Update: December 14, 2020 (7:20AM ET): You’re not alone! Gmail and several other Google services are all suffering from service disruptions and account authentication issues right now. You can read the full story over here — we’ll update that post as we know more.
Original article: May 10 2019 (12:00 AM ET): Gmail is one of those services that you don’t really think about until it’s gone. Is Gmail not working for you today? When it hits the fan, you need to get it fixed, but how? We’re here to help, as we break down the five most common Gmail issues and how to fix them.
Gmail not working? Check Google Status Dashboard
Is Gmail not working for you? First of all, click this link, then bookmark it, then tattoo it onto your left bicep, just in case. This is the link to Google’s app status Dashboard. If there is ever an outage, suspected outage, or credible report of an outage of any Google service — so anytime Gmail’s not working — this site will let you know. On the page, you’ll see a list of all the apps in Google Suite, and a list of dates leading up to the current date. Orange dots indicate there is or was trouble. You can go back about two months to see old outages too, if need be. Otherwise, if you’re having trouble with any Google app, this should be your first stop — after this article, that is.
This is a little tongue in cheek, but often when you’re having trouble with your Google account, removing the account from your mobile device and setting it back up again will resolve a lot of problems. The beauty of a Google account is that everything is stored in Google’s servers — your mail, your documents, your movies and videos, etc. All of those will come back, once you reset up your account. It is a nuclear option of sorts, but it’s also the easiest way to wipe everything and bring it all back. It’s nuclear, but simple.
To do so, go into your settings area -> Accounts -> Google -> (tap the account you want to remove) -> tap the ellipsis in the upper right corner -> Remove account. Keep in mind that the process may be slightly different depending on your device and Android version.
One of the most common reasons someone loses access to their Gmail account is because they have forgotten their password. Not everyone can use the passphrase “MargaretThatcheris100%sexy,” so we get it. Fortunately, Google has a number of tools you can use to recover that password. Fair warning — it’s not a lot of fun. Have you ever noticed that any time you forget your password on another service, like Netflix, the recovery option is almost always to have it emailed to you? Well, that won’t work if you’re trying to log into an email account.
First, it’s critical that you set up alternative contact methods attached to your Google account. Log in to your Gmail account, click your profile pic in the upper right corner, and then select “Manage your Google account.” Tap the “Security” tab and locate the “Ways we can verify it’s you” option. Next, make sure the two options — Recovery Email and Recovery Phone — are filled out. These are the recovery methods you can use to get access to your account back.
Two-step verification issues
Two-step verification is one of the best methods you can use to secure your account. Briefly, two-step verification adds a second layer to your security by requiring a second acknowledgment of a login attempt. For example, if you log into your Gmail account, you’ll receive a text message with a code you must enter in order to proceed. But things don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, the code doesn’t get there. What then?
First, you need to make sure you’re in an area with good signal. Google sends 2-step authentication codes via SMS, so if you’re in an area with strong Wi-Fi but not good cell signal — I’m looking at you, downtown Chicago — that could be part of the problem.
If so, you can use the Google Authenticator app. Simply download the app on your phone. Once installed, you’ll be asked how to verify the account. The easiest is with a QR code. On your computer, go to the two-step authentication page, and scroll down to Authenticator App. Click on that and follow the steps to scan the QR code. Once scanned, you’ll get a code in the app. Enter that code into the “Verify” box on your computer, and it will link the phone to your account. From then on, you’ll use the Authenticator app to log in, rather than SMS codes.
If that won’t work, you can also opt to receive a call on your backup phone. Of course, this will still not work if you’re in an area with a bad signal. However, you can choose for this to be a landline. The downside to that choice is that you have to be at the place where the landline is, but it is an option.
Finally, if all else fails, you can also use backup codes. Backup codes are generally used for occasions when you lose your phone, or cannot receive authentication codes by any other means.
These need to be generated in advance. Backup codes are sets of codes you can use to log into your account in lieu of your two-step verification. Backup codes come in sets of 10. These are one-time use codes — they become inactive as soon as you use them. If you generate a set of codes, all unused codes from your last batch are deactivated. Spoiler alert: I generated a new set of codes after taking that screenshot.
