Mac OS X: Very strange problem with Mail

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 23rd, 2004 • 12:33 am

I had a very strange problem with Mail in Panther yesterday. I have several email accounts with my own domain name (, hosted on a server somewhere in Australia. I also have several accounts hosted on another servers, some local, some in another remote places.

All of a sudden, yesterday, Mail started telling me that my passwords for my addresses were wrong. I am used to Mail acting up on occasion due to bandwidth issues and giving me incorrect messages such as this. So I did what I usually do, which is to check my network usage and make sure I have no big downloading process happening in the background. I also quit and relaunched Mail, because sometimes some problems only clear up when you do that.

Still it wouldn’t work with my addresses. All my other email accounts were working fine. My web site at was working fine too. So was FTP access to my server. The only thing not working was email. I was able to access my mailboxes using a webmail tool called SquirrelMail provided by my host on the server. But I wasn’t able to check my email with Mail.

I even closed the modem connection in my AirPort Base Station, and reestablished it, just in case.

Then I thought of going to my wife’s PowerBook and seeing if she was able to check her account. Much to my surprise, she was. So the problem was with my machine.

I ended up restarting the computer — and everything was back in working order.

Now what problem could it have been that only affected Mail and only affected my email accounts in Mail? It must have been something to do with the ports used by Mail to communicate with this particular mail server. Maybe it was a glitch in Panther’s firewall, which cleared up when I restarted the computer. But then telling me that my passwords are wrong is not exactly a useful way to notify me of a port-related problem!

Very strange.

2 Responses to “Mac OS X: Very strange problem with Mail”

  1. Dan Farrell Davis says:

    I’ve seen this exact behavior in Entourage as well, on machines running OSX 10.3 as well as 10.2 and OS9.2. And, do you still get “unable to load page” messages (or some other variants) as often as I do in Safari that are resolved with a simple Reload click. And I’m on a high-speed connection.

    I think clearing your caches would have solved your problem. Clearing caches is now my second strategy for fixing strange OSX berhavior, right after permission repair. This is especially effective on older slower machines in the 500Mhz range. I once solved a stubborn font problem that had caused hours of troubleshooting by clearing caches.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I was not aware of Mail using any kind of “cache”, but now that you mention it, I see that there is indeed a “Mail” folder inside the “Caches” folder in my home library. I wonder what that cache holds. Maybe it’s just a cache for the HTML rendering engine WebCore.

    I will try cleaning it out next time this happens (hopefully not any time soon!).

    As for getting “unable to load page” messages, I get them a lot, but it’s because I am on a modem connection. If I try to load more than three pages at the same time, I am in trouble. Kind of defeats the purpose of the “Open in tabs” command, but what can you do…

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