Here are five simple steps you can take if you’re unable to send emails, if you’re unable to receive emails, or if you’re unable to delete emails on your Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android phone or Windows PC.
Even though I’m using macOS and iOS as examples, you can apply most of the solutions I describe in this article to fix email problems on Windows and Android.
One of the most common computer problems friends and relatives complain about is related to sending and receiving email.
I have also run into many issues with iOS and Exchange/Office365 accounts related to ghost messages that won’t disappear from my email inbox. When I try to remove those ghosts, I get an error message that says “Unable to Move Message.”
The troubleshooting steps I go through (and that I make others go through) are almost always the same, and so I decided to write them down. The next time someone asks me for help with email problems, I’ll refer them to this article.
In this article, I’m using Apple Mail on macOS 10.13 and the native Mail app on iOS 11 to illustrate the most common problems and their solutions. But if you’re using Microsoft Outlook or another email client, note that most of the steps below still apply. The dialog box or error messages might look slightly different or have different wording, but the underlying errors tend to be the same.
Common Email Problems
If you found this page on Google because you were looking for a solution to any of the following problems, chances are that the email troubleshooting steps below will fix your issues. So stick with me!
- Why can’t I get my emails on my iPhone
- Why is my email not working on my iPhone
- Can send but not receive emails?
- Can receive but not send emails?
- I can receive but cannot send emails on iPhone
- Unable to send email from iPad
- Unable to send email phone
- Cannot send email from iPhone username or password incorrect
- Can no longer send email from iPhone?
- Can’t send emails from iPhone but can receive them
- Why is my email not working on my computer?
The Most Common Causes of Email Issues
Not being able to send or receive emails can be a major inconvenience, especially if you rely on email for your job or business. The good news is that most email problems have causes that are easy to fix, including:
- A wrong or expired email password
- Incorrect account settings (server address, port number or protocol)
- A misbehaving email client or email app
5 Steps to Fix Common Email Problems
If you’re unable to send or receive emails, take a deep breath and follow the steps below. I highly recommend not skipping any of the steps, even if you feel convinced that (for example) your email password isn’t the culprit. I consider myself proficient with technology, but even I have spent time debugging an email problem that was ultimately caused by an expired password.
Had I checked the validity of my password first, I could have saved the time I wasted trying to figure out the problem. To ensure you’re not mistyping the password, which is particularly easy to do on a mobile device, I recommend copying and pasting the password from a password manager, such as 1Password.
The five steps I recommend following are:
- Verify your email account password
- Verify your email account username
- Determine the email account type
- Check the email server connection settings
- Fix a misbehaving email program or app
Step 1 – Verify Your Email Account Password
Before you do anything else, double check to make sure you have the correct password and that it hasn’t expired. The best way to do that is by logging in to your email account via your provider’s web-based email system. Logging in via your web browser can tell you whether the problem you’re experiencing exists at the account level or the program/app level.
If you use Gmail, go to gmail.com and try to log in. If you use a different service provider, find out what their web-based email system’s url is. Often, it’s something like webmail.provider.com. For example, with Bluehost, go to webmail.bluehost.com and sign on to your account.
If you can’t log in via your web browser, chances are you’re using an incorrect username or password. If you cant figure out your username, try your email address. If you can’t figure out the correct password, try to reset it. Once you’ve done that, make sure you save it in a password manager (such as 1Password). That way, you won’t forget it again. But don’t use an easy-to-guess password, just because you are afraid of forgetting it!
If you use Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, or an Outlook account for your email, and the webmail interface prompts you to change your password, you know that your old password had expired. I use Office 365 for work and I have to change my password every three months because of my company’s password expiration policy.
If your email provider doesn’t offer a webmail client, try to send and receive a test email from another device (assuming you have another device and your email account is set up on it). Again, this troubleshooting step is designed to let you know whether the problem is with one particular device or your account settings and configuration.
If you can log in to webmail or from a secondary device successfully, but sending email or receiving email still fails on your primary device, proceed to the next steps.
Note: Fixing an incorrect, forgotten or expired password is easy. But don’t worry — verifying and correcting wrong account settings isn’t complicated either. Just follow these steps and you’ll be up and running in no time.
Step 2 – Verify Your Email Account Username
Depending on your email service provider, your username could be your email address, a part thereof, or something entirely different.
I use Office 365 as the email service for my blog. As a result, my username is the same as my email address: [email protected]. Bluehost also uses your email address as the default username for its email accounts.
If you’re trying to set up your email account on a new device — after having gotten a new iPhone, for example — make sure your username is correct. The easiest way to do that is to verify if you can log in via webmail (see Step 1). I have seen many people use the correct password but the wrong username, so always double check if you’re using the correct account credentials!
