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There are still various El Capitan Mail issues that some people are having including mail not sending in El Capitan, mail not being received and many more frustrating bugs. On October 21st Apple released the El Capitan 10.11.1 update which claimed to have fixed Apple Mail problems with outgoing server issues and message display problems. We recommend before proceeding that you install this update first to see if it fixes Mail which you can install by going to the Mac App Store and selecting “Updates” at the top. However, this still hasn’t fixed the problems for many users who have coined the name “El Crapitan” for the various problems and bugs that have plagued OS X 10.11. Mail issues are a common problem with new versions of OS X and we’ve been through this many times before so we’ve looked at the most common solutions to bugs such as Mail not opening, crashing, refusing to recognize accounts or simply freezing when opening or trying to send and receive email. The precise cause of the problem usually depends on your specific setup but if you try going through these fixes, one of them should get mail working on El Capitan again.

El Capitan Mail Issues: 10 Ways To Fix Them

1. Check Your Mail Settings

Apple will automatically do this for your with the Mail Settings Lookup tool.

2. Rebuild Your Mail Folder

The simplest solution is to try rebuilding your Mail folder. If you’re finding that Mail won’t stay open long enough to allow you to rebuild, make sure that Mail is closed and then just delete the Envelope files in the Library folder.

Note: We recommend backing up or copying the “Mail” folder to your desktop before deleting or making sure you have a Time Machine backup just in case anything goes wrong.

In OS X 10.7 (Lion) to OS X 10.10 Mavericks, Mail is stored in the User’s Library > Mail > V2 folder. In OS X 10.11 El Capitan onwards, Mail is stored in User’s Library > Mail > V3 folder. However, sometimes during the upgrade to El Capitan, the V2 and V3 folders get mixed up causing problems.

To fix this, El Capitan users should go to the location /Users/<username>/Library/Mail/V3/MailData/Envelope and delete the “Envelope” file. When you next open Apple Mail, it will automatically rebuild and should work fine again. Remember that the Library folder is hidden in El Capitan so you need to go to Finder (the smiley Mac icon in the far left corner of your Dock for those new to Macs) and select “Go” and then hold down the “Alt” key and the Library folder will appear.

How to find Library folder Mac

OS X 10.7 Lion to OS X 10.10 Yosemite users need to go to /Library/Mail/V2/MailData and do the same thing.

However, if this doesn’t work or you simply can’t rebuild, delete any file with the name “index” in it from the folder in /Library/Mail/V2/MailData. This is the old location where Mail stores mail indexes in OS X 10.7-10.10 and may be conflicting with OS X 10.11 El Capitan.

mail not working el capitan - index files

3. Delete Any Mail Plugins

If rebuilding hasn’t worked, it could be plugins that are crashing Mail in El Capitan. While you still have your Library folder open, if you see a PGP plug-in /Library/Mail/Bundles, delete it as it conflicts with Mail in El Capitan. A common issue with Mail is that plugins are no longer compatible with new versions of OS X and if you have several other plugins installed in the Bundles folder, we also recommend deleting them all in your Bundles folder until an update is issued.

4. Disconnect Online And External Mail Folders (especially iCloud)

It seems that in some cases, El Capitan has problems retrieving mail from internet accounts or mail folders stored on external hard drives. especially from iCloud. Or at least, it simply can’t handle having to retrieve masses of email from multiple accounts the first time you use it. One symptom of this is that Mail gets caught in a loop with the message “optimizing your Mail database”. The first thing to do to fix this is disable your WiFi so that Mail can’t download anymore Mail. Then go to Settings > Internet Accounts and uncheck all the “Mail” boxes and try opening Mail again and switch your WiFi back on. When open, you can then recheck the boxes one by one again until either everything is working again or you find the offending account. If you find that an account is causing problems, disconnect it again. We recommend that if you have any Mail that is linked to the app from an external source – whether it is an online account or a symbolic link to an external hard drive – you should disassociate it or delete the account from Mail as El Capitan seems to have problems accessing such accounts until a definitive fix is released by Apple.

5. Delete The “com.appe.mail” File

Delete the “com.appe.mail” folder found in /Users/Home/Library/Containers/.

6. Delete The MailData folder

Delete the MailData folder from ~/Library/Mail/V3. To access the Library folder, see step 1 above.

