Updated August 16th, 2021.
This article helps you solve problems involving AOL mail on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. There are two main scenarios:
- You’ve received an email from AOL about updated security measures. It would look something like this:
Or maybe, all of a sudden, you can’t get your AOL mail on your Mac or iPhone, and they keep asking for the password, and you keep typing it in, and it never works, even though you are positive you know what the password is.
If that sounds like you, click here to jump to the section of this article that solves this “updated security measures” problem.
UPDATE: if you have an email address from Verizon (ending in verizon.net) these instructions can help you too.
2. You have some other problem involving AOL mail on a Mac or an iPhone.
Note: this article tells you everything you need to know about creating an app-specific password and using it to sign into AOL on an older Mac or iPhone. It’s all here. But, if you’d rather have me do the work for you, use this link to schedule a remote Zoom appointment with me. The fee for this service is $39 per device, per account, payable by credit card or PayPal, and only if your AOL mail comes in. No mail, no fee.
Solving the Updated Security Measures problem
AOL’s sent emails to everyone with an aol.com email address, telling us that in order to continue to get our aol.com email we are probably going to have to sign into our accounts again, using an updated secure sign-in method.
You may have noticed that AOL’s letter says that they’re requiring “updated secure sign-in when accessing your account from unofficial or non-Yahoo apps.” What’s this have to do with Yahoo, you may be wondering.
It turns out that in 2015, Verizon bought AOL and two years later Verizon decided not to handle its own email accounts, moving them all to the AOL system. Shortly after that, they bought Yahoo, and lumped it and AOL into something called “Oath.” Yahoo handles a lot of email, and because Yahoo mail has a better security system than AOL mail does, they are upgrading the security on AOL mail to match. UPDATE: Verizon is selling Oath. Hopefully this will not impact anyone’s email.
Let’s look at what this means, and what you have to do.
For AOL webmail users
First, if you get your email on a Mac (or a PC) by going to a web browser, typing in “aol.com,” and then reading and composing mail there, you don’t have to do anything. Your AOL mail experience will remain exactly the same.
For Mac Mail app users
UPDATE 2-19-2021: as far as I can tell, there’s no way to make AOL mail work with Apple’s Mac Mail app on macOS 10.9.5 (Mavericks). It doesn’t matter how you try, it’s not going to work. If you want to get your AOL mail on your Mac without resorting to doing it in a browser (yuck), I recommend the Thunderbird mail app. It looks a lot like Apple’s Mail app and it works with AOL just fine. And it’s free! It comes from the same people who started the Firefox browser.
AOL thinks the Mac Mail app is not secure if it’s from macOS 10.13 or older, and they won’t let Mail connect to their servers– unless you create a special, “app-specific password” while signed into aol.com and use that– and not your “real” AOL password– in the Mail app..
Even though you know the password for your AOL account– one way to be sure: go to aol.com in a browser and sign in there to prove that you know it– Mail on a Mac will not work with that password if your Mac is on 10.13 or earlier. The solution: a custom, special “app password,” generated by AOL, just for the Mail program.
(Remember that the app-specific password does not replace your AOL password. If you were to go to www.aol.com in a browser, and enter your AOL username, it’s your “real” AOL password that you’d enter there as well. The app-specific password is only for the Mail app.)
Creating an app-specific password is easy, and AOL provides directions. The basics:
- Go to www.aol.com in a browser and sign in
- Click on your name at upper right so you can see your Account settings
- Click on “Account Security” in the left-hand pane
- Click on “Generate and manage app passwords” (look around, the link is small)
- Enter a name for your password. Something like “Mail app for Mac” is good. Then click “Generate” to create the password.
- Copy the password (or otherwise write it down) and use it when signing into AOL for whichever device you’re trying to fix.
If you make a mistake you can start over. Nothing to worry about. Note: you won’t be able to look up an app-specific password at AOL after the fact, FYI. You can make a new one but you can’t look up the old ones.
NOTE: the app specific password will look something like this:
jqxr wxpq mnix zwrt
Very important: the spaces aren’t spaces! They don’t count! They aren’t there at all. Prove it to yourself when you make the app-specific password: highlight the password, copy it, and paste it somewhere (into Notes, or an email, or in TextEdit– anywhere you can paste). You’ll see the spaces just aren’t there. So, you’re better off copying and pasting the app-specific password than writing it down and then entering it by hand into the Internet Accounts preference pane.
You may be tempted to enter this special app-specific password into the box that pops up saying “No password provided” or something like that. Don’t do that, it won’t work. Instead, go to System Preferences, then Internet Accounts, then click your AOL account. You’ll probably see a message saying “Can’t connect to the account…” and if you do, enter your app-specific password there, and you’re all set.
If the password box doesn’t pop up right away, or if you put the app-specific password into the box and it’s rejected anyway, you have one more chance. Cancel out of the box above, click on your AOL account, then click the Details… button at upper right, and then enter (or paste) the app-specific password. This ought to work.
That’s all there is to it, if you’re using Mail on macOS High Sierra (10.13) or older. You can open up the Mail app and watch your mail come pouring in.
If you’re using the Mac Mail app on a Mac with Mojave (10.14) or Catalina (10.15), you don’t need the app-specific password. Instead, you’ll have to delete the account and then add it again. That’s not hard– see below.
