How to get your AOL email working again on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Updated November 18th, 2020.

This article helps you solve problems involving AOL mail on iPhones, iPads, and Macs. There are two scenarios:

  1. You’ve received an email from AOL about updated security measures. It would look something like this:
Letter from AOL telling you your account needs attention

Click here to learn how to solve this “updated security measures” problem.

2. You have some other problem involving AOL mail on a Mac or an iPhone.

Note: trying to add your AOL calendar to your iPhone or iPad? Here’s my article telling you how to do it.


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 Verizon bought AOL, and then they bought Yahoo, and because Yahoo mail has a better security system, they are upgrading the security on AOL mail to match.

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

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” 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. After you create the app-specific password, write it down for safekeeping. Better yet, copy it so you can paste it without making a typo.

Then 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, just enter your app-specific password and you’re all set.

Internet Accounts preference pane, showing AOL can’t connect

It the password box doesn’t pop up right away, click on your AOL account, then click the Details… button at upper right, and then enter (or paste) the app-specific password.

Entering the app-specific password after clicking the Details… button

That’s all there is to it, if you’re using Mail on macOS High Sierra (10.13) or older.

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 assign 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 and what isn’t. In my case, Mail only.

I’m only using the mail from AOL– not contacts, not calendars, not reminders, not notes

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.

Adding an AOL account in Internet Accounts in System Preferences
Enter your username, and check the “Stay signed in” box

Step 3: Enter your AOL password. Click the eyeball to double-check that you haven’t made a typo. Then click Next.

Enter your AOL password

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.

Getting a code from AOL, as a text message or in an email

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.

Entering the code that AOL sent to my iPhone

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.

Scroll down and click the Agree button (not shown– I didn’t scroll down yet)

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.

AOL account, re-added, and with only Mail checked (just like before)

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.

Tap Passwords & Accounts…

Step 2: Tap your AOL account

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.

Enter your email address, then tap Next…

Step 4: Enter your password, then tap “Sign in.”

Enter your password, then tap “Sign in.”

Step 5: Finally, here are the terms! Agree to everything. All you have to do is tap “Agree” at bottom right.

You Agree! You do! Tap the Agree button and you’re back in business.

There might be a Save button at top right. If you see it, tap it.

If you see the Save button, tap it.

Solving other AOL Mail problems

The first thing to do is figure out where the problem originates. 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:

DownDetector image from 7 PM Pacific Time 9-9-2020

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:

DownDetector for AOL at 10 PM Pacific Time 9-9-2020

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.

21 thoughts on “How to get your AOL email working again on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Add yours

  1. Insight and opinion – Married. Children. Pets. Born in the North West of England. Eclectic employment history. Degree level education. GSOH. Not looking for love :o). Facts matter. Opinion should be well informed. I love my country but not all those in it.
    Susiegoo says:

    This just won’t work for me, I get to the password section, put in the password and it just hangs … I’ve tried changing the password, twice, still won’t work and all because I followed aol’s advice to delete the account and add it back. I’m just getting angrier and angrier 😡

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      The advice sounds good but it’s not working. Before re-adding the account restart your iPhone. Be sure you have a good internet connection when you’re doing this. And one more thing: try entering just ‘suepgooch” (without the ‘@aol.com’)as the user name. Of course it’s good to test the new password by signing into Aol.com with a web browser.

  2. Insight and opinion – Married. Children. Pets. Born in the North West of England. Eclectic employment history. Degree level education. GSOH. Not looking for love :o). Facts matter. Opinion should be well informed. I love my country but not all those in it.
    Susiegoo says:

    Well I made some progress, the account is now set up, it will deliver incoming mail but it won’t send, is says the sender address is invalid. I can sign in on the web account and send but not on the iPad. So frustrating.

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      Take a Screenshot of the outgoing mail settings and send it to me directly. I’ll have a look and help you out.

  3. Insight and opinion – Married. Children. Pets. Born in the North West of England. Eclectic employment history. Degree level education. GSOH. Not looking for love :o). Facts matter. Opinion should be well informed. I love my country but not all those in it.
    Susiegoo says:

    Thanks for your help Christian, problem solved.