7. Create A New Mail Profile

Sometimes, simply adding a fresh new Mail account from scratch does the trick. Once a new Mail account is created, you can import your old Mail. Simply go to Mail > Add Account. Creating a new account starts your account from scratch in El Capitan and should eliminate any other factors that were causing Mail to crash in OS X 10.11.

8. Mail Not Sending In El Capitan? Delete The SQLite Database

One of the most common problems uses have been having with OS X 10.11 is Mail not sending in El Capitan. This is usually to do with a problem with the SMTP server configuration file that controls how Mail is setup to send and receive email. In El Capitan, the location of this file has changed from previous versions of Mail but you need to delete the SQLite database located in ~/Library/Accounts. To access your Library folder you need to follow the instructions outlined in step 1 above and then delete the SQLite database file. Mail will then allow you to recreate your email accounts including the SMTP servers.

9. Create A New User Profile On Your Mac

If none of these fixes have worked and you’re still having issues with Mail in El Capitan, one trick that usually solves most OS X related issues is to create a new user account on your Mac. Doing this provides OS X with a fresh clean profile free of any problems, issues or glitches that may have been affecting Mail. Note that you need to be the adminitrator i.e. have access to your Mac’s password in order to add new profiles and users. To create a new user profile on your Mac go to the Apple icon in the top left of your screen and select System Preferences and then click Users & Groups. Click the padlock to unlock it and then click the “+” symbol below the list of users. Select the New Account menu and then add a new user, preferably as an Administrator. When the account is setup and you login as the new user, you should find that Mail is working properly again on your Mac.

10. Use Thunderbird Instead

If none of these have helped, you can always use another Mail client such as Thunderbird until Apple has either issued an update or you’ve had chance to take your Mac to an Apple store for help. Not a perfect solution but better than tearing your hair out because you can’t access, send or receive emails.

Alternatively, get in touch with us in the comments below and we’ll try to help.

Header Image courtesy of Matt Hamm.

About The Author


MacHow2 is a team of devoted and passionate Mac users that aim to help you get the most out of your Mac. Since 2013, we've been helping Mac users new and old with software and hardware recommendations or solving technical problems. If you've got any comments about this article, get involved by leaving a comment below. You can find out more About Us and how we work. You can also contact us using the contact form at the top of the site.

45 Responses

  1. Dagmar

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You saved me!!! and my all my mails :))
    great explanation and just the correct solution to the problem! This literally never happens when I consult the internet…
    So, keep up the good work!

  2. JB

    I had problems with all Mail accounts and data missing after upgrade. It came out the problem was invalid import of existing account under El Cap’s Internet Accounts.

    What helped was to:

    remove data from ~/Library/Accounts (actually copied the folder to ~/Library/Accounts.bak to save as backup, then removed the 3 files under it),
    log out of OS X user account and again back in
    restore Mail data from before upgrade (old held data in ~/Library/Mail/V2 but now it’s under ~/Library/Mail/V3: important was to restore the old V2 directory, especially ~/Library/Mail/V2/MailData/Accounts.plist)
    if you use symlinks to refer to other location of mail data than standard (~/Library/Mail) then make sure now the link works and disks are mounted)
    run /System/Library/InternetAccounts/internetAccountsMigrator

  3. Robert Amberger

    Thank you so much for the info on this page. My 2012 MBP was not shutting down and I dropped it off at the Apple Store for service. They (without asking _AND_ without telling me) upgraded me from Yosemite to EC. I have spent many hours in the last 2 days trying to get my Mail to send. I went thru tems 1 thru 8 with no luck. Item 9 (creating a new user) allowed functional mail for that user and, importantly, provided a template with which I was able to configure mail under my conventional and usual user account. I am subscribing to MAChow2 and look forward to following your most informative site.

    • MacHow2

      Hi Robert, Glad it helped you and thanks for subscribing! You can help us by simply sharing MacHow2 articles with others 🙂

  4. Larry Richards

    A small correction to the ‘Howto” response. The ‘allow insecure authentication’ is checked not unchecked in order for this to work.

  5. Larry Richards

    I had SSL unchecked. When I unchecked “Automatically detect…” and checked “allow unsecure…” that fixed the problem. thanks

  6. Larry Richards

    I am running OSX 10.11.2 The mail app will send mail but will not read it. My ISP says that it requires non-secure authentication. Checking the ‘allow insecure authentication’ box does not fix the problem. is there a current fix or do I have to wait for Apple to come with an update. I can access my mail on my ISP through a web site using Firefox but I would like to use the mail app if I can.

