How to troubleshoot Apple mail connectivity issues with Connection Doctor

When you need to troubleshoot Apple Mail connectivity issues, the Connection Doctor tool will help you diagnose the problem.

How to troubleshoot Apple Mail connectivity issues with Connection Doctor

What do you do when you find Apple Mail unable to connect to your provider? Do you:

  1. Call your IT department?
  2. Call your provider?
  3. Reboot your Mac?
  4. Toss your Mac out the nearest window and swear you're switching to Linux?
  5. Other.

Although switching to Linux wouldn't be a bad choice, if you chose "Other," you made the right decision. Why? Because Apple Mail includes a handy tool that can help you take the first steps with troubleshooting that connection. Said tool is the Apple Mail Connection Doctor. This tool isn't so much a one-stop-fix-'em-shop, as it just has the means to help diagnose what's going on with your email connection. In other words, the Connection Doctor provides you with the information you need when it's time to talk with IT or your provider. Or, if you're a step or two above the average end user (or a one-man IT wrecking machine), it can help you solve the problem.

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But how do you use the Connection Doctor? Let's find out.

What you need

The only things you need to use the Connection Doctor are:

  • A macOS device (such as a MacBook Pro).
  • Apple Mail configured with your email account(s).

Opening the Connection Doctor

To gain access to the Connection Doctor, open Apple Mail and click Window | Connection Doctor. In the resulting window (Figure A), you'll see the Connection Doctor list all of the successful, attempting, or failed attempts at connecting to your email account(s).

Figure A

Figure A: Apple Mail attempting to connect to my Gmail account.

Finding more information

If you find Apple Mail is having trouble making a connection, click Show Detail. A drop-down window will reveal details of the connection in progress (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B: The details of a current connection.

Scroll through the detail window to locate anything that might indicate where the trouble in the connection lies. While Apple Mail attempts to make a connection, scrolling will be a bit of a challenge. If you run into that issue wait for a second (until Mail ends its connection attempt) and scroll. You should find enough detail to help you track down the root of the issue.


If nothing gives you any indication of what's causing the connection issue, all is not lost. Click Show Logs and the Connection Doctor will open Finder to the folder containing all of your mail logs (in .txt format). You can always comb through these files or send the file(s) containing the pertinent information to either your IT staff or provider. If you are a member of the IT staff, this could serve as the next step in troubleshooting your Apple Mail connection issues.

Not the be-all solution

Although the Apple Mail Connection Doctor isn't a be-all solution to what ails your Mail connectivity issues, it is a great place to start troubleshooting. With this handy tool, you'll find all the information you need to help diagnose the problem. Once you figure out from whence the problem stems, you can begin the process of fixing said problem.

Also see

Image: Apple