “on my mac” were missing. Went back to the V folder referenced above (mine is V10), checked all the “ 98F4C8B5-3585-4B…” folders and could not find them. While in the V folder on Finder, I opened Time Machine (that is the only way I know to view hidden files in Time Machine) and scrolled back until I found a prior version of the folders that I suspected were complete at that time of backup. Restored them to a temp folder on the desktop and imported them into mail. Worked fine.

    I suspect originally the files became corrupted, causing the original “index” error in mail, then those corrupt files were deleted by Disk Utility when I did a disk “repair”.

  11. Ara says:

    I got this error when I upgraded from Catalina to Big Sur, then back to down to Catalina. After trying all the options mentioned here, none of them worked for me. Then this worked…

    – When making the import pay close attention to the name of the last folder it tried to import before the fail error, mine was a folder I created in Mail App to organize. You may have to do this a couple of times to make sure you get the right name of the folder, or maybe a screen record, since it crashes milliseconds after it hits that folder.
    – Then follow the same steps above… From desktop “Go”, then “Go to folder…” type in ~/Library/Mail then enter.
    – Inside the “V” folder there are folders with random numbers/letters like this “98F4C8B5-3585-4BAE-UIEIN9JIJ” open them till you see one that has the same name as the folder that caused the import to crash, put it on your desktop.
    – I have not tried to add the folder back, I’ll do that later when I have time in case it’s corrupt

  12. fabio says:

    Hello,
    I tried several times just removing the Envelope Index files.
    Did not work. Eventually I removed the whole MailData folder, even though it was not an alias, and it worked.
    thanks

  13. Ken says:

    Did not work for me. Setting up a new iMac with Monterey OS and loads of storage. Mail loads 123,200 emails out of 123,708 and then gives the out of space error. It is not out of space. Tried several times. Put the envelope files in the trash, rebooted, tried again, same error. What’s up?

    • Tom Woodcock says:

      Exactly my experience, what worked for me was go to Internet Accounts and for each Account press – to inactivate. On iCloud selection, you have to deselect Mail.

  14. Maurice says:

    This worked for me:

    My Hard Drive had failed on my iMac(2012) running Catalina and I had it replaced with a SSD. After using Migration Assistant to recover my system from my Time Machine backup I encountered this error when starting Mail. Mail would start importing and then fail with this message when it started importing the outbox. I followed the steps outlined and on the restart, Mail was able to successfully import all my mailboxes. Thanks very much for posting this!!!

  15. Lee says:

    Didn’t work for me, going to try the different answers other people suggested.

  16. Nick says:

    This didn’t work for me. I had to remove two of my three accounts under Internet Accounts settings (one of these two were causing issues during the import process,) then imported my one remaining account to Mail, then re-added the other two accounts once the process finished. All seems good now.

    • Ben says:

      This worked for me! Thank you.
      I unchecked every Mail account in the Internet Accounts section of Settings, then was able to open and import Mail.app. Then re-checked each mail box in the Internet Accounts section and I’m back in business. Thanks, Nick!

    • Ross says:

      Did not work for me either – however, after I unticked “mail” from my icloud account, then re-opened mail, it opened blank (since not linked to anything at that point). I then re-selected mail as part of “icloud” in internet settings, which then kicked off the import of my previous mail account. Not what I fancied doing on a Sunday night, but, got there in the end…. Sort it out Apple!

  17. Bob Tremallo says:

    Worked like a charm. Had more than 38,000 emails from as far back as 2008. Thank you so much.

  18. Phil K says:

    This did not work for me either.

    I also tried what Bill suggested worked for him, which was: ‘I restarted the computer. Dragged the “Envelope Index” files to the trash then quickly launched Mail.’ That did not work for me either.

    Every time I tried it (four or five times) increased the count of messages it was trying to import and also seemed to fail at the same spot + number of messages it increased the count by.

  19. Marco says:

    Wow, i was so frustrated when trying to import my mail on my new SSD. Crazy that the soluation was so ‘simple’

  20. ih says:

    AMAZING THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  21. Olivia says:

    Thank you! It worked perfectly on my new MacBook Air. Question: Must the Envelope Index files remain on my desktop or may I delete them?

    • lee says:

      I usually keep stuff like that for a little while (throw it in Documents or in a folder somewhere labeled as what it is), but if everything is working still a bit down the road I remove them.

      Always good to keep backups of files like that if you’re making changes, in my opinion.

  22. Peggy says:

    MANY thanks – worked for me. This was the first time that I have ever seen that import message – hope to not see it again.

  23. Bill says:

    Did not work. It appears something re-creates the Envelope Index file even with Mail closed. As soon as I remove it, a new one is created within 5 seconds or so.

    • Bill says:

      Update…. Although I tried this several times yesterday, today I thought I would give it one more try. I restarted the computer. Dragged the “Envelope Index” files to the trash then quickly launched Mail. And it is now working. Thanks very much for your article. My Mail is up and running.

  24. Jeff says:

    Worked for me but can I delete the “envelop files from my desktop ? Or do they need to be stored elsewhere ?

  25. Dan says:

    Sadly this didn’t work for me either – followed the steps, but on re-launching mail, I get the same “The import failed”. Still looking for a solution.

  26. AV says:

    This worked – thank you very much!

  27. Barbara says:

    It did not work for me. Starts to import first and then the same error message occurs as in the beginning. Tried both: simply moving the docs to the desktop and deleting them. Neither solves the problem. Any ideas?

  28. WOW! This worked. Thank you so very much for posting this and if any of my friends have an issue I will certainly share this. Thank you very very much.

  29. Brian says:

    Worked great for me. I just deleted the files they ask you to move to the desktop and it seemed to work well.

  30. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for this article. Your solution appears to be working.
    Can I delete all the “Envelope-index” files that were moved to the desktop?

  31. Phil Straus says:

    It didn’t work.

  32. JC says:

    Wow it worked, thanks!

  33. Jenny says:

    Worked thank you but what do I do with the envelope index files moved to desktop?

  34. Dmitriy says:

    Nope, it didn’t help.

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