Step 3 – Determine the Email Account Type
Depending on the type of email account you have, the next steps might vary from the screenshots below. Common account types include:
Popular email providers like Google and Apple use a variation of the IMAP protocol to receive emails. For business accounts, or if you use Office 365, you’re likely dealing with an Exchange Server account. And some internet service providers (ISPs) still offer the old and outdated POP3 protocol.
If that’s what you use, I highly recommend checking to see if your email service provider supports using an IMAP account instead. It offers a ton of advantages over POP3 (such as better message syncing).
When it comes to sending email, SMTP is the most common protocol (unless you use an Exchange Server). To figure out what account type you have, follow these steps:
- Open Mail and go to Mail > Preferences (or press Command + ,)
- Go to Accounts and verify the account type underneath the account name, in the left section of the dialog box
In the screenshot below, you can see two IMAP accounts (an iCloud email account and a test email account) and three Exchange accounts.
- Open the Settings app and go to Accounts & Passwords
- Click on the account you want to verify
- You can see the account type on top of the screen (see Exchange in the screenshot below)
Step 4 – Check the Email Server Connection Settings
Once you’ve determined your email account type, the next step is to verify your incoming server settings. If you’re receiving email but having trouble sending an email, then you can skip to the next step to check your outgoing server settings!
Both macOS and iOS usually manage the server connection settings automatically for most account types, especially Exchange accounts. In fact, for Exchange accounts, the only connection settings you can tweak on macOS are the Internal and External URL.
For Office 365, like in the example below, both URLs point to https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.asmx. If you can’t see those two URLs, just uncheck “Automatically manage connection settings” on the Accounts tab.
Beyond that, there isn’t usually much to verify with Exchange accounts (unless your email provider uses an old version of Microsoft Exchange).
When it comes to IMAP accounts, both macOS and iOS have become pretty good at automatically managing connection settings. In the example below, I have set up an IMAP account with Bluehost. MacOS automatically determined the proper parameters when I initially set up the account in the native Mail app.
But if you have an older version of Apple’s operating system, or if the OS can’t determine the correct settings automatically, you may have to change them manually.
Incoming Mail Server
To check the details of your incoming mail server settings, you may have to uncheck “Automatically manage connection settings” under Incoming Mail Server (IMAP).
Once you’ve done that, you’ll see additional connection settings, including:
- Use TLS/SSL
Before you proceed, double check to make sure the username, password and hostname are correct. In my example, I have to use the following basic settings:
- User Name: [email protected]
- Password: <mypassword>
- Host Name: box930.bluehost.com
Bluehost, like many other email service providers, may give you confusing information regarding the proper hostname to use. Normally, the hostname of the email server would be similar to your email domain (i.e., gmail.com, or eventosdeportivos.com).
So you may be inclined to think that the incoming mail server should (in my case) be eventosdeportivos.com or imap.eventosdeportivos.com.
I’m using encrypted communication via TLS/SSL, and I don’t have my own SSL certificate. That’s why I have to use box930.bluehost.com — because it matches the SSL certificate that Bluehost provides for my web host.
The standard IMAP port is 143, but with SSL it’s 993. As you can see in the screenshot, macOS put the non-secure 143 port into the connection settings. Given that, you might think that I’m using an incorrect port number and that switching them out will resolve the issue.
However, both Apple Mail and the Bluehost IMAP server support transport layer security (TLS), which can automatically hand over from an insecure channel (port 143) to an encrypted channel (port 993).
The caveat is that if your IMAP server doesn’t speak TLS and only supports SSL, make sure you change the port to 993 if Apple Mail doesn’t do that automatically.
Note: Enabling SSL/TLS but using the insecure default port (143) is one of the most common problems I have seen.
To verify the connection settings on iOS, follow these steps:
- Open the Settings app
- Click on the account you want to verify
- Click on the Account field
- Go to Advanced on the bottom of the screen
- Scroll down to Incoming Settings
Under Incoming Settings, make sure you have “Use SSL” checked, unless your provider doesn’t support it. If so, I’d look for another provider! Check that the authentication is set to “Password,” and double check the server port. With SSL enabled, the port should be 993 for IMAP accounts because the Mail app on iOS doesn’t support TLS!
Outgoing Mail Server
If receiving email is working fine, but you’re having problems sending email, follow these steps to verify and fix the outgoing server settings.
On macOS, follow the same steps as above and verify that your username, password, hostname, and port are correct.
The most common issue that causes problems sending email is an incorrect port number. For SMTP the standard port for unencrypted (insecure) communication is 25, but I don’t recommend using that. For the more secure SMTPS (SMTP over SSL), the default port is 587.
Note: Bluehost says in its documentation that they use port 465 for SMTPS, but in my tests both 465 and 587 worked.
