Two-Factor Authentication, Thunderbird & Apple Email

I text and email my friends and family a lot, but that’s about the extent of my high-tech-etude – Willie Nelson

The Complication–

Recently I had an issue getting my email application, Mozilla’s Thunderbird, to send and receive emails from my Apple account. The problem virtually developed overnight, and all attempts to resolve the issue failed.

The crux of the problem was Thunderbird wouldn’t connect to my iCloud email due to password failure. I confirmed that the IMAP, SMTP, port settings, connection security and authentication methods were correct.

Regardless, I still kept getting the all too familiar error message that Thunderbird “timed out” or couldn’t connect to the server. No matter how often I double and triple checked my password and inputs, Thunderbird wouldn’t connect to my email.

When I researched the problem further, I found a complete lack of information on the web. The information I came across was either outdated or buried deep in threads bogged down with centuplicated comments.

I couldn’t solve the problem; my frustration grew; and I nearly gave up, but diligence paid off.

The Cause–

A security measure known as two-factor authentication (2FA) triggered my problem. This feature comes from your email provider. Its purpose is to eliminate possible hacking threats by not allowing third-party applications (Thunderbird, Outlook, etc.) access to its user’s account password.

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 8.22.33 PMFor instance, with Apple a person can log in and have access to several areas of the account, including sensitive or personal data. To increase user’s security, 2FA requires all external applications to have an app-specific password (ASP) before it can access the email portion of an account.

ASP passwords only work with the application it’s created for and grants limited access. If you use multiple devices or applications to check email, you will need an app-specific password for each one.

Two-factor authentication is a great feature for securing a person’s identity and personal security. If a user is hacked then only the email is compromised, not the rest of the account

The Fix–

If you’re experiencing log in issues with your email application, there is good news. This problem can be fixed and it’s incredible easy once it’s identified.

To resolve this issue go to your email’s settings page. For example, I went to Apple’s Manage Your Apple Account Site. I logged in and checked my settings; under the security banner is where the 2FA settings can be edited. The display below is what you will see at the Apple site.2FAClick the edit button; an expanded banner will open up allowing the user to access additional settings.

Expanded SettingsInside the expanded banner (shown above) you may make any changes needed. A user has the choice to turn off the 2FA feature and/or use the generate password option.

If you choose to turn off the 2FA feature, then your original password should now start working with your email application.

For those who decide to use two-factor authentication and the app-specific password feature, click the “Generate Password” link and follow the prompts.

A Crow’s View suggests copying and pasting the random generated password into your application. The password is fairly long and includes several sets of numbers and letters.  Once the random password is pasted into your email application’s settings, everything will work perfectly.


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