NOTE: I should have mentioned when I first wrote this article that you will NOT lose your emails if you delete the account. The emails are either on the server (test it– go to aol.com and sign in and see), or they are “On My Mac” (look for a folder on the left-hand side of the Mail app and see). Deleting the account from your Mac doesn’t delete the mail from the server. Remember, you are only “letting go” of the account from your Mac– not deleting mail from the server. If you follow the direction below that’s all you’re doing. What you’re NOT doing is selecting all of the mail in your inbox and deleting it. No no no. You’re just “letting go” of the account, in the Preferences. And then adding it again.
Step 1: Go to System Preferences, then Internet Accounts, then click on your AOL account, and then click the minus sign at the bottom left of that window. You’ll get a message asking whether you want to turn it off, or delete it from all of your devices. You have to choose “Delete from all devices.”
Before you delete it, make a note of what is turned on for your AOL account, and what isn’t, as seen below. In my case, Mail only.
Now we need to add the account again.
Step 2: Still in Internet Accounts (via System Preferences), click where it says “Aol” and enter your AOL username in the box that pops up. You don’t have to include “@aol.com” if you don’t want to. Check the box that says “Stay signed in.” Click Next.
Step 3: Enter your AOL password. Click the eyeball to double-check that you haven’t made a typo. Then click Next.
Step 4: You’re going to get a message saying that AOL hasn’t seen you sign in from this device before. It’s not true– what they mean is, they haven’t seen you sign in from this device since two seconds ago, when you re-added the account. They’ll send you a code so you can continue the sign-in process. AOL can send you a text message, or an email, so make your choice and wait for the message to arrive.
Scroll down and check the box that says “Don’t ask me again on this device” unless you like signing in and supplying codes over and over.
Step 5: Enter the code that came in the message from AOL. (This is a one-time code so don’t bother saving it– if you need a code another time, AOL will send a different one.) Then click Verify. Don’t dawdle, there’s a time limit on this.
Step 6: Scroll down the list of things you’re agreeing to let macOS and iOS to access. This is your own stuff– your AOL Contacts, your AOL Calendar, your AOL mail, etc. so just scroll to the bottom and click Agree.
You won’t see the “Agree” button unless you scroll to the bottom of the window.
Step 7: Finally, uncheck the boxes next to the services you’re not using. By default, AOL checks everything, which in my case is not what I want (I only want Mail). Click Done.
That should do it.
For iPhone and iPad users
It could be as easy as signing in again. If you’re using a newish iPhone or iPad, try this:
Step 1: On your iPhone (or iPad), go to Settings, then Passwords & Accounts.
UPDATE FOR iOS 14: go to Settings, then Mail, then Accounts.
Step 2: Tap your AOL account
Step 3: You’ll see a screen with a big Aol at the top, and “Sign in.” If your email address is already there, great. If not, put it in. Then (important!) tap Next (because the password box is not on this screen, it’s on the next screen).
NOTE: If you don’t see the sign-in screen, tap “Delete Account,” then add it again by tapping “Add Account.” In the list of account types (iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Google, yahoo!, Aol., and Outlook.com) be sure to choose “Aol.” Then proceed with these directions.
Step 4: Enter your password, then tap “Sign in.” If your “real” AOL password doesn’t work, make an app-specific password following these directions and use it to sign into AOL on your iPhone.
Step 5: Finally, here are the terms! Agree to everything. All you have to do is tap “Agree” at bottom right.
There might be a Save button at top right. If you see it, tap it.
Solving other AOL Mail problems
The first thing to do is figure out where the problem originates. Maybe your settings used to work, but now they don’t. That could be because you have a Verizon.net email address, handled by AOL, and what used to work settings-wise don’t anymore.
Find out what your email settings should be by visiting Apple’s Mail Settings Lookup page. You don’t even have to put in your real email address, in case you’re worried about giving that out. Just get the back end of it correct. For example, if your email address is “email@example.com” you could look up the settings for “firstname.lastname@example.org” and get the info you need, as shown below:
Notice the incoming mail server is map.aol.com, but the outgoing mail server is smtp.verizon.net. You might have expected them both to be Verizon.net, or both AOL.com, but they aren’t. And obviously (I think) you’d use your own email address as the username.
I know it’s confusing, especially when the settings for a “real” AOL address look like this:
(Remember that Mail Settings Lookup page. It’s a great reference.)
Maybe it’s not your device that isn’t working. Maybe the problem is at AOL’s end. Find out by visiting Downdetector.com. Here’s information from that site on September 9th, 2020:
If you were having troubles getting AOL mail that day, maybe it wasn’t you! Looks like AOL was having some issues.
Three hours later the problems were over:
Most of the problems had to do with email, so if you were having problems that day, the problems could have magically gone away.
If DownDetector doesn’t show problems with AOL, maybe your internet connection isn’t any good. Try going to speedtest.net and running a test. If your internet speed isn’t good, maybe you have a problem with your internet service. DownDetector can help you with that too– they may show your service provider having problems. As first steps, try unplugging the modem and router from power (don’t disconnect other cables, just unplug them from the wall), then replugging them, and finally try making a call to your internet service provider to see if they’re having a problem. While you’re calling, restart your Mac or iPhone and see what happens. Restarting fixes a lot of things.
That’s it! Now go to your Home screen (if your iPhone has a Home button, click it; if it doesn’t, just swipe up), find your Mail app, give it a tap and see how it works. I’m betting that it works perfectly. You can let me know.