Additionally, make sure that you have the proper account selected under Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP). Apple Mail tends to forget what outgoing mail server it’s supposed to use. I wrote about that problem in another blog post.
To verify your outgoing mail connection settings on iOS, follow these steps:
- Open the Settings app
- Click on the account you want to verify
- Click on the Account field
- Go to SMTP under Outgoing Mail Server
- Select the primary server
Then verify if the server is enabled and all settings look correct, especially “Use SSL” and the corresponding server port.
Step 5 – Fix a Misbehaving Email Program or App
Sometimes your email client may run into an issue and forget the connection settings, or try to use a cached but expired password. In those cases, the best course of action is to quit the app and start it back up.
To quit an app on macOS, just right click on the app icon in the Dock and select “Quit.” If it doesn’t want to quit, hold the Option key and right-click to force quit the app (which works like CTRL + ALT + DELETE on Windows).
On iOS devices with a home button, double-click the home button and swipe up to remove the Mail app from memory. If you have an iPhone without a home button, such as the iPhone X, swipe up from the bottom and stop halfway to bring up the app switcher.
Then touch and hold the Mail app until you see the red “quit” circle in the upper-left corner of the app. From there, press the red icon or swipe up on the app to shut it down.
Note: Quitting apps on iOS is normally not recommended or necessary unless the app crashes. I still see many iOS users making it a habit of periodically closing all their apps, hoping to save battery (or for other reasons). Apple has been very clear on why that’s useless.
Additional Email Troubleshooting
If the above steps don’t resolve your email issues, there are a few more steps you can take to troubleshoot the problem further.
Temporarily Disable the Mail Account
Before we look at advanced techniques, one of the easiest ways to fix an issue is to remove and re-add the account.
On MacOS – System Preferences
Depending on the type of email account (iCloud email or other), open System Preferences and go to iCloud or Internet Accounts. You have to pick the latter if the affected account is part of iCloud. From there, merely unselect Mail, close the Mail app, re-enable Mail under System Preferences and open/re-launch Mail.
On iOS – Settings
The steps on iOS are similar, but instead of going into System Preferences, you open the Settings app and scroll down to Passwords & Accounts. From there, you can select the affected account type and disable/re-enable Mail.
Delete and Re-Add the Mail Account
If flipping the switch as described above doesn’t work, you might have to delete the entire account and re-add it.
Analyze Log Files
In Apple Mail, go to Window > Connection Doctor and see if your account shows an error. If it does, you can select “Log Connection Activity” and click on “Check Again.”
Once Apple Mail has completed the check, click on “Show Logs” and look for the log file that matches your server name. You should see two files per server name: one for the incoming connection and one for the outgoing connection.
Open both files and look for the reason why the connection attempt failed. In my case, I could see that the problem was related to an incorrect password.
If you don’t know how to read or interpret the log data, you can send it to Apple Support when you contact them for further assistance.
Unable to Delete Emails on iOS
A few months ago, I started seeing issues related to ghosts messages. Those are emails that I had already deleted or archived that wouldn’t disappear from my mailbox. If I tried to delete or move them again on the affected iPhone or iPad, I would get error messages saying “Unable to Move Message.” Over time, those ghosts messages would start to really clutter up my mailbox.
After doing some research, I realized that this is one of the most common iPhone email problems. And fortunately, there’s a way to resolve the issue. The most obvious solution is to completely remove and re-add the affected email account, which is what I would recommend.
Another, albeit potentially temporary solution, is to kill the Mail app, go into Settings > Passwords & Accounts, and disable Mail from the affected account by flipping the switch. Then relaunch the Mail app and confirm that all the ghost messages have finally moved on to their final resting place in the infinite cloud.
If that’s the case, re-enable Mail on the impacted account. I had to do this a couple of times before it worked. And in some cases, the problem returned a few days or weeks later. I was haunted. As a result, I recommend completely removing the account and re-adding it.
Misbehaving Spam Filters
Apple’s email app has relatively poor spam filters. As a result, I disabled the junk mail filter in Apple Mail on my Macs. Unfortunately, if you use iCloud Mail, there’s an additional (server-side) spam folder that may mess with your email inbox by placing legit email messages into the trash.
To learn more about how to troubleshoot that issue, check out this article.
How to Fix Email Problems
Whether you’re unable to send emails or unable to receive emails, I hope the steps above helped you resolve the issue. Most of the email problems I have come across were related to a wrong or expired password, incorrect mail settings, or a misbehaving email client.
If none of the above steps resolved your issues, you can also try to remove the email account from your device completely and then re-add it. If you use Exchange or IMAP, you won’t lose any emails by doing that.
If you’re experiencing a different problem or have found another solution to fix email problems, leave a comment below. I may update the article accordingly!