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Really Deleting Mail

It might not be gone when you think it is.


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'This action cannot be undone': that's a dire warning found at various places in various scenarios in OS X 10.5 Leopard. One of the more frequently incurred is in Mail.

This is another 'hotspot' in 10.5. It's a case where you think your mail is fully and permanently deleted but the truth can be a shocker.

To test this little POC you're going to have to empty all your mail folders. If you haven't yet grown up to the 'zero inbox approach' this might be difficult. In such case you'll have to tag along and watch the rest take the ride.

1. Send a message to yourself.

This after emptying your mail folders completely. Delete the message when it comes in and do the usual ⌘K thing so it's (supposedly) permanently gone. Exit Mail.

2. Bring up a ~/Library/Mail listing.

The 'EMLX' files are that glorious Apple invention for Tiger 29 April 2005 that just happens to go against a universal industry standard but who's worried? The 'EMLX' files are the files Mail told you were gone but are not.

3. Open Mail and start a new message.

Don't type anything - don't waste your time. Just save it as is. This should coincidentally make the 'drafts' folder appear. [And yes this is another hotspot discussed elsewhere.]

4. Do the ⌘K thing.

And of course click 'OK'.

5. Refresh your ~/Library/Mail listing.

All gone.

So what happened? Hard to say. Apple Mail didn't permanently remove your messages like it told you it would. The fact they get deleted 'next time around' is just pure luck: it's one bug canceling out another.

Apple Mail never really looks to see what it has on disk anyway. It places complete trust in its own program code. This is the kind of thing you beat out of sophomores in Comp Sci 102.

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