Mail Not Working on Macbook? 7 Most Common Fixes

If you use Apple Mail as your e-mail client, then you might find its Smart Mailbox feature useful for organizing your messages.

As with the Finder’s smart folders, the smart mailboxes in Mail give you a quick way to access canned searches so you can only see messages from specific dates, from specific people, or in specific accounts.

However, while useful, there may be times when smart mailboxes do not work properly, and may not show the contents you expect.

These issues can be simply a matter of delays when loading the contents of a smart mailbox, but can also be a mailbox not showing any messages, showing only a few messages, or even showing messages that do not fit the search criteria you saved.

In attempting to fix such problems with Smart Mailboxes you might find yourself deleting and re-creating them; however, because the problem is not in the smart mailboxes themselves, this usually results in the same behaviors. Therefore, there are generally two faults that can lead to poor search behaviors:

Fix faulty search processes

In order to quickly search with Smart Mailboxes, macOS has to maintain an index of your drive to categorize its contents.

This is done whenever you create or modify any contents of your drive, and should be a quick operation, but sometimes the system services that do this can get stuck.

When this happens, searches and the display of contents that require this index may be affected. To fix this issue, you simply need to force these processes to quit, which will free up the index:

  1. Go to the Applications > Utilities folder.
  2. Open Activity Monitor.
  3. Select “All Processes” from the View menu.
  4. Search for “mds”.
  5. Select and quit each instance of “mds” and/or “mdserver” separately (force-quit if you have to).

After doing this, the index will be freed and your Mailbox searches should work faster now. Note that these processes may start back up again (and perhaps do so immediately), which is expected.

Allow them to run and index the drive unless they continue to use high percentage of your CPU for lengths of time, and you cannot search for items on your system.

Even if they are not currently using any CPU, if your searches are not working then do attempt to quit the various mdworker and mds processes to see if this frees up your ability to search.

Rebuild Your Mail

Rebuilding your Mail on a MacBook is a straightforward process that can help resolve various issues, including the Mail app not working. Here’s what to do:

  1. Open the Mail Application – Start by opening the Mail app on your MacBook. You can find it in your Dock, Applications folder, or use Spotlight (Command + Space) to search for it.
  2. Select the Mailbox to Rebuild – In the Mail app, go to the left sidebar where your mailboxes are listed. Click on the mailbox you want to rebuild.
  3. Rebuild the Mailbox – With the desired mailbox selected, go to the top menu bar. Click on ‘Mailbox’ to open the dropdown menu. From here, select ‘Rebuild’. This option is usually found at the bottom of the dropdown menu.
  4. Wait for the Rebuilding Process – The rebuilding process will start immediately after you select ‘Rebuild’.
  5. Check the Results – After the rebuild is complete, check to see if the issue you were experiencing has been resolved.
  6. Repeat if Necessary – If you have more than one mailbox experiencing issues, repeat the process for each one.

Remember, rebuilding a mailbox in the Mail app does not delete any of your emails. It simply refreshes the mailbox and re-syncs its content with the server.

Check Your Internet Connection

If you’re not connected to the internet, then your Mail will not be able to retrieve or access any new emails – this is a common cause of Mail not working.

Fortunately there’s an easy enough solution to this, and that’s simply to ensure that your connection is working for other apps. If so, then you can be sure that this isn’t the issue.

Update Your macOS and Mail App

Outdated software is well known to lead to compatibility issues, and this is no different for the Mail app.

Regularly updating your macOS and Mail app is the key to avoiding errors and bugs stopping it from working.

Go to the Apple menu, select About This Mac, and if there’s a macOS update available then you’ll be presented with a button to confirm.

Verify Mail Server Settings

Incorrect mail server settings can prevent emails from being sent or received.

To check your Settings, go to Mail in the Apple menu bar, and then select Settings. Then, select the Mail account you’re using and click over to Server Settings.


Make sure that you’re using the right Username, Password, Port and Host Name for the Email you’re connected to.

Remove and Re-add Your Email Account

Sometimes, removing and re-adding your email account can resolve issues. You can do this in a similar fashion, by going into Mail in the Apple Menu bar, and then pressing Settings.


Here, you can click the minus (-) button to remove your Mail account, and then add it again using the plus (+) button. This may resolve the issue if it’s a temporary glitch.

Use Safe Mode to Identify Conflicts

Boot your MacBook in Safe Mode to determine if third-party software conflicts are causing the issue.

Restart your MacBook while holding down the Shift key until you see the Apple logo. In Safe Mode, open the Mail app and check if the issue persists.

By following these steps, you should be able to resolve Mail not working on your MacBook.


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