Slow Mail application: problem apparently solved

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
July 16th, 2009 • 10:33 am

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote two blog posts about performance problems I was having with my Mail application in Mac OS X 10.5 and my large archive of over 100,000 messages.

At the time, I reported that I was unable to complete one of the main troubleshooting steps involved in trying to eliminate the application’s sluggishness, which was to force Mail to rebuild its “Envelope Index” file by moving the existing file out of the “Mail” folder inside my home library folder.

With some help and prompting from Betalogue readers, I then managed to fix this particular problem by narrowing its source down to a single e-mail message containing two attached Microsoft Excel files. Removing this message from the mail archive eliminated the crash and Mail was able to complete the rebuilding its “Envelope Index” file.

But did this fix my problems with sluggishness in Mail?

After a couple of weeks of regular use, I am pleased to report that it appears to have done the trick. I no longer see the “Loading…” message when opening a message in a separate window, even when there are other background processes going on at the same time in Mail.

At the time, I also indicated that I had submitted the issue with the crash during importing as a bug report to Apple. Since then, I have received a reply from Apple, stating that this is a “known issue”:

This is a follow up to Bug ID# 7028784.  After further investigation it has been determined that this is a known issue, which is currently being investigated by engineering.  This issue has been filed in our bug database under the original Bug ID# 5543122. The original bug number being used to track this duplicate issue can be found in the State column, in this format:  Duplicate/OrigBug#.

The original bug ID number (5543122) seems to indicate that Apple has known about this issue since the fall of 2007. Unfortunately, we are obviously still waiting for a fix. (But at least the problem is known and Apple was kind enough to respond to my bug report fairly quickly.)

It is fortunately possible to work around the bug “manually” by monitoring the importing process carefully. So if you ever need to rebuild your “Envelope Index” file and encounter a crash during the importing process, I suggest you follow the steps that I described in my last blog post in order to try and pinpoint the offending message(s) and remove them manually from your archive.

As for why rebuilding the “Envelope Index” file fixed the sluggishness in Mail, I obviously do not know. But it’s a known troubleshooting step and sometimes we have to use these steps even without knowing what it is exactly that they are meant to fix.

All I can say is that other troubleshooting steps didn’t help, and this appears to be the one that did it and restored my Mail application to its normal level of performance on my machine.

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