Backup of imap server - is offlineimap still the best?


I have several mail accounts (all imap) and I would like to have local backups. In the past (Linux days and erly mac days) I was using Offlineimap for synching th eimap accounts locally - but tofflineimap has been very quiet recently.
This could mean that it is solid, but also that it has outlived its usefullness. So I am looking for advice if I should setup offlineimap to backup the imap folders, or if there are alternatives to use? I have DEVONthink, but somehow it did not grow on me, and it is not prrimarily about archiving, but rather backup (and possibly search as well).

Any suggestions?

DEVONthink will save all those files in DEVONthink, not on your IMAP server. Not sure why you rejected it, given you have it. Or, in Apple Mail, export the mail box. Yes many other options exist out there in the big wide world, but these two seem to be closest to your needs.

One simple way to backup your email is to use the Thunderbird client. Its folders are mbox files which can be imported by Apple Mail or most other email clients.

You do not need to use it as your primary email client, just set it up and leave it running. If you should ever need to restore your email, download the desired “folder” from your backup and import it directly into Apple Mail, etc.


@rms: DEVONthink is great for Archiving - but I do not want to archive, but backup the imap account. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about that.

@WayneG This is a great idea - it is easy to setup, and there might be better search options than in Thunderbird than in

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The trouble with this is the age old “Sync is not backup”. You’d need to backup the MBOX file as well in case an email is deleted. This was part of the reason I used to do this and use an MBOX per year, as then I’d be able to backup per year.

However, Thunderbird now allows you to download each email individually and therefore your Time Machine/backup client can backup each individual email and you can then replace the missing/deleted email.

Correct. But backing up Thunderbird “folders” is backing up mbox files. Don’t take my word for this. Install Thunderbird, let it run for a day or two, then download one of the mbox “folders” files from Time Machine, Backblaze, or whatever backup system you use, and import it into Apple Mail.

Apple Mail imports mbox files to a folder “On my Mac”. You then need to copy the needed messages to your IMAP account. I use a different backup method today but verified that this still works a few months ago.

If I am incorrect, I will apologize to everyone. And stop offering advice.

Sorry, I missed the bit in your initial post that stated:

I thought you were just stating use Thunderbird to download the emails using IMAP which would be syncing it off the server - which backs it up from a failure of the service, but not user error (as I’ve found out to my error in the past).

Teach me to skim read!

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No problem. I’m guilty of doing that from time to time

There’s Mac software called Horcrux. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but many people seem to like it.

I use Thunderbird (after many years using Postbox) and simply archive my emails (sent and received) to Thunderbird local folders. That way I retain locally, independent of the IMAP server, what I need.

Of course, everything is backed up daily by CCC and weekly by Time Machine.



During the year, I send a copy of individual emails that are important for some reason from Apple Mail to my everything bucket software using EagleFiler’s hot key. Inbox Zero is my goal so all inbox items either get deleted or archived to a folder in Apple Mail. At the end of the year I export the archive folder from Apple Mail to an .mbox file which stays on my internal ssd. I delete that archive folder from Apple Mail and empty the trash to keep Apple Mail speedy. I also import that .mbox file into a dedicated EagleFiler library just for email, which makes search easy. I’m okay with a little redundancy in my backup systems. :slightly_smiling_face:

What about attachments? Are they imported into Eagle Filer with a link to the imported email within EF?

Yes, attachments import with the email. EagleFiler itself displays email as text with a paperclip icon and a web link for the attachment. Double-clicking an email item opens it by default in Apple Mail with its original formatting intact.

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