Sorting folders/sub folders in Apple Mail

I recently had the issue of folder and subfolders in Apple mail becoming unorganised meaning they were no longer in alphabetical order……..this annoyed me (bit petty I know).

If your are like myself and look to keep your inbox clear of clutter then you too will have quiet a few different folders, the option of manually checking and moving them all seems tedious and dull. I looked into this and found a relatively quick fix:

Say your mail folder’s set up was just single letter but after a while you found it looked  unordered – like the basic version below, just follow the few steps listed and all will be sorted for you!

Mail Unsorted

Go to Mail and then preferences

Then select the account you wish to edit which in this case is test:

mail accounts


Once the account has been selected tick the advanced tab and untick the ‘Enable this account’ checkbox:

enable this account

Once the above is done,  your account will disappear from the right hand side panel (don’t be alarmed by this), simply Quit Mail, MAKING SURE YOU SAVE CHANGES! Then relaunch Apple Mail and reverse the steps above to re-enable (tick the box) the account’s folder’s will appear ordered.



Share this post online:

50 Responses to “Sorting folders/sub folders in Apple Mail”

  1. Ken says:

    Fixed! Thanks, this was driving me crazy!!

  2. Bobby says:

    You are awesome! I use Apple Mail for work and it was driving me nuts to have to look at it unsorted every day! Thank you!!

  3. Steve says:

    I assume this is a Mail feature, but I appreciate you passing along the work around!

  4. Mark says:

    this helped me – thanks for posting

    I can add that the non- alphabetical behaviour may have to be initiated by rearranging folders or a move.

    I had 1 folder that was alphabetically sorted and maintaned this correctly and 1 that was not on the same account

  5. Bill says:

    Thank you!!!
    I too was going crazy…..

  6. Jacqui says:

    aaaah man you are a lifesaver, thank you thank you!!

  7. Rick says:

    Thank you very much! Was really annoying me! Thanks for sharing.

  8. Mark Palmer says:

    Thanks for all your comments… and pleased that I could be of service!


  9. Patrick says:

    thanks so much! was driving me mad…

  10. Carl says:

    Nice One :)

  11. hope says:

    THANK YOU! Was driving me crazy…

  12. CCNH says:

    Thank you so much! With the number of folders we have over there, it was ridiculous!!

    Thanks again!

  13. SKA says:

    Thanks a bunch!! I have so many folders that I was starting to create duplicate folders b/c I couldn’t find the original ones. This was a ton of help.

  14. PeteW says:

    I have the same problem but getting my mailbox folders into alphabetical order doesn’t work when I follow the recommended procedure. I’m running Mountain Lion and the enable account tick box is not showing under ‘Advanced’. It shows under ‘Account Information’.
    No matter what I do my mailbox list under ‘ON MY MAC’ remains in a random state. Also, when I quit Mail I am never asked to save changes and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to save changes I make under ‘Preferences’. Can anyone offer advice?

  15. Mark says:

    Hey PeteW,

    Unfortunately disabling then re-enabling will not help your issue as your folder(s) are set up ‘on my mac’ instead of part of a mailbox, this means that the folder(s) are not part of a Mailbox and are therefore stored locally to the machine.

    We do not recommend this as it means should there be an issue with the machine and it gets re-installed, you will lose that folder structure and a chance of losing your emails.

    I would suggest that as it is ‘on my mac’ that you manually drag/drop the folder(s) so they are alphabetical.

    There are other more complex ways to attempt to fix this but it would require a technically detailed understanding about mail settings.

    Hope that this helps,


    • PeteW says:

      Thanks Mark, Would it be better if I moved all my folders from ‘On my Mac’ to another place. I have a mailbox called ‘’. Should I set up folders there and move all my emails across? Pete

  16. Mark says:

    Yes that would be best, this way the emails are on a physical mailbox

    Ideally you need to know how the BT account has been configured (POP/IMAP) as this will also have a say on where the emails are stored!

    Useful link explaining the differences:


  17. JohnC says:

    Awesome – just saved my mac from being launched out of the window:-)

  18. Clare Allan says:

    Thank you! This has been annoying me for MONTHS!

  19. James says:

    YES! Great easy fix! Thank you so much!

  20. UK iMac User says:

    Highlight Mailbox to be sorted

    Export Mailbox, inc subfolders

    Open in Finder

    Arrange by Name (etc) by clicking on the top

    (Not sure if you need to actually do this )

    Mail, Import mailbox

    Import files

    Import is sorted, just copy to mailbox required, and delete old folders

    (This is how I remember doing it)

  21. Andrew Kris says:

    Worked perfectly – thank you Mark.

