Mail App Always Downloading on Mac? How-To Fix

If you start noticing that your Mac’s Mail app always downloading and is continuously or frequently showing a message that it’s “Downloading Messages,” you are not alone.

Both OSX and macOS users report this problem with their Mail app. Luckily, some fixes do the trick and get your Mac’s Mail App up and working normally with no more “downloading messages” errors.

  • Relaunch the Mail app while holding the Shift key on your keyboard
  • Change your mail account’s setting for storing the Drafts Mailbox Behaviors to On My Mac
  • Take your Mail Account offline temporarily and then take them back online
  • Remove the Mail Account and then add it back
  • Try rebuilding and reindexing your Mailbox

First, if you’re observing this downloading message at the bottom left of your Mail app’s sidebar and it’s only there for a relatively short time, this is normal.

This message means your Mail app is syncing across your various email accounts.

Even though it uses the term downloading it’s actually checking for any syncing between accounts. So, the words of wisdom here are: IGNORE IT.

Mail App Always Downloading: Housekeeping

Before you troubleshoot, perform these steps. These might fix your issue, and if not, they prepare your Mail for fixing.


Prep Tips

  1. Delete all messages inside your Deleted Items and Junk (Spam) folders
  2. Delete any messages you no longer need from your Inbox and other mailboxes
  3. Update to the latest version of Mail, if possible


Change Where Email Stores Your Drafts

Quite a few of our readers noted that if they changed the location of where email accounts store their drafts that the Mail App started working normally.

Change Draft Settings for Apple’s Mac Mail App

  1. Open Mail
  2. Go to Apple Menu > Preferences > Accounts 
  3. Select a mail account
  4. Choose the tab Mailbox Behaviors

Change Drafts Mailbox to On My Mac and choose Drafts from the drop-down menu options Change-Mac-Mail-App-Drafts-Mailbox-Behavior-to-prevent-email-always-downloading.png

Troubleshoot Mail App Always Downloading


    Reload Mail App

    Quit the Mail app by select Mail > Quit Mail. Then, relaunch the Mail app while holding the Shift key on your keyboard. This action forces Mail to open without displaying any problematic messages.

  3. Quit-Mail-on-Mac-540x270.png

    Take Account Offline

    But if your problem is more than just that message, you need to put your investigative skills to test. The first thing to try and rectify this situation is to take your Mail Account offline.

    With your Mail App open, navigate to the Menu Bar and select Mailbox. From that drop-down menu choose to Take All Accounts Offline.

    Once that completes, return to that menu and this time select Take All Accounts Online. See if that solves the problem.Mail-take-Accounts-Offline-540x521.png

    Turn Off and Back On Problematic Account

    If not, check and see if this problem is happening on one particular account or all of your mail accounts. If it’s only happening on one of your accounts, turn off that account and then add it back in again.

    Do this by going to Mail > Accounts or Apple Menu > System Preferences > Internet Accounts.

    Then from the left pane, select your problematic account and choose the minus sign.

    You’ll see a message asking if you want to delete this account from all computers using iCloud Keychain (if applicable), select “Turn Off Account.”Remove-Internet-Account-on-Mac-540x392.png

    Once the account is off, turn it back on by selecting the account, now listed as Inactive and tick the box next to Mail (and anything else you want to sync such as Contacts, Calendars, etc.)