Mail Archiver X: Backups of IMAP mailboxes with or without an e-mail program

Mail Archiver X in the test

Mail Archiver X software is backup software for email accounts. The macOS app is developed by Beatrix Willius (Moth Software). A few weeks ago she kindly provided me with a free license so that I can take a closer look at the software. And how could that work better than with a practical application ?!

In my case it was a mailbox from a customer who recently reported a strange disappearance and reappearance of mail in his mailbox. Overall, he uses the IMAP account on two Samsung devices and a Windows PC - at first I am not surprised. :) But seriously: I have no clue how it happens that the mails from a whole month disappear from the mailbox for a few weeks and then suddenly reappear. But I know that a regular backup certainly won't do any harm here. Accordingly, I agreed with the customer that I should try out Beatrix's software in order to completely secure his mailbox - and preferably at regular intervals.

Mail Archiver X in the test

Mail Archiver X in the test: What experiences have I had with the Mac software for backing up mails and complete IMAP accounts?

What else Mail Archiver X can do

My use case is only a small selection of all the features that Mail Archiver X has on it. In addition to IMAP accounts, it can also save any e-mail accounts from programs such as Apple Mail, Outlook, Powermail, Postbox and Thunderbird. In addition to being backed up in the program's internal database, the mail archives can also be backed up in formats such as Evernote, PDF or Filemaker.

When it comes to backing up data, Mail Archiver X is flexible and offers several formats.

When it comes to backing up data, Mail Archiver X is flexible and offers several formats.

The archiving processes can even be triggered time-controlled so that you always have up-to-date backups. And - last but not least - emails can be deleted from the mail client according to certain rules. So you can easily ensure that the mails are backed up and yet the mailbox never sends the annoying "MailBox quota full" message.

The menu for scheduling can be used to specify in detail when the backup process should run.

The menu for scheduling can be used to specify in detail when the backup process should run.

 

Don't worry about breaking something: you can only actually delete emails with the "Move emails to the trash" function. Otherwise Mail Archiver works completely without destruction. : D

Don't worry about breaking something: you can only actually delete emails with the "Move emails to the trash" function. Otherwise Mail Archiver works completely without destruction. : D

Why Mail Archiver?

The main reason why Beatrix developed the software was an experience that most of us must have had: Your mail provider wrote to her for several days that the storage space of her mail account was almost full. She ignored that for a few days and then received the bill for it: The last message was "Disc Quota Exceeded", which means that the storage space is now completely exhausted. Apple Mail acknowledged this with her with the fact that it did not want to send any more e-mails.

Even deleting e-mails and then emptying the trash did not help, since Apple Mail probably only indicated the e-mails as deleted, but did not actually remove them from the server. The result: after 2 hours of tinkering and a subsequent phone call with support, the emails ran again.

Mail Archiver X app icon

Mail Archiver X app icon

In order to save herself this hassle in the future, Beatrix started developing Mail Archiver. In the meantime, however, the software can do a lot more than just make sure that the storage space of the mail server is not full. For example, I use it (as mentioned above) as a backup solution for entire customer mailboxes, which I do not want to set up in my Apple Mail program.

On the website you can find the following text with which you can check whether you are in the target group for the software:

Have you seen any of this before?

  • Do you get emails from your mail service provider every day because your mailbox limit is about to be reached?
  • Or can you no longer send emails because your mailbox is already full, but you urgently need to write to your customers right now?
  • Is your mail client slower than a snail?
  • Have you ever accidentally deleted emails forever?
  • Have you ever tried to move emails to an archive, but destroyed everything in the mailbox?
  • Have you forgotten to manually archive your emails again because you have more important things to do?
  • Did you trust Google, but your data was stolen after all?

If one or more points apply: Welcome to the club! : D

Installation and uninstallation

Installing Mail Archiver X is very easy: You download the .dmg from the website and open it. After the usual "warning" that you want to open a program from the Internet, you see the folder and double-click on the installer. This in turn places the actual program in the program folder and starts it immediately.

The installation of Mail Archiver is very easy with the installer.

The installation of Mail Archiver is very easy with the installer.

