A, Oh welL mail
February 18, 2021 10:47 AM   Subscribe

My laptop and phone stopped receiving my AOL mail around the same time. I have at least 4 ways of getting my AOL mail. My primary one is Outlook[2007] on a Windows10 laptop; close second is an iPhone5 using the standard iPhone mail app. I also have a Windows10 desktop using Thunderbird, or I could go to aol.com on a browser. These methods have all been working fine, in some cases for years. Monday afternoon, the laptop and phone stopped getting mail, even if requested. I also could not send mail on either device.

Thunderbird worked fine, and I could get to my mail on aol.com on any of these devices.

I could not think of what my laptop and phone have in common, except that they were using smtp.aol.com, and neither could get there. The laptop was using POP, and could not get to pop.aol.com, while the phone was using IMAP and could not get to imap.aol.com.

The intertubes suggested changing my password, which I didn't think was the issue, as I could get to my mail on my desktop and via aol.com, but I did it anyway, and that didn't change anything. The iPhone remedies suggested deleting the AOL account and reinstalling it. This actually worked, and now my phone is behaving properly. Not sure how to replicate that in Outlook. I deleted all my cookies, with no relief.

I tried deleting the AOL account from Outlook and reinstalling it; also changing it from POP to IMAP- still no good. Also set the ports. I [think I] removed Outlook from Microsoft Office and reinstalled it, with no change. The previously existing emails were still there, which makes me wonder if I needed to delete more things.

Current errors:
Task 'Synchronizing subscribed folders for resassaman@aol.com.' reported error (0x800CCC0E) : 'Outlook cannot synchronize subscribed folders for resassaman@aol.com. Error: Cannot connect to the server. If you continue to receive this message, contact your server administrator or Internet service provider (ISP).'

Log onto incoming mail server (IMAP): Your server unexpectedly terminated the connection. Possible causes include server problems, network problems, or a long period of inactivity.

Send test e-mail message: The connection to the server was interrupted. If this problem continues, contact our server administrator or Internet service provider (ISP).

Any ideas on next steps?
posted by MtDewd to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should generally stop using obsolete/unsupported software (Outlook 2007) and hardware (iPhone 5).

What I'm guessing happened is that Outlook 2007 does not support modern security protocols, and someone at AOL disabled the obsolete security protocol that Outlook 2007 supports. Therefore Outlook 2007 is not allowed to connect to AOL mail servers. Something similar may have happened with the iPhone - by logging out/logging back in, it changed the login method to something new and supported, and it's possible that the initial way the login was saved has been removed on the AOL side, because it is insecure and/or obsolete.

In a sense, we do want service providers like AOL to do this on a regular basis because it improves our own security, as well as theirs. But it also means that we have to use software/hardware that is updated as well.

The problems didn't occur on the Thunderbird / web browser side because both of those are updated on a regular basis to add new security protocols and remove old ones.
posted by meowzilla at 11:27 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I researched this very issue today for someone. It seems AOL has a new protocol by which one must (on a browser) generate passwords for each app.

“ AOL is now requiring App-Specific passwords to be entered instead of your normal password. This is part of their security measure. So, How does one create an App Specific password to enter for AOL email account(s)? See below:
If you've activated 2-step verification for your AOL account, you'll need to generate and use an "app password" to access AOL Mail from these apps.
1. Sign in and go to the AOL Account security page. You can do this by signing on to AOL from a computer.
2. Click Generate app password or Manage app passwords.
3. Select your app from the drop down menu and click Generate.
4. Follow the instructions below the password.
- Be sure to enter the password into your app without any spaces.
5. Click Done.
6. Use this app password and your email address to sign in to your email app.”

More here: https://discussions.apple.com/thread/252432412
posted by Riverine at 2:29 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]

Just in case anyone is reading this and thinking, what the heck? What AOL is doing is a mark of good security. By creating a password that gives access to a particular feature (email) but not others (password changes, e.g.) you remove an attack surface. Instead of having the real, main password stored in all the email destinations, some of unknown security, the email-only password is stored (Thunderbird and iOS Mail do store the password securely, to the best of my knowledge).
posted by wnissen at 3:46 PM on February 18

Response by poster: Thanks, Riverine. That worked.
I had seen a bunch of messages about 2-step verification, but I ignored them since it didn't make sense to me.
posted by MtDewd at 7:57 AM on February 19

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