  22. Neil Salkind says:

    In 10.8.4 the Enable box is on the Mailbox Behaviors tab and works the same way. Thanks!

  23. Paul says:

    Was completely frustrated by this issue. Worked like a charm. Was a little worried about the “disable” part and the email did go away but came right back when I reversed the process.

  24. Sharon says:

    Help! I tried your method to sort all my folders.
    Before doing this, under the heading “MAILBOXES” at the very top, I had a Trash Folder and a Junk folder, both with two sub-folders: iCloud, and On My Mac.

    Afterward, under the Heading “MAILBOXES”, at the very top, my Junk folder now has TWO iCloud folders, and one is disabled (the circle icon with a short lightening bolt inside it).

    Also, at the very bottom of pane with the list of mailboxes, under the heading “ICLOUD” there used to be two folders: “Archive” and Junk (iCloud), but now afterward the two sub-folders are “Archive” and “Junk (On My Mac)”.

    What do I do now?
    I’d appreciate any help, as I don’t know if the Junk Mail function will work, since I can’t test it by sending myself an email.

  25. James says:

    Hi Sharon

    Unfortunately without being able to directly view your Apple Mail I cannot be much help.

    It seems as though in ‘Mailbox Behaviors’ you have deselected ‘Store sent messages on the server’ and changed your trash settings. But again without directly seeing your mac I cannot be certain.

    I would advise you seek help from a genius bar as the issue is on an Apple product, using Apple Mail using an iCloud account so they should be able to help you.

  26. BAm says:

    Excellent! Thank you! I have been trying to fix this seemingly forever! :-)

  27. Ade from St. Ives Cornwall says:

    Thank you so much
    Cheers Ade

  28. Letizia says:

    THANK YOU!! You put a big smile on my face. A big Christmas present indeed.
    Best wishes to you.

  29. Blair says:

    Genius with a great fix, you should be working for APPLE THX

  30. Barefootguru says:

    Excellent, thanks. I added some folders/labels to my Gmail account. They appeared in alphabetical order on one client but not the other, and they refuse to be reordered manually. Disabling and reenabling my Gmail account got them into sorted order.

  31. PP says:

    Simple, but brilliant.

    Many thanks

  32. Kelli says:

    THANK YOU! This was driving me crazy for years!

  33. Kirill says:

    Awesome!! Thanks for the tip!

  34. chris says:

    Thanks so much ! Was driving me mad for ages !

  35. pat says:

    Thank you! I finally have my folders back in order. On another note, I have several subfolders that were mistakenly made in Mail for my Mac. How do I move the subfolders, without losing the emails, out of their subfolder status? I want them to be typical folders.

  36. Bill says:


  37. Sarka says:


    I have the opposite problem: I’d like to sort folders manually, not alphabetically. I can reorder them by dragging, but the problem is, when I close Mail, upon reopening the folders are back to the way they were before I reordered them. This happened to me before and I fixed it by creating a new plist file – but unfortunately I don’t remember which one it was. Any ideas how to fix this?


    • Hi Sarka,

      The plist file is entitled .mboxCache.plist and this resides in…


      I hope this helps and really thanks is due our IT Director, Richard Mallion, for confirming the correct plist file.

  38. Gary says:

    Bravo! Thank you! It worked!

  39. Nicola says:

    how can i set up subfolders on mac mail for the sent items .

    now , all messages i sent remain in sent folder.
    there are a lot .
    i need to organise sent messages on subfolders for each contact

  40. David Hare says:

    Hi Nicola,

    Right click on your mailbox in sent items, and select new mailbox. This will open a pop up, then make sure that the location field is selected to whichever subfolder you require, in this case “sent items”. Name it and then click “OK”.

    Hopefully this helps you!

    David Hare

  41. Nicola says:



  42. David Hare says:

    Hey Nicola,

    As long as the account is added and it’s not hidden on the side of mail then you should have the option to select the folders within the account.



  43. Rob says:

    Indeed it works ok but I don’t see the map “All Post” from my Google account anymore?
    Grtz Rob

  44. Rob says:

    Excuse me, after a restart it is allright now!
    Thanks, Rob

  45. Jon says:


  46. Nina says:

    Please help – I followed all instructions to the letter and now my folders won’t come back… they are on my iPhone but not my Mac… what can I do please?

Leave a Reply