    • MacHow2

      In the Advanced tab where you unchecked “allow insecure authentication”, make sure that the options “Automatically detect and maintain account settings” and “Use SSL” are also unchecked.

    • George Williams

      Larry: I had exactly this problem, and in the end the only thing that solved it for me was deleting all of your email server accounts using the following procedure:

      1. Quit the Mail application (it’s probably best to quit all other applications as well)
      2. Delete the folder ~/Library/Accounts/
      3. Log out, and then log back in again (it might be best to reboot)

      This will delete all of your server account information, which you must then recreate from scratch when you start mail up again.

      Note: Deleting the email account information via the normal user interfaces in System Preferences and Mail didn’t solve the problem for me. There was something corrupted in the database in the director noted above, and the only way to fix it was completely deleting the database.

      • MacHow2

        Thanks George for your tips. Sounds like Larry managed to fix it by making sure the options “Automatically detect and maintain account settings” and “Use SSL” were checked.

  7. Roberto

    Hi, my name is Roberto (from Italy).
    Hi cannot find any email when I search something. I can see any email on my folders, but if I search one then appears “No results”.
    I tried to rebuild database, also deleting Envelop files from MailData, but I still can’t find any email.
    I have to organize my mails by name or date and search through millions mails… is very difficult to find what I need.
    Do you have any idea?

    (sorry for my bad English)
    My El Capitan is updated…


    • MacHow2

      Hi Roberto, If you re-read step 2 in the article above, we also suggest:

      Delete any file with the name “index” in it from the folder in /Library/Mail/V2/MailData. This is the old location where Mail stores mail indexes in OS X 10.7-10.10 and may be conflicting with OS X 10.11 El Capitan. We recommend backing up these files to your desktop before deleting however just in case anything goes wrong.

      Let us know if it helps or not!

      • MacHow2

        In that case it’s probably a plugin that you’re using with Mail that’s not supported by El Capitan. Have you got any plugins or bundles installed with Mail such as MailTags or Herald? Go to Library/Mail/Bundles to see if you have any and remove them and then try searching again. Let us know if it works 🙂

  8. PD

    I did a reset on my junk preferences. So I have no rules set up. This only started recently. I was wondering if it is linked to the latest El Capitan update? 10.11.1?

    • MacHow2

      It’s unlikely to be connected to the update but the only way to find out would be to try accessing your Mail on another Mac running an earlier version of OS X. It may also be worth contacting your ISP to see if this is a known issue at the moment.

  9. PD

    Yes, they are. I can mark something as junk and later is no longer marked. I also have all the exemptions checked and trust junk mail headers in messages.

    • MacHow2

      Make sure that you don’t have any rules set as these will overide your junk mail settings. It’s also possible that there is a conflict between what your ISP is marking as junk and what Mail is marking as junk.

  10. PD

    Hi all, sending and receiving is not the problem for me, the last few days all my junk mail is getting through. No matter how many times I mark it as junk, it comes back. I have reset my preferences and started from scratch, used the recommended settings but nothing seems to help. Any ideas?

    • MacHow2

      Hi, First can you confirm if Mail > Preferences, Junk Mail and “Enable junk mail filtering” and “Mark as junk mail, but leave it in my Inbox” are selected?

  11. George Williams

    I finally found it: The server accounts are kept in an sqlite database in ~/Library/Accounts. Deleting the contents of this folder allowed me to recreate all the email accounts, including the SMTP servers. Once I did this, SMTP works again!

    Thanks for your efforts trying to help me out.

  12. George Williams

    OK, but there is no file in ~/Library/Preferences/. There is a file, and I tried deleting that, but the accounts are still there when I run Mail. I checked in the other account that I created (and where SMTP works in Mail), and there is no file there either.

    So using Terminal and the unix find command, I located the here:

    I deleted that, emptied the trash, and ran Mail. The accounts are still there and SMTP still doesn’t work, so Apple must be hiding the server configuration data somewhere else now.

    • MacHow2

      Have looked into this a bit and apparently El Capitan uses a newer folder for Mail in Library > Mail > V3 folder. It used to be V2 in Lion if that’s the OS that you migrated from? It seems that this V3 folder can become a jumbled mess of folders and files when you use migration assistant when setting up a new Mac. It’s possible that this could be the source of the problems.