  4. I have an iPhone 7 & IPad Pro, I have tried to generate the AOL third party app password. I copied & pasted it from AOL to my iPad settings under “incoming mail server”. Now I am unable to get my mail the way I always did on both my iPad & iPhone. What am I doing wrong? Tried calling AOL, was on hold for an hour, only to be disconnected. UGH!!!

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      Assuming you’re on iOS 13 or 14, the right move for you is to remove the account from your devices and add it again. The problem you’re having is slightly different than the one I wrote about but the solution is easy: remove the account, then add it again. When you add it again, you’ll tap on the AOL logo to show that you’re adding an AOL account. The rest is easy (and a lot like my article). I’ll be adding to the article tonight or tomorrow to handle this new problem from AOL.

      Let me know how it goes.

  5. HI Christian. Thank you for your very clear directions. You were most helpful, in comparison to AOL., who wanted me to sign up for a monthly $15 fee to get help.
    Question: I updated my iPhone 11 as per your instruction, do i need to do the same on my iPad and MacBook Air? My brain tells me no, because they should sync. I appreciate your answer. Rita

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      You know, I have the same question about the other devices. I can make a case for the answer being “no, because they should sync” but I can also make a case for “you’ll have to do this on each machine.” AOL doesn’t seem to make any allowance for the synching of internet accounts via iCloud, and that complicates things.

      In my testing, with an iPhone on iOS 14, an iPad on iOS 14, a Mac on Catalina, another Mac on Mojave, and another Mac on High Sierra, deleting the AOL account from my Catalina Mac didn’t delete it from the other devices even though I gave it half an hour or so to do it. The High Sierra Mac needs an app-specific password, which I created some time ago (older Mail versions needed that a long time ago– the “new” issue is that even new Mac Mail apps and iPhone Mail apps have to sign out and in again). So far everything works on all devices. If something stops working on October 20th I know what to do, but I’m not going to do anything more in advance.

  6. If I delete Aol account on my MacBook Pro and then reinstall will all my mail still be there. A relation is in the process of buying a house and near completion and I have all the relative emails as I am the only one with a printer, so dare not lose them.

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      Hi JennyP51: Yes, all of your mail will still be there. You can double-check by going to aol.com (in Safari or Chrome)– if you see the mail there, it’s “on the server” so letting go of it on your MacBook Pro just means… letting go of it on your MacBook Pro! That won’t delete the mail from the server. Remember, you’re not deleting the messages, you’re just removing the account from your Mac. The server remains unchanged. Just to be clear: you won’t be clicking on messages and deleting them. You’ll be in the Preferences, removing the account from your Mac. Got it?

  7. I’ve set the password etc as advised by Aol and when I launched Mail it started to download my email but after a few seconds Mail encountered a problem and reported the error Mail quit unexpectedly, Ignore, Report, Reopen.

    As Mail launches I can see the emails but Mail doesn’t stay on screen for more than a couple of seconds before giving the error message. I’m using OS X 10.11.6

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      This is a different kind of problem. Probably a corrupt message. Try this: go to AOL.com and see if there are any messages in the Inbox that you can throw away. If this problem is something new, I would throw away things going back to the day the problem started. Then try re-launching Mail. Keep me posted.

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      Sounds like something else is corrupt. Delete and re-add the account and you’re all set, I’ll bet.

  8. Hi Christian,

    After musing over the problem further I decided to

    1 Make sure the Aol inboxes were empty and delete the Mac mail entry under Account Security/Manage app passwords.
    2 Delete the Aol link in System preferences/internet Accounts
    3 Create a new app password for the Mac mail app in Aol
    4 Add Aol again under System Preferences/internet Accounts
    5 Launch Mail

    This time around Mail showed that it was downloading the mail and currently seems to be working okay.

    Many thanks for your input to what hopefully is a return to mail normality!

    All the best,
    Lawrie

    1. macman2015 – California and Texas – Christian Boyce is a Mac and iPhone consultant with offices in Southern California and Central Texas. He specializes in helping people get more out of their Apple devices and software.
      Christian Boyce says:

      Fantastic.

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