I also went through the deinstallation, but it is a bit more complex because the AppleScript supplied, which is normally supposed to send all connected files to the trash, is unfortunately under macOS Mojave failing service. Instead of executing the script, you get a message that this script does not come from a verified developer.

The supplied Apple script for deinstallation unfortunately fails to start from Mojave.

The supplied Apple script for deinstallation unfortunately fails to start from Mojave.

Unfortunately, I cannot allow this script to run in the "Security" control panel. For this reason I had to take a detour: To do this, I first had to search for the appropriate places where the software stored files. Normally you will find two files in the user folder on the hard drive:

  • Mail archive.DBIndex
  • Mail archive.vdb

You have to move these two into the trash by hand. I have the settings files with the deinstallation of the program CleanMyMac deleted, but you can also delete them manually via "Library / Preferences /". There are these files:

  • com.mothsoftware.mailarchiverx-helper.plist
  • com.mothsoftware.mailarchiverx.plist
  • com.mothsoftware.maxinstaller.plist

It may be that with the free "AppCleaner"can also uninstall, but I haven't tried that.

Setting up and securing an IMAP account

But now to the practical part - namely reading and saving a complete IMAP account. If you have opened Mail Archiver X, you will find the "Add" button at the top of the menu with the symbols on the far left. If you click on this, you first have to decide whether you want to archive emails from your email program or from a remote IMAP account. In my case it is an IMAP account. I also tried the area with the mail program with my iCloud address and Apple Mail on my Mac, but in principle it works in a similar way. You can also select the folders and accounts that should be archived and then start the process.

But now to the individual steps that I carried out to back up the mails from the IMAP mailbox:

The first thing to do is to choose which emails should be backed up.

The first thing to do is to choose which emails should be backed up.

In the following screen, enter the access data for the IMAP mailbox and click on "Check" below to see whether these are correct. If the check was successful, you can click "Next".

In order not to have to back up all folders, you can select the folders to be saved when setting up the IMAP mailbox.

In order not to have to back up all folders, you can select the folders to be saved when setting up the IMAP mailbox.

If the connection to the IMAP mailbox is established, the folder structure is queried and you can choose which folders Mail Archiver should back up at all. In my case, I preferred to select all the folders. However, the folder structure is quite clear for my customer, since he only uses the standard folders.

I see a practical application here like this: You create a folder in your mail program and call it "Mail Archiver". Then you set up the account in Mail Archiver and only save this folder with the name "Mail Archiver". So you can drag a batch of old mails into the folder every now and then and only have these archived. Once the mails have been archived, the folder can be emptied and refilled one by one. Mail Archiver recognizes duplicate mails and only archives new ones, so that no overlapping can occur here.

In the following window you select "globally" the storage location and the format in which the software should save the mail archive.

In the following window you select the storage location and the format in which the software should save the mail archive for this account.

The next step is a query that you should think about, because a change here affects the backup. On the one hand, you can now change the data format but also the storage location. I changed this location to an external hard drive because I didn't want to load my MacBook Pro's internal SSD with many GB of mail archives. Space is scarce enough there anyway. I also left the data format "internal database" because Evernote, Filemaker and PDF didn't seem to make sense to me.

If you have clicked "New", it is also a good idea to change the name of the archive as well as the storage location so that you know which mailbox or which emails it is dealing with. I took the e-mail address here and changed special characters to hyphens: "info-domain-de.vdb" would be conceivable, for example.

If all information about the account is stored, the first backup starts, which of course - as with all incremental backups - takes a little longer than the future.

If all information about the account is stored, the first backup starts, which of course - as with all incremental backups - takes a little longer than the future.

Once all the information has been entered, Mail Archiver X starts retrieving the mails and saving the data. In my case, this took a few minutes:

  • 559 mails, most of them with attachments and photos
  • approx. 800 MB attachments
  • Archiving time: approx. 17 min.

Of course, this has to do with the existing internet connection, which is unfortunately not that great here. I just wanted to mention it here as an empirical value so that one has a rough direction in mind.

Mail viewer included

What I didn't notice at first: In addition to archiving, Mail Archiver X also has a built-in solution for viewing emails. I cannot show you this area directly, as I understandably cannot include screenshots with emails from my customer here, but it is a helpful tool with which you can also search for emails very specifically. There are several filter options, which I would like to show you here with two screenshots:

The filter options in the mail viewer window.

