Mac Fixes

Mail Not Working on Your Mac? Here’s How to Fix Any Apple Mail Problems

There are lots of ways Apple’s Mail app might stop working on your Mac. It might become totally unresponsive or it might just stop receiving new emails. Fortunately, whatever the problem is, you just need to follow a simple set of troubleshooting steps to fix it.


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It’s frustrating when any app stops working on your Mac, let alone an app that you use as often as Apple Mail. One of the best ways to keep your Mac running as smoothly as possible is to regularly use cleaning software, like MacKeeper.


So download MacKeeper and run a full scan to learn all the different ways it can clean up your Mac.


In this guide, we’ll walk you through all the steps you need to follow to fix just about every problem you might encounter with the Mac Mail app not working:

All the most common problems with Apple Mail

When you say the Apple Mail app isn’t working on your Mac, you’re probably referring to one of these common problems:

  • Mail app won’t open
  • Mail is frozen and unresponsive
  • You can’t receive new emails
  • You can’t send emails because they get stuck in the outbox
  • Mail won’t load your email accounts or inbox
  • The Mail search bar isn’t working
  • Apple keeps asking for your email passwords
  • Mail is slow or keeps crashing and quitting
  • Mail isn’t showing your email messages

Whatever is going on with the Mail app on your Mac, the list of troubleshooting steps below will fix it. We haven’t separated the tips for each Mail problem because, to be honest, they’re almost all the same anyway. So just start working through the list, testing Mail after each step.

1. Open Mail from the Applications folder

After updating macOS, it’s possible that the Mail icon in your Dock is pointing to an older version of the app. To fix this, all you need to do is open the Mail app from the Applications folder:

  1. Launch Finder
  2. Select Applications from the sidebar (or press Cmd + Shift + A)
  3. Find and double-click Mail to open it
  4. If this works, drag Mail from the Finder to the Dock to update the icon
Applications folder

2. Use Connection Doctor to check your connections

You probably already know that you need an internet connection to send and receive emails, but if your Mac isn’t online you might not be able to use the Mail app at all. If you haven’t already, open a web browser and load a new page to test your connection.


If you can’t load anything, or if it’s really slow, follow these tips to fix your Mac internet connection.


Even if your Mac appears to be online, you should use the Connection Doctor in the Mail app to test the connection to all your email accounts:

  1. Launch the Mail app
  2. From the menu bar, go to Window > Connection Doctor
  3. The Connection Doctor will open, showing green or red lights next to each of your accounts
  4. If there’s a red light next to your account, double-click it to make sure the username and password are correct
Mail Connection Doctor

3. Quit or force quit the Mail app

One of the best steps you can take when any app stops working on your Mac – including the Mail app – is to quit and restart it. Of course, that’s easier said than done if the reason Mail has stopped working is because it’s completely frozen and isn’t responding to you.


Luckily, you can force quit an app even if it’s unresponsive.

  • To quit an app normally: Click the app icon in the Dock to make it your active app, then press Command + Q to quit it
  • To force quit an app: Press Option + Command + Escape to open the Force Quit window, then select the relevant app and click Force Quit
Force Quit Applications window

When you quit an app properly, using one of those two methods, it will completely close the app and stop any background processes associated with it. This will give Mail a chance to restart properly the next time you open it.

4. Quit every app and restart your Mac

If Mail still isn’t working properly or is slow, it might actually be down to one of the other apps running on your Mac. If one of those apps is using too much processing power or RAM – or has developed a bug – then Mail will struggle to run how it’s supposed to.


All you need to do to fix this is follow the steps above to quit every app on your Mac, then open the Apple menu in the top-left corner and choose to Restart the Mac itself.

Apple menu > choose Restart

5. Update macOS and Mail

Much like the last point, what looks like a problem with Mail could actually be a problem with macOS, the operating system on your Mac. All you need to do in this instance is update macOS from the System Preferences.


This is also an important step because Mail updates are included in macOS. So if you’re running a bad version of Mail, the way to patch all the bugs in it is to update it with macOS.


Open the System Preferences and click Software Update to check for new updates.

System Preferences > Software Update tab

6. Merge and close windows

If Mail is being particularly slow – or if it isn’t responding at all – it might be trying to do too much at once. This can happen if there are too many Mail windows open in the background. You might not even realize how many windows are open, but there is a quick and easy fix either way.


With Mail open, go to Window > Merge All Windows from the menu bar. If this option is grayed out, just move onto the next step.

Mail app > Window > Merge All Windows

When you Merge All Windows, Mail combines all your open windows, creating a separate tab for each of them. Now you can see all the windows you’ve got open, close as many of them as possible to free up some processing power and help Mail speed up again.

7. Rebuild your mailboxes

If there are messages missing from your Mail inbox – or if the messages that do appear are scrambled and messed up – you can usually fix it by rebuilding your mailbox. This is a function built into the Mail app that essentially re-syncs all the messages in your accounts.


To rebuild your mailboxes, go to Mailbox > Rebuild from the menu bar. It should only take a second, but it’ll refresh all the messages in your app.

Mail app on Mac > Mailbox > Rebuild

8. Reset your Mail preferences

It’s possible that Mail isn’t working because of a bug in the file that saves all your app preferences. This isn’t entirely uncommon for Mac apps, but fortunately it’s fairly easy to fix.


All you need to do is delete the plist file that holds your Mac preferences. This makes Mail create a new PLISt file that will set all the preferences back to their default state. You may need to tweak some options to get it how you want again.


To reset your Mail preferences:

  1. Launch Finder
  2. From the menu bar, click on Go > Go to Folder
  3. Enter the following file path and hit Enter to go there: ~/Library/Containers/
  4. Drag the file to your Desktop to reset your preferences
  5. Now restart your Mac and try using Mail again
  6. If Mail still isn’t working, move the plist file from your Desktop back into the Preferences folder to restore your preferences
Library > Preferences folder on Mac

If that didn’t work, here are some other Mail system files you can try removing:

  1. Launch Finder
  2. From the menu bar, click on Go > Go to Folder
  3. Enter the following file path and hit Enter to go there: ~/Library/Containers/ Application State
  4. Move any folders or files from here to your Desktop
  5. Now go back five levels to the Containers folder
  6. Move the following to folder to your Desktop: and
  7. Now restart your Mac and try using Mail again
  8. If Mail still isn’t working, move the folders and files from your Desktop back into the folders they came from

9. Remove and re-add your email accounts

Finally, if Mail still isn’t working on your Mac, you should try removing your email accounts and adding them again from scratch. When you do this, you’ll lose any emails that are waiting to send in your Outbox, so make a note of them first.


Before totally removing an account, you can try disabling it:

  1. Launch Mail and go to Mail > Preferences from the menu bar
  2. Go to the Accounts tab
  3. Select a mail account from the sidebar, then uncheck the Enable this account box
  4. Repeat this for each of your connected email accounts
  5. Restart Mail, then return to this page and check the boxes again

If that doesn’t work, follow these steps to completely remove and re-add email accounts:

  1. Launch Mail and go to Mail > Accounts from the menu bar
  2. Select a mail account from the sidebar, then click the minus (–) button
  3. Confirm that you want to delete the account – don’t worry, it’ll only remove it from your Mac
  4. Once that is done, click the plus (+) button and follow the prompts to add that account to your Mac again. You’ll need to know your username and password to do this
Mail app on Mac > go to Accounts

After following those tips, we’re certain you’ll have fixed whatever issues you were having with the Mail app on your Mac. Remember to check your email accounts directly with the server to ensure your password is working as well. That would mean logging onto the Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo websites directly.


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