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Although I’ve been an Apple Mail user for a few years now (since they got native MS Exchange support), there is one feature that I miss from MS Entourage. That feature was that I could set up rules to delete mail from specific mailboxes (folders) based on how old they were. For example, in my email world if an email is not filed in a specific folder for safe keeping AND it’s older than a year, there’s a very slim chance that I need that email. Just the other day I got an automated message from my work IT email system warning me that I was approaching the 2GB limit (OMG!) of email on the server. The option was to delete emails or archive them. I’d rather delete email that is in my Inbox that’s older than one year. The problem is Apple (in an overly protective manner) doesn’t allow you to automate this. I even looked at setting up Automator to do it and there is no Delete Mail option. The most Mail will do is allow you to automatically delete Sent Mail, Junk Mail or Mail in the Trash after one week or one month and even those options aren’t broad enough. For example, I’d like to hold on to Sent mail for 90 days instead of 30. Nonetheless, I like Mail and I think I figured out a way to at least partially solve this problem.

I Created a Smart Mailbox

Although Mail won’t automatically delete the old mail that I want to delete, the least it can do is identify it for me so that I can drag it to the trash. I setup a Smart Mailbox that automatically shows me any email that’s older than a year (older than 365 days). I periodically check that box, select all the mail that’s in it and hit the Delete key. Any mail that I have read and moved to a different mailbox doesn’t show up to be deleted.

The Bottom Line

While I’ve got a work around, ultimately I’d like to see Mail grow up a little with some more “advanced – I take full responsibility” options.

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8 Responses to Apple Mail: Delete Mail Older Than…

  1. I create a solution for this problem.
    Take a look >

  2. Steven Klein says:


    If you’d like mail to hold on to your sent messages for 90 days, here’s how to do it.

    1. Quit Mail
    2. Edit the preference file found at ~/Library/Preferences/
    3. Look for this line:


    Change the number there to whatever number you like—90 for 90 days, or 180 for 180 days. (-1 means “never delete”)

    Note that this key will appear once for every email account you have, so if you have 5 email accounts, you’ll need to change all five occurrences.

  3. Great idea. I set it up because to avoid (hopefully) spending too much time sifting through old emails to delete.

  4. John Doe says:

    When you do this, does it only delete messages from my apple mailbox app on my mac, or does it actually delete them permanently from my gmail itself?

  5. Kurt Vella says:

    same here, would like to see a more powerful upgrade coming out

    • Kurt Vella says:

      ran the same google search for the same problem with Mail and I found this article again oblivious to the fact that I had posted this comment… It still holds

  6. Paul Clevett says:

    Thank you just what I needed 🙂