The filter options in the mail viewer window.

 

My FAQ to Beatrix

When writing the experience report, I kept having questions in my head that I asked Beatrix by email. She answered this with an angelic patience. If you have similar questions in your head, you may find the answers here. I have also taken some of the FAQs from the website and translated them into German.

On my mail server, a space requirement of 800 MB is shown for all the mails. The Mail Archiver X database is 1,6 GB. How does this difference come about?
Mail Archiver saves the data redundantly. If you have had enough of Mail Archiver or I am run over by the bus, you can restore the original data via Export / Mbox. (Note: These can then be opened again directly in Apple Mail!)

If I delete a mail in Mail Archiver's mail viewer, does it disappear from my inbox?
No, Mail Archiver does not make any changes to the mails in IMAP accounts or in the actual mail program.

I have activated two-factor authentication for my iCloud email address. Are there any problems with Mail Archiver?
This does not work out of the box because Mail Archiver does not support two-factor authentication. The solution are app-specific passwords that you can create in your iCloud account. How it works is written here at Apple Support. Alternatively, you can of course archive the iCloud emails from Apple Mail if you read them with it anyway. In this case, Mail Archiver only accesses the data from Apple Mail and can do this with the usual "permission request" from Mojave.

Mail Archiver X is tagged "not responding" in the forced application shutdown window. Did it crash?
As a rule, only the database should be busy checking or managing data here. If you force the app to exit in this process, the database is not doing anything good and it will start verifying the data again the next time Mail Archiver is started. You should ONLY cancel if nothing has happened in the progress bar for more than 30 minutes.

There are a few "minus" and delete buttons in Mail Archiver. Can I accidentally delete mail on the server or from the mail program?
No, Mail Archiver only works "reading" and deletes data when "removing" at most from the internal database. There is only one function that actually deletes mails from the server or from the mail account and that is the red marked "Move mails to the trash" function, which is deactivated by default (to be found under Setup -> Mailboxes).

Is there a limit to how many emails or GB of data the software can manage?
In principle not. There are customers with 50 GB archives as well as those with over 100.000 mails. Both work without problems, only the speed could become a little slower with increasing quantity / size. But Beatrix works with a Mac Pro from 2009 and it runs smoothly. So you could say in general: No problems. : D

Can I import data from other email archiving software?
Yes, all of these programs offer the export of mails or folders in .mbox format. This can be imported into Mail Archiver without any problems. The folder structure is retained and duplicate emails are automatically sorted out.

Can I search the archived mail with Spotlight?
Yes and no, unfortunately that does not work with the internal database, as Spotlight is file-based and cannot "look into" the Mail Archiver database. In order to make the archived mails "searchable", you can export them as PDFs to a folder with Mail Archiver. In this case, a mail corresponds to a PDF. These can be indexed, searched and found using Spotlight.

Demo: Test Mail Archiver yourself

If you want to test the software yourself, you can download it here and then test it for 12 days without restrictions. It does not count 12 calendar days but only the 12 days on which the app was running. A very fair thing - I think. The manual can be found here in PDF format. Both English and German are available in this PDF.

You can download and try all our products for free without any limitations. The application in demo mode can be used for 12 days. The days are counted for each day the application is used and not as calendar days. After the trial time is over you can only open an archive but you can't add mails to an archive anymore. The app can be activated when you buy a license.

In principle, Mail Archiver X is relatively self-explanatory. I entered two accounts and created the archives and it went through without any problems. You just have to bring some time with you if you want to archive mail accounts with lots of gigabytes of data for the first time. From my point of view, that's not a problem, because you can toast it afterwards.

The software is shareware and can be tried out for 12 days without any restrictions. I was convinced on the very first day. ;-)

The software is shareware and can be tried out for 12 days without any restrictions. I was convinced on the very first day. ;-)

Conclusion: extremely useful, a bit confused in operation

Personally, I think the program is a must for small businesses that (like me) do a lot via email. I send offers and invoices by e-mail, I receive orders by e-mail, and all correspondence with customers and friends is done via e-mails. A few years ago - when emails were still running via POP3 / SMTP - I had a defective hard drive that cost me two years of mail correspondence. After that I was "cured" - I have had regular backups over several channels since then.

