How to Fix “Cannot Get Mail” Error on iPhone and iPad

Oct 13, 2018 - 4 Comments

How to fix Cannot Get Mail error message in iOS Mail for iPhone or iPad

Rarely, iPhone and iPad users may encounter a “Cannot Get Mail” error message in the Mail app of iOS, indicating that Mail for iOS is unable to retrieve new emails or some other issue with the mail account as configured. The full error message shows up as pop-up window and usually says something along the lines of “Cannot Get Mail – The connection to the server failed.” and is sometimes accompanied by a “Enter the password for the email account” message, along with a small “Account Error” statement at the very bottom of the Mail app of iOS. These errors are understandably annoying since it prevents email from working as expected.

If you see the “Cannot Get Mail” error on Mail app for iPhone or iPad then this tutorial will aim to resolve that error message so that you can send and receive emails as usual again in iOS Mail app.

Troubleshooting “Cannot Get Mail” Errors on iPhone and iPad

Here are some simple troubleshooting steps to resolve “Cannot Get Mail” error messages on the iPhone or iPad Mail app.

1: Confirm an active internet connection, wait, and try again later

The first thing you should do is make sure you have an active internet connection by checking your wi-fi and/or cellular connection. This is particularly true if the error message is “Cannot Get Mail – The connection to the server failed” since it’s often more likely that a simple and temporary internet connection issue is to blame (in fact you can replicate the error message any time by disabling internet connectivity and then trying to get your email in Mail app, not surprisingly it will fail).

Next, check to see if your internet is working. This is easily performed by trying to access various websites or apps that use the internet on your iPhone or iPad. If other apps aside from Mail app work fine with the internet, that’s a good indicator that the issue is related only to the Mail app and perhaps either a server issue or an authentication issue.

Either way, the next thing you should do is nothing, just wait a while and try again later.

This may seem counterintuitive but there’s good reason for this approach; often the “Cannot Get Mail” error appears simply because of a temporary blip in internet connectivity or with the mail server. Simply waiting a while often resolves the Mail issue entirely, particularly if the error was related to a remote mail server issue or a mail server being down.

2: Re-authenticate with the Mail Server

Next you should confirm that your authentication credentials are functioning with the mail server. This is particularly valid if you see the “Cannot Get Mail” error message along with a “Enter the password for (email account)” message on the screen.

If you see the “Enter the password” screen within Mail app (or sometimes even on the Home Screen of iOS), tap on the “Edit Settings” button and confirm that your login and password is correct with the mail server in question.

Rarely, mail servers and email providers can have outages that impact user authentication and logging in, or after an outage some email services may require you to reauthenticate with them. Just recently many users experienced this error with Outlook and Hotmail email accounts, where some mail servers were down and thereby preventing user account to email accounts. Waiting a while worked to resolve this for most people, but for some users (myself included) entering the account password to login again through iOS Mail was necessary to resolve the persistent “Cannot Get Mail” error message.

If you are seeint “Cannot Get Mail” errors along with “Enter the password” error pop-ups on the iOS device like this, then tap on “Settings” and re-authenticate:

Fix Cannot Get Mail error with logging back into email account in iOS

In this screen shot example, re-authenticating with Outlook sufficiently remedied the “Cannot Get Mail” and “Enter your password” error messages, and email began working again as expected:

Fix Cannot Get Mail error with logging back into email account in iOS

3: Confirm Mail Settings in iOS

This is a variation of the above trick, but essentially you’ll want to confirm that mail settings are configured as expected.

  • Open the “Settings” app and go to “Accounts & Passwords” *
  • Tap on the email account that is showing the “Cannot Get Mail” error messages
  • Login and authenticate with the mail account if necessary

Often a shortcut is available to this if you tap the ‘Details’ button at the bottom of the Mail app if that little status bar shows an error.

Fix Cannot Get Mail error iOS

If there was a temporary email server hiccup, often just this simple process will resolve any mail issues in iOS.

* Somewhat counterintuitively, you don’t want to go to the “Mail” section of Settings, despite the fact that you’re modifying mail account settings. Instead, because the Mail settings are defined by an account and password, you thus go to the Accounts and Passwords section of Settings app in iOS.

4: Check for Actual Email Server Problems

Though it’s rare, sometimes email servers have downtime either for maintenance reasons, crashes, security issues, someone tripped over a cable somewhere, or any number of other reasons. Thus it can be a good idea to check if the email server is actually down.

For large email providers like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, and similar, you can often just go to those websites directly from a web browser, or search the news to see if there is a significant outage. If there is, wait until that outage is resolved before trying to access the mail server.

For smaller email providers like from an internet service provider, or a corporate network, business email, or smaller email providers, you may need to reach out directly to whoever manages the email service or email server itself (like your office IT staff) to confirm that the mail server is working as expected.

5: Reboot the iPhone or iPad

Good old fashioned restarting of an iPhone or iPad will often remedy erroneous issues that are otherwise inexplicable to diagnose or troubleshoot. While it’s annoying to reboot a device, it’s fast and easy, so it’s a worthwhile troubleshooting step regardless of your opinions on the matter.

Simply turning your device off using the iOS software Shut Down feature and then turning the device back on again often works, or you can force restart a device too. Different devices have different methods of force restarting:

6: Delete & Re-Add the Mail Account in iOS

If you’re certain that your internet connection is working properly, and the mail server is not down, and that there are no issues with the internet connection or the mail server or your login and authentication credentials, then you can delete and re-add the mail account to the iPhone or iPad.

Removing and re-adding a mail account in iOS can have some unintended side effects, because many email providers also sync contacts and notes and other functions through the email account, occasionally with things like loss of notes or contacts or of archived emails. Thus you will want to have a full backup of your iOS device made to iCloud or iTunes or both before going this route so that you don’t lose data.

  1. First backup your iPhone or iPad to iCloud or iTunes or both
  2. Delete the Mail account from iOS by going to Settings > Accounts & Password > choosing the email account, then choosing “Delete Account”
  3. Restart the iPhone or iPad
  4. Now add the email account to iOS again by going back to Settings > Accounts & Password > and choosing “Add Account”

While the process of backing up, removing an email account, rebooting, and re-adding that email account can be annoying, it’s also highly effective when all else fails to remedy an issue with Mail app for iOS.

Did these tricks work to resolve your “Cannot Get Mail” error message on iPhone or iPad when trying to check email? Do you have another solution that worked for you? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

4 Comments

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  1. threedog says:

    Wish this tip came out two weeks ago! I was helping my tech-challenged brother with this exact glitch. Followed all the steps except rebooting after deleting his gmail account. I wasn’t giving up but he did – he sad eff-it to Mail and got the Gmail app instead. Thanks for another gear tip, oxsxdaily!

  2. Charles Suggs says:

    This has been going on for months, up to three or four times a day and then not at all for several days in a row. It fixes itself in the middle of the night or even breaks in the middle of the night. I get up to a message that says one of those cannot get mail errors and includes a “ last downloaded at 4:27 AM.

    I think it’s Yahoo myself.

  3. Bill G says:

    Force-quitting the Mail app (e.g. swiping up after double-taping home) usually is just as effective as rebooting but a lot quicker.

  4. Harry Fletcher says:

    I’ve seen this quite a often on mail APP. What Iv’e found almost always works is the following:-

    In mail App open “mailbox” from top menu,
    Select “Take all accounts off line”
    Next select “Take all accounts on line”

    You should then see the mails coming in.

    Alternatively sometimes selecting “Synchronise all accounts” will work as well

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