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.

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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.


iOS > Incoming mail server settings (IMAP).
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 appClick on the account you want to verifyClick on the Account fieldGo to SMTP under Outgoing Mail ServerSelect 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.

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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.

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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!

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