For such cases - but also for private users - I consider the investment of less than 40 EUR to be money well spent. The only drawback that I currently see with the software is the somewhat less intuitive operation. If you only have one IMAP account that you want to archive regularly, I don't see any problem. It got a bit confusing for me when I imported another account from my email program.

In the setup area, users often do not understand which settings affect the respective account and which "globally" affect everything. The IMAP account also suddenly appeared in the overview, sorted under my account, which I imported from the mail program. I could click it and move the mouse up to make it level with the other account, but then suddenly it was completely gone.

I think that the user interface would have to be "readjusted" a bit here in order to make the software understandable for those new to technology. In my opinion, the complex operation is mainly due to the many options and functions that Mail Archiver X offers. In my opinion, there is really no other tool here that offers so many options. For this reason, it remains a recommendation for me - but one that you have to familiarize yourself with. Beatrix offers brisk and comprehensive German-speaking support, so that it should be easy to set up your personal setup within a short period of time.

You have to decide for yourself whether it is something for you. Just have a look at the Mail Archiver X website past. By the way: Beatrix wrote to me that with the voucher code "apfelot" you will get 2018% off her software until the end of November 10. Thanks! ;-)

The alternatives to Mail Archiver X

To round off the article, I would like to give you two alternatives that are also suitable for archiving mail accounts.

  • Horcruxes - a software that I have already presented here in a report. Unfortunately, it failed at the time because it couldn't handle the 2-factor authentication of my mail account. It supports iCloud accounts, but I always got an error message even though I had created an app-specific password in iCloud. But maybe it will work for you! The app currently costs around EUR 20 in the App Store.
  • Email Archiver Pro - A software that is obviously quite minimalistic and only generates PDFs from the emails, which are then stored in a date-based folder structure. I got a license code from the developer and will be taking a closer look at the tool in the next few weeks. There is of course a suitable test report. The price here is around 40 EUR. If you want to buy it, you get a 20% discount with the code "sirapfelot10".
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9 comments

  1. coloredwolf says:

    Thanks for the good advice. Bought it right away - this is what I've been looking for for a while. I haven't lost an email in the last five years, but I know that all of the essentials are in my correspondence today. Having a professional program at hand is worth its weight in gold. And it's definitely worth the purchase price!

  2. Jochen says:

    I agree with my previous speaker. Thanks for the tip. I checked the program over the weekend and it is exactly what I need. However, I now have a little problem.
    I tried the program with two imap accounts that I really don't want to back up. It was just to try. Today I wanted to back up the actual accounts and can't get the trial accounts out of the backup. I deleted the program and reinstalled it, but the trial accounts are still backed up again.,
    Is there any way I can delete accounts that I no longer need from the backup?
    Otherwise the program is really good.

    gruß
    Jochen

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Jochen! That's exactly what I meant by the "clunky" service. But Beatrix is ​​also aware of this and she wants to revise the UI soon. You can delete the accounts by clicking on "Setup" and then on "Mail-Info". Then set IMAP for "archive from" and then you should see the two accounts. With the minus sign you can then köschen. I hope this helps you. Otherwise you can too using this form contact Beatrix. LG! Jens

  3. Jochen says:

    Just a quick feedback: It worked. Everything perfect!
    I just bought the program.
    Best regards,
    Jochen

  4. Jochen says:

    Another feedback after using it for 14 days.
    The program runs stably and without any problems. I was using "Email Archiver Pro" before, but that didn't work for me, because basically everything was saved in Pdf.
    In the meantime there was also an update; Up-to-dateness is therefore guaranteed. I am very satisfied and can only recommend it to anyone who wants to back up their emails in addition to Time Machine.

    Thank you again for your reference to this app.
    Jochen

    • Sir Apfelot says:

      Hello Jochen! Thanks for your feedback! I am pleased that you are getting on well with the software. And your feedback is of course worth its weight in gold for other users. I always find personal feedback to be very important in order to be able to assess the benefits of a program. And I also wanted to test "Email Archiver Pro", it occurs to me. The day just doesn't have enough hours. : D

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