      • George Williams

        I looked at this folder and compared it with my test account that works (SMTP-wise). They have similar files, and I see nothing that raises a flag to me.

  13. George Williams

    I did try one other thing: I created a new user on the computer, and setup email for that user. It work with no problems, so it’s something local to the user I’m having trouble with.

    The problematic user login was created when I did the initial OS setup (brand new MacBook Air), and the files were mostly loaded from backups. I had some files that didn’t get restored from the backups, so I realized I could use the Migration Assistant (running on the new Mac) over wifi, and that brought more files over, and that may be the source of the Mail corruption (it shouldn’t be, but we all know how that goes).

    FWIW, I’m a very experienced Mac user (I’ve been working on Macs since the mid ’90s), and I have experience as a software developer and unix system admin, so I understand a lot of what’s under the hood, and I’m unafraid to try more radical surgery.

    • MacHow2

      It’s very likely as you say that something got corrupted or messed-up during the migration and it’s probably a login item or a bad preference file. You could try repairing permissions for s start. You could also try starting your Mac in Safe Mode and if you have no problems sending mail, it indicates something you’ve installed such as a plugin or startup item that wasn’t originally part of your clean install of OS X is causing the problem.

      • George Williams

        Repair permissions functionality is apparently gone in El Capitan (now part of SIP). I ran First Aid in Disk Utility, scanned for permissions and preference file issues with AppleJack, tried booting in Safe Mode. The problem persists.

        Since the problem doesn’t exist for new user accounts, I think there must be something in ~/Library/Mail that’s causing the issue. If I knew what to replace from another user’s Library/Mail directory, I could do that. But I don’t know what to replace without messing things up further.

      • MacHow2

        Of course, forgot about the disappearance of Repair Permissions in El Capitan. It’s most likely the preference file in Mail. Go to Home > Library > Mail and make a backup of the folder somewhere in case something goes wrong. Then go to Home > Library > Preferences > and delete the .plist file and empty Trash. When you restart Mail, you’ll have to manually enter all of your Mail configuration again (don’t allow it to import any data) and when you’ve done configuring, Mail should recognize your existing Mail folders.

    • MacHow2

      Make sure that Mail is closed and then try deleting and re-adding the account via System Preferences > Internet Accounts rather than deleting it via Apple Mail. If this doesn’t work, go into Mail Preferences and click on Accounts. Click on Advanced and then uncheck the option “Automatically detect and maintain settings“. Then click on Account Information and in Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP) select the “Edit SMTP Server List” option. Click Advanced and then uncheck the option “Automatically detect and maintain settings“. Click OK and restart Mail. Let us know if it helped.

      • George Williams

        Same results. POP and IMAP work to receive incoming mail on and gmail respectively. Can’t connect to SMTP servers for gmail, and can’t login to hiwaay.

  14. George Williams

    I have two macs, both running El Capitan 10.11.1. I can receive email on both, using the same credentials. One can send email, the other can’t, both using the same SMTP server (, which I’ve been using for years) and credentials. On the one that can’t send, I’ve tried another SMTP server (gmail), and still can’t send email. The one that can’t send is a brand new MacBook Air, which I’ve used migration assistant to move all my stuff from an older MacBook.

    • MacHow2

      Hi, The best thing to do if Apple Mail will receive but not send mail is to delete your mail servers and manually re-enter the SMTP server configurations. To do so, go to “Edit Connections” where you can remove them and re-enter them. Before you delete them, make sure you’ve written down all of the configuration details for when you re-enter them.

      • George Williams

        I’ve done this multiple times. The SMTP server information is correct. The connection doctor shows that the connection to the SMTP server has been established (logged in), but the emails sit in the outbox and don’t get sent.

  15. Paul Sitahal

    Hi,my name is Paul,I’ve tried all 3 suggestions to get mail working in El Capitan with no luck,any further suggestions?..Thank you.

      • Paul Sitahal

        thank you for replying….I could receive mail,but cannot send…

      • MacHow2

        This sounds like a problem with your SMTP server. Go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts and select the account that won’t send mails. Where it says SMTP server, it probably says “offline” which is the problem. You should delete all outgoing mail servers that say this and renter the correct SMTP server information.

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