macOS Catalina, Apple Mail, and Time Machine Don’t Work Together

One of the most useful features in macOS is Time Machine, the built-in backup software. If you have an external or network drive, Time Machine backs up your Mac every hour, and retains hourly backups for 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups beyond that. It’s simple to set up, and requires no user intervention. And it’s great, when it works.

Since the release of macOS Catalina, Time Machine doesn’t work with Apple Mail. If you enter Time Machine from Apple Mail, you are supposed to be able to see your email in all your backups. But if you try to do this is Catalina, Mail crashes.

Looking at a crash log, I see this:

Error Domain=NSCocoaErrorDomain Code=256 "The file “Accounts.73319.db.timemachine” couldn’t be opened." UserInfo={NSFilePath=/var/folders/9r/009mv58n4x172dtpkp5nrctc0000gn/T/com.apple.mail/Accounts.73319.db.timemachine, NSSQLiteErrorDomain=14}

This looks like it might be a permissions error, or something to do with the way users access system files in Catalina.

This has been a problem for months, and users have reported it and filed bugs about it. It only hit me the other day, when I needed to find an email I had accidentally deleted (or that Mail had deleted without my intervention; that’s another story…)

6 thoughts on “macOS Catalina, Apple Mail, and Time Machine Don’t Work Together

  1. Thanks for posting this. Every time I think I’m about to pull the trigger and update to Catalina, I find another reason not to.

  2. Do you have any new information or insight on this problem? My calls to Apple Support have found them to be unfamiliar with the problem, and uncertain about whether there is a user fix, or an impending OS software fix.

  3. I have tried several online chats with Apple about this. Each time we go through the whole nine yards to convince them it doesn’t work the way it used to; then get escalated to a higher level tech, who ends up acknowledging it doesn’t work, but you can still mine through archive files in your Library to try to find what you are looking for. That a tortuous exercise at best.

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