I was in the middle of writing an email when my computer shut down. I had already :w saved it, but not :wq saved-to-drafts.

Where should I look for the partial email? This is on Ubuntu Linux.


Mutt's message drafts reside in the temporary directory (\tmp), and are named as mutt-<hostname>-<unique-id>.

Note that many systems clean up the temp directory on system startup.


If you're using the default config, your messages are probably in /tmp (assuming that you haven't rebooted or otherwise cleaned up /tmp), but strictly speaking Mutt uses the following locations in order:

  1. the directory specified by the tmpdir variable in your ~/.muttrc
  2. if that's not set, the directory specified by the $TMPDIR environment variable
  3. if that's also not set, the /tmp directory

You may wish to set a tmpdir value in your ~/.muttrc precisely to help you recover emails you were writing at the time of a computer crash. Eg:

set tmpdir = ~/.mutt-tmp

Source: Mutt manual: tmpdir variable

  • Very helpful answer - thanks. Unfortunately, it also uses tmpdir as a staging area when saving your whole inbox. Since I tend to have a very large inbox, I want to set /tmp to a place that is automatically cleared out periodically, but I want drafts to be preserved. Perhaps mutt needs a way to set these two independently.... – nealmcb Sep 23 '16 at 17:35

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