Apple Mail – Unable to send or receive

Send & Receive issues are the most complex to troubleshoot. There are many variables that need to be checked. Usually when messages are not sending or receiving, it’s a result of Mail not remembering your password. You can check in Connection Doctor. Under Window in the Menu bar, select Connection Doctor.

connection doctor

You will see green to indicate a connection and red to show there is a problem. You want to see all green symbols.

green light


Verify that you have the correct password. You can test the password by logging into your email account in your browser via webmail.

1. If you can receive  but not send then you have a bad SMTP configuration (Incoming)

2. If you can send but not receive you have a bad POP or IMAP configuration (Outgoing)

3. Usually it’s a missing password that is causing the connection issue.

Settings like SSL, ports and authentication vary with email providers. Apple provides this link to help with your settings, but you might need to search your host for the correct info.


In Accounts window under Account Information tab, you’ll find Outgoing Mail Server SMTP:  Select to Edit SMTP Server list… from popup.


Select account in the list. (It’s not uncommon to find extra SMTP servers listed. When you remove account, Mail does not delete the smtp info. You might need to do some clean up in the list to remove the extras.)

Note: there is no save when you make changes to SMTP settings like changes to Incoming settings.

Under Advanced Tab:


Apple previously defaulted to the ports (25,465, 587), but in El Capitan it will default to port 587 for most email providers.  Some servers prefer a custom port. Check to see what port your email provider recommends. Gmail for example, likes 465, 587. Some providers use ports: 80, 2525, 3535 or other ports. There is no way to guess. You need to check with your provider for email setup instructions.

Note: if your provider still uses port 25, see this article on why Comcast no longer supports port 25. It’s highly advised that you use secure settings whenever possible.

Verify if your server require SSL.

User Name: Enter full email address  eg. (most providers require the full email address not just your user name before the @ sign)

Add password if it is blank.(If you have two step authentication setup, you’ll need to get an app specific password  more info for Gmail two-step

After entering the password, check again in Connection Doctor to see if you are seeing green for the account.


There are three tabs in the Account window:

Account Information, Mailbox Behaviors, Advanced


Under Account Information, be sure your password is entered. If it’s blank, add your password. After adding you need to click out to save.

Under Advanced, you might need to tweak your settings. This is where the incoming server port is set. Only your provider can give you the correct port to enter.

Incoming Ports

  • POP:
    Port 110 –  non-encrypted port
    Port 995 – POP secure connection. Users SSL
  • IMAP:
    Port 143 –  IMAP non-encrypted port
    Port 993 –  IMAP secure connection. Uses SSL

You will need to check with your provider to see if SSL is required. Occasionally, you need to check ‘Allow insecure authentication’.

Remember to click out to save if you make any changes here.AccountTab-advanced.

Back to the Connection Doctor to see if your account is now showing green for connection.

It’s not uncommon to have to enter the password several times before it sticks. However, some users have to delete the account then add it back in order to save a password. Other users have issues with the Keychain that stores the password. This is a bit more complicated to fix.


Apple stores your passwords in Keychain Access. You’ll find this app in Applications/Utilities.

  1. Open Keychain Access
  2. In the top search box, enter the email account that is not saving the password.
  3. Under Category, select Passwords. Your email account will have the blue @ symbol.
    You should see an entry for incoming and outgoing for each account. It’s not uncommon to find many old entries for the account. Keychain doesn’t delete old or duplicate entries. Often you need to delete all then let Mail add the password back to Keychain Access.
  4. Double click to open the entry. Check the box to “Show Password”. This requires your login password to view.
  5. Is the password entered correctly? You can edit to save correctly or if it’s blank you can add the correct password then Save Changes.
  6. Go back to Mail > Connection Doctor and see if your account is connecting now.

Option 1)tSome users have to create a new keychain in order to fix password issues.

Create a new keychain by going to the “File” menu, then “New” and selecting “New Keychain”.


You can now make this keychain your default if you desire by selecting it, then going to the “File” menu and selecting “Make ‘(name of keychain)’ Default”

Option 2)

If Keychain First Aid finds an issue that it can’t repair, or if you don’t know your keychain password, you might need to reset your keychain.

