Short-life emails in iOS

My wife and I each have an iPhone, plus we share an iPad and iMac between us. Why is it that our iPhones and iPad only re­tain emails for seven days on one ac­count, but the iMac keeps them for much longer?

Mac|Life - - ASK -

This re­flects the dif­fer­ent ways in which your iMac and iOS de­vices are set up to ac­cess that email ac­count. When you con­nect an email ac­count to Mail on ei­ther plat­form, it should check with your mail server whether it’s able to use the IMAP pro­to­col; these days, this is prefer­able to POP, as it makes email eas­ier to man­age when an ac­count is ac­cessed from mul­ti­ple de­vices.

Your iOS de­vices are set to col­lect new mes­sages us­ing the IMAP pro­to­col, which leaves them on your mail provider’s server, at least un­til you man­u­ally delete them.

For some rea­son, Mail on your iMac has been con­fig­ured to col­lect in­com­ing mes­sages us­ing POP, which down­loads the mes­sages and stores them lo­cally. Usu­ally, a client us­ing POP will re­move mes­sages from the server af­ter down­load­ing them. Mail has an ad­vanced POP set­ting that en­ables you to spec­ify when mes­sages should be re­moved from the server, though. You can set it to never hap­pen, or to oc­cur af­ter a spe­cific du­ra­tion, such as a week, to give other de­vices time to down­load items.

How­ever, we rec­om­mend set­ting up email ac­counts to use IMAP. If your provider lim­its your on­line stor­age, move old mes­sages to a lo­cal mailbox in Mail on your Mac (Mailbox > New Mailbox, and set lo­ca­tion to On My Mac). Un­less ex­plic­itly ex­cluded, this mailbox will be in­cluded in your Time Ma­chine back­ups. The down­side is that if you need to re­fer back to those mes­sages, you must do so on your Mac. Mail has an ad­vanced set­ting where you can spec­ify how long it leaves mes­sages on the server af­ter they have been down­loaded.

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