Fixing Apple Mail

I had a permissions error with my Apple Mail last night. Specifically, I was receiving the following below error: “Mail can’t open because you don’t have the necessary permissions to change the folder where it saves information.”

I’ll detail what I tried to do to fix this problem, and what actually worked.

Repairing Permissions, Part One

First, I opened the Disk Utility, clicked on my Macintosh HD, and Repair Disk Permissions. While this successfully fixed a previously unknown CUPS permission issue, it didn’t do anything to fix my Apple Mail woes.

Repairing Permissions, Part Two

On my second attempt, I tried to reset the Access Control Lists (ACLs) and permissions for the home directory. This involved the following:

  1. Boot to the OS X install CD;
  2. Select ‘English’ (my native language);
  3. Click Utilities, the user for whom I wanted to reset the settings, and then reset their settings;
  4. Quit the program and boot to OS X;
  5. Open Macintosh HD from Finder, double click the Users folder, and click one on the User I was having permissions problems with;
  6. Right-click on that User, and select Get Info;
  7. In the Sharing and Permissions area unlock the lock, and click on the gear-like icon. Select Apply to Enclosed.

This did not resolve my problem.

The Solution: Time Machine and Capsule

To resolve my problem, I had to first delete the Mail directory in Macintosh HD:Users:<User>:Library before I could restore a backup from my Time Capsule using Time Machine. Just trying to restore the old Mail folder gave me an error that I didn’t have permissions to modify the contents of the Mail directory; this error message vanished once I actually deleted the Mail folder itself. This did resolve my problem.

12 thoughts on “Fixing Apple Mail

  1. apple mail today reset itself…I click on MAIL in the dock and it gives me the original setup window. I ran disk utility and it did not correct the problem. I am wondering if i simply trash the old mail directory if I can re-open mail WITHOUT resetting everything. Any help greatly appreciated.


  2. @ Aaron – this was first posted October 2008.

    @ Kevin – if you are using time machine, I’d try just restoring the whole mail directory (assuming that you want to try and undo mail’s resetting of itself)


  3. Hey!
    This happened to a coworker, and I just couldn’t get myself to restore from backup since it has to be a permissions snag. A little searching later, I found the solution in the Apple discussion forum:

    The solution was to use BatChmod, a tool that fixes permissions, including ACL.

    Here’s the settings I used:



    Willy T. Koch


    • Thanks for that bit of legwork – I’d tried working through permissions, and didn’t find anything at the time of the problem, so the capsule was the solution for me. Good to know the ‘more right’ way! 😛


  4. Worked for me too thanks ! I read somewhere this was caused by TC itself. It’s the first time I use my TC backup … and it would be for a folder corrupted by TC !


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