Resetting a keychain sets aside the original default keychain file and creates a new one.

Resetting your keychain in Mac OS X – Apple Support

To reset your keychain in Mac OS X 10.4, Mac OS X 10.5, and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or later:

Open Keychain Access, which is in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder.
From the Keychain Access menu, choose Preferences.
Click General, then click Reset My Default Keychain.
Authenticate with your account login password.
Quit Keychain Access.
Restart your computer.


If your connection problems are an on/off issue, the problem is most likely with your provider and not with your Mail settings.


9 thoughts on “Apple Mail – Unable to send or receive

  1. Your explanations were the only ones that worked after untold hours of trying to get my two email accounts sending and receiving and not quitting and losing passwords after El Capitan was installed. Thank you.

  2. Hello
    I have a POP account that has stopped receiving emails (it worked fine for the past 3 months since upgrading to El Capitan). I have checked the Connection Doctor and the POP internet connection is green. I have tried deleting and recreating the account with no success. I have also spoken with my ISP who cannot help as the web mail is working fine. Any ideas what I should try?

  3. Select the Inbox for the POP account in the folder list.
    Under Mailbox in the Menu bar, select the last item “Rebuild”.

    Let me know if this works.

    If you have the option to switch the account from POP to IMAP, I highly suggest you make the change.

    Note: Don’t delete a POP account without first backing up the data in the Inbox, Drafts and Sent folders.

    • I tried the ‘Rebuild’ option but it did not work. Apple Mail is showing the download message: either ‘Downloading messages 23 new messages’ or something ridiculous like ‘Downloading messages 16 of 194 messages’ (these figures can change as well). I only have ~ 30 messages on the email server.
      This message remains even if I set the email account to offline.

      The Apple Mail inbox shows the first 6 mails and then seems to get hung-up.

      I have researched the web and some people have had luck by re-creating the account manually (enter a false email address and password then edit the details otherwise Apple assumes the account is IMAP). I also set ‘automatically detect and maintain account settings’ to off.

      I have a second POP account with the same ISP accessed via Apple Mail on the same iMac. This is working perfectly.

      I don’t understand why my first account suddenly stopped working and why some POP accounts still work …

      Are there any ‘relic’ files on the iMac that need to be deleted before I re-create the account? Or is it possible that one of the emails is causing a problem?

      I am using OSX 10.11.5.

      • It sounds like you need to manually remove the files associated with that account. It’s not unusual for one account to become corrupt and the other work correctly. Overall Mail in El Capitan has been troublesome.

        Remember, to export first before deleting. See these articles to help with the clean up.

        Before upgrading to El Capitan Mail

        Troubleshooting Apple Mail in OS X 10.11 El Capitan

        • Hi Diane

          I have solved the problem. I checked the emails in the inbox via web mail and saw that some were quite large. I forwarded them to the other POP account and deleted them from the inbox, sent mail and deleted mail of the original account. The rest of emails then downloaded to the local client!!

          I do not understand what caused the problem:
          1. possibly an individual email was too large (yet it sent/downloaded to the second POP account)
          2. possibly the total size of my inbox was too large

          Anyway I thought I’d let you know in case this type of problem crops up again.

          Thanks for your help

          • Different providers have different limits on size of email and how much you can have on the server.

            Thanks for letting us know how you solved the problem.

  4. Hello,
    I just bought a new Macbook Pro with OS X El Capitan (10.11.4) installed. Until now I worked on a Macbook pro running OS X Lion (10.7.5).
    I opened Mail on both computers and copied every detail from my Mail accounts (I’ve got 3 POP accounts). Except for some options that are not available on the previous version of Mail, everything is identical.
    The only problem is that I am not able to send emails from the newer version of Mail.
    The error message reads:
    Cannot send message using the server xxx
    The server response was: : Client host rejected: Access denied

    I launched the Connection doctor and it showed that the smtp connection to my provider is working (Connection to server succeeded).

    I tried to solve this problem but nothing seems to work.
    Would you have any idea why is this happening ?

    Thank you.

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