To generate a set of codes, visit the two-step verification page and scroll down to the backup codes area. Click on “Get new codes.” This will generate a text file for you to download, which will be called “Backup-codes-<yourusername>.txt.
If you want to use the backup code to sign in, go to the Gmail sign-in page and enter your username/password. When asked for the two-step authentication, click “More options” and then click “Enter one of your 8-digit backup codes.” Enter your code, and you’re good to go!
Gmail can fail to sync for a lot of different reasons, and a failure to sync can manifest itself in a number of ways. You may not have all of your messages, you may be failing to send email, you may receive an “account not synced” error message, or the app itself may just be slow. In any of these cases, you can try several steps to get things back up and running.
- Update the Gmail app. Sometimes an older, outdated version of the app can have trouble getting mail from Google. Making sure you have the latest and greatest version of the Gmail app will resolve a lot of sync issues.
- Restart your device. Have you tried turning it off and on again? Yes, it’s a cliché, but it works a surprising number of times.
- Verify your connectivity. Yes, it’s a stupid question, but we have to ask. You can avoid a lot of unnecessary troubleshooting if you make sure you have a good signal, aren’t in Airplane mode, etc.
- Check your Gmail settings. Should you have to make sure sync is on? No. But you do. Accidental taps happen, and if Gmail sync gets turned off, nothing gets synced. Open the Gmail app, and tap the menu button in the upper left corner -> Settings. Tap on your account and make sure you’ve checked “Sync Gmail.”
- Clear your Gmail app data. Open your device’s Settings app -> Apps & Notifications -> App Info -> Gmail -> Storage -> Clear Data -> Ok. Once you’re done with that, restart your device and see if that did the trick. Most of the time that will work.
If your Gmail is missing emails that you know are in there, the most likely cause is that you accidentally deleted or archived them. You can check this easily enough by clicking on the Trash folder in Gmail. Most often you can find the trash folder by clicking “More” in the folders area, then clicking “Trash.” If the email is in there, it may be archived. In the area where you clicked “More,” look for “All Mail.” That will show you all mail, whether archived or not.
You can also search for mail by typing in the search box. In the “All Mail” folder, search for archived email, but remember that it won’t search the Trash folder. Most of the time, your email will be in the trash or archived — I’m no stranger to that myself. If you find the email in either place, click on it to open it, then click the folder icon at the top, then choose “Move to Inbox.” That will restore the email to your inbox and you’ll be able to see it normally.
Bonus! Gmail won’t load (browser only)
If you’re logging into Gmail with a web browser, and the web page will not load for you, there are a few things you need to try to get things back up and running again. First, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a supported web browser. You can find a list of supported web browsers in Google’s help site. It’s fair to say that most modern web browsers will work, but Opera users will be out of luck, I’m afraid.
Often, browser extensions or applications can interfere with Gmail as well. A quick way to check on this is by trying out Gmail in the web browser’s private or incognito mode. If Gmail works there, try disabling browser extensions one-by-one until you find the culprit.
Sometimes cookies or temporary files can break Gmail as well. The same test — using incognito mode — is a quick way to test that behavior as well. If Gmail works in incognito mode, but disabling extensions didn’t help, clearing your cache and cookies should do the trick.
Finally, you might want to try disabling any Google labs you have running. The easiest way to do that is to visit this website. This will automatically disable any labs you have running so you can test the Gmail client without them. If it works, again, try disabling all labs, and re-enabling them one at a time. If Gmail fails again, you have your culprit.
Gmail is one of those services that usually just works, and it’s wonderful. It is an awful feeling when it goes down. Hopefully, some of these tips have helped get you back on track. If there’s anything you’ve run into that you can’t figure out, let us know. Of course, if there’s something we haven’t covered that you’d like to see, hit us up in the comments. If you have any other tips, feel free to drop us a note in the comments, and we’ll be sure to update the article in the future.
Other Gmail-related content:
- New Gmail look for Android and PC explained
- The new Gmail is here, update rolling out now
- Gmail’s new Smart Compose is easy to use: Here’s how to do it