This article was first published on 2010-01-13. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.


I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that knows me that I bought the original iPhone on the first day and have been using one ever since. What may surprise you though is that I stopped using it for email after a month or so back in 2007 and haven’t gone back until just recently. I stopped because email on it was just unusable. The combination of having spam and POP3 accounts made it so I had to hunt among my completely full inboxes to find the emails I wanted to read and respond to.

You see, thanks to the very competent SpamSieve, I never see spam in my Mail.app inboxes on my Mac. But the iPhone surprisingly doesn’t have any way to filter spam on the device itself like Macs and PCs do. Not even 2 1/2 years later. Pretty lame on Apple’s part, I’d say.

So recently it became more important for me to be able to actually use email on my iPhone so I took the only route I know of, which is to convert my email accounts to IMAP. This way I could use the spam filtering on my Mac and my iPhone would stay in sync with it. Yes, obvious now, but before my iPhone, I didn’t have any use for IMAP. SO, how do we convert from POP3 to IMAP?

Here’s the Overview
Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy preference in Mail to just switch from one to the other, so you’ll have to go through a few easy steps: Archive, Transfer, Delete and Recreate. The idea is that you need to get rid of your old POP3 account and start with a new fresh IMAP account.

Let’s Get Started
First make an Archive of the Mail account just in case something goes screwy in the process. Select the account from your Inbox and then go to the Mailbox menu and select Archive Mailbox… . You can delete this later once you are comfortable.

Next create a New Mailbox from the + button in the lower left of the app window and call it what you want. It should show up in the left sidebar under the On My Mac. Once you have it set up, move all the messages from your POP3 account mailbox into this new one. You are doing this because you are about to delete that POP3 one and you’ll want to keep some of your old email around.

Now the scary part: right-click on the mailbox your are getting rid of and select Delete Mailbox.

Finally, you need to create a new email account by going to File>Add Account and follow through the steps, being sure to select IMAP when prompted. I suggest before you go through this multi-step process, you go to the help section of your email hosting provider and search for setting up email with Apple Mail. Every decent provider should have a page that provides all the information you’ll need to input when setting up a new account.

Side note: I have a lot of different email accounts, so I was bummed when the new one I created went to the bottom of the list. Have no fear, you can go to the Accounts pane of Mail prefs and drag the list to reorder it how you like.

Do you have any tips or questions to share? Let us know in the Comments section below!