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Ask Max: Moving email to a new user account

Asked on 09/12/2007:

We have multiple users on our home computer, and one has used Mail for allemail. Now she has set up a separate user account in OS 10.3.9, and we don'tknow how to access her email account. When we open Mail, it gives us awindow to set up an account.

How do we get access to her account?


Sharing email with two user accounts is similar to sharing email between two computers. There is an assumption that each user will have their own email account, and Apple does not have a sharable mail section in Mac OS. It is possible that both of you can share the same email account in different user accounts if your email provider lets you have IMAP access to your email. An IMAP email account stores your mail on a server, not your computer. Because the mail is always saved on the server it does not matter which computer you use or which user account you are logged into. As long as you have the connection info, you will have all your email accessible and everything will stay synchronized between computers and accounts.

Unfortunately many ISPs will only give you POP mail access, and that is much harder to manage from multiple accounts. It may be easier to get a separate email account for her to use. For instance, a Gmail account would work well and it can be used with the Apple Mail application. If she wants the mail that is already on the other user account, then you just need to copy one folder and one file to the new user account. Here's the procedure:

From your older account, copy the Mail folder to the Shared folder in the Users folder, located here: Macintosh HD/Users/YOUR_USER_NAME/Library/Mail.

Now copy the preference file here: Macintosh HD/Users/YOUR_USER_NAME/Library/Preferences/

Next, log into the new account and move the files you copied to the Shared folder. Place them into the same places you copied them from, but with "YOUR_USER_NAME" being the new user account.

After all that, your two mail accounts will be identical, but that will change as soon as one of them checks for new mail. You will have to disable one of the accounts from within Apple Mail's Preferences.

I hope that helps.

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