Does Automatic E-Mail Deletion Work on Custom Mailboxes?


Okay, so a while ago I switched to using multiple IMAP mailboxes to help me organise the chaos that is my e-mail. In addition, I have my Dreamhost Mail settings set to delete read messages after 45 days, or if they exceed 500 messages, as I also have an archive mailbox stored locally on my computer to retain e-mails I want to keep (which is then backed up).

However, in my custom mailboxes I’m still seeing messages going back to the beginning of May (when I configured most of my new mailboxes), which suggests that my messages aren’t being deleted automatically at all from those mailboxes.

Are these automatic deletion settings only applicable to the main inbox? If so, is there a way that I can expand the behaviour to affect all my mailboxes? Like I say, I have my own archiving system, so I’d like to keep my incoming mailboxes as lean as possible.

I’m using OS X’s Mail on Mountain Lion, and it doesn’t have any options for deleting old mail from other mailboxes, only for deleting mail from the Junk, Sent and Trash folders.


When you use the term “IMAP mailboxes” are you perhaps meaning “IMAP folders”? Using multiple IMAP mailboxes would mean that your client is logging into multiple IMAP accounts, what I think you mean is that you have created a number of folders in one email account.

Dreamhost’s archiving and deletion settings only affect the inbox, not sub folders. I don’t have OS X mail, so I can’t tell you if the options are available there, however in outlook I can set a different retention policy on each IMAP folder. It’s generally the mail client that does the housekeeping (not the server), but dreamhost does have some controls to help keep the main inbox from becoming huge. That probably dates back to the day most people used POP3 with the setting “leave mail in server” as the way to deal with multiple clients… Today they answer to multiple clients is to use IMAP.


Sorry yeah, folders, I just wanted to clarify that I was using IMAP (although I do also have multiple IMAP accounts, just to be confusing ;)).

But yeah, I’m looking for a way to delete old messages automatically from IMAP folders to keep them tidy; I’ve looked everywhere I can think of in OS X mail but there doesn’t seem to be a setting anywhere, the accounts have a “Mailbox Behaviours” tab but it only applies the Drafts, Junk, Sent and Trash folders.

After some searching I’ve found a way to define a rule that will move messages older than a certain amount, but this only executes automatically on new messages that arrive, never on older messages. This means it needs to be executed manually via the Apple Rules option, which is no good, as some of my other rules won’t play nice with this so would need to be disabled every time. The best compromise I can think of is a smart folder that I can delete messages from manually from time to time, but it’s still a pretty lousy solution :frowning:


I’m not sure if this will help you, but I was curious and googled this:
it looks like there are a few options you can’t change from the interface but can change by editing a file.

From the search suggestions on google while typing ‘set retention policy’ I’m guessing that the OS X world doesn’t have the microsoft Outlook equivalent, which does happen to be exactly what you want. For example, I use an incoming filter to move all the daily “deals” emails I get from about 5 different sources into a deals folder that has a retention policy of 5 days.