Fix problems with Apple Mail not working on the Mac

Where would be be without email these days? It is such an essential service it is hard to live without, which makes it such a big problem when there is a fault. Fix problems with Apple Mail.

Apple’s Mail app is not the only email app for the Mac and there are others, like Bluemail, Spark and Outlook. However, it is reasonably good and it is preinstalled, so there is no software to download.

The ultimate fix for Apple Mail not working properly is to use one of those alternative email apps. However, before you install any of them, try these fixes and see if you can get Apple Mail working.

Take email account offline or online

You might see a lightning bolt icon or a warning triangle icon next to the email account mailboxes in the Mac Mail sidebar. They indicate a problem of some sort and more information and the solution or suggestions may be displayed when these icons are clicked.

Take Mail accounts online or offline.

One reason why Mail may not be working is because it is offline. Maybe there was a glitch or bug, or maybe you accidentally did it without realizing it. When this happens, you will not be able to connect to your email account to send or receive emails.

Open the Mailbox menu and click Take All Accounts Online. (If they are online, the menu reads Take All Accounts Offline.) You can also Ctrl+click a mailbox like the inbox in the sidebar and take only this account online or offline, which is useful if you have several email accounts in Mail.

Restart the Mac

Sometimes simply restarting the Mac is sufficient to get the internet connection and the Mail app working again. Try it.

Internet connection problems

If Apple Mail is not working, the problem could be due to the internet connection. Is Wi-Fi enabled on the Mac? Click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and turn it on if it is off. If the Wi-Fi is already enabled, turn it off, wait a few seconds and then turn it back on.

Is the Mac’s Wi-Fi connected to a network? If you are in an unfamiliar place like a cafe, airport, hotel and so on, Wi-Fi may be enabled, but the Mac is not connected to any network because you have never used them before. Click the Wi-Fi icon and select a network to connect to.

With public networks, you might be connected to the Wi-Fi, but you need to log in or accept the terms and conditions before internet access is granted. Try opening Safari and going to a website. This may be needed to trigger the login page for the Wi-Fi network. Try Mail again afterwards.

See if webmail is working

Many email services provide access to your email using a web browser, like Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo and others. Go to the website in Safari browser and see if you can read your email and send a test message. If email does not work in a web browser, the problem is probably not with Apple Mail, it is with your account or the email service itself. It may have gone down. Try again in a few minutes or an hour. See if your email provider has a service status page on its website.

Webmail at the iCloud website in Safari browser on an Apple Mac.
Check your email using webmail

If email works on the web in a browser, it indicates that the problem lies with the Mail app. Go to Mail > Accounts and Settings > Internet Accounts to list email accounts. Click iCloud and make sure iCloud Mail says that it is on. Click it and make sure that Sync this Mac is on.

Click other non-Apple internet or email accounts and make sure that Mail is on. Click Details and make sure the address, name and password are correct.

Delete your email account

Most people use IMAP for email and this means that email is kept on the server, not on the Mac. You can delete the email account on your Mac without affecting your account or the emails stored in it. Everything is restored when your account is re-added.

Internet accounts in macOS Settings on the Apple Mac.
Delete your email account

Go to Settings > Internet Accounts and click your email account, like Gmail or whatever you use. Click the Delete Account button. Restart the Mac, return to Settings > Internet Accounts, click Add Account and add it again. It sometimes fixes problems.

After re-adding an email account, it can take several minutes to sync all your email, so wait a bit before trying to read or send an email.

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