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Thunderbird-AT&T email password glitch: a fix for one problem

Posted 04-09-2021 at 03:13 PM by flshope
Updated 04-10-2021 at 07:17 AM by flshope


A few days ago (04/05/21), my AT&T email account, which I access through Thunderbird 78.9.0 (64-bit), stopped downloading emails. Thunderbird showed a message box with the message

"Sending of password for user ****** did not succeed. Mail server responded: Server error - Please try again later."

After many tries with no change in 24 hours, I recalled a vaguely similar situation last November on our iMac with my wife's AT&T email account. After several long chat sessions with AT&T, I learned that I had to establish what they call a "secure mail key". Apparently, this is a password specifically for their email servers. AT&T apparently decided to upgrade security between customer email clients and AT&T servers by requiring email servers and web site log on to use different passwords. Apparently, once a customer running Thunderbird is targeted, Thunderbird may no longer be able to send or receive email. I keep saying "apparently" because I did not receive an advance notice from AT&T on this. So I retrieved my notes on what I did for our iMac, which uses Apple Email. The procedure to fix this problem, which I had to modify for Thunderbird, is summarized below.

  • Solution is to first go to the AT&T web site and generate a "secure mail key".
  • Then enter the password manager in Thunderbird and delete the current stored passwords for AT&T.
  • Restart Thunderbird and request download of AT&T email.
  • At Thunderbird's request, enter the secure mail key as the new password. Do once each for incoming and outgoing servers.

Go to the AT&T web site:
  • Log on for the email address under consideration (if you have more than one).
  • Click tab myATT.
  • Click Profile icon (roughly the shape of little person).
  • Scroll down to My linked accounts.
  • Scroll down to Manage secure mail key and click.
  • Click Add Secure Key.
  • Enter a nickname for the key.
  • When the secure key is displayed, copy and paste it to somewhere retrievable (e.g., text file).
  • Log off of web site.
Open Thunderbird and remove existing passwords for the email address under consideration:
  • Go to Preferences/Security and Privacy/Passwords/Saved Passwords.
  • Will show a table of saved URLs and email addresses.
  • Note that there is a button to unhide the passwords.
  • Right-clicking on a line in the table will allow copying the displayed information (optional).
  • Click the desired line to highlight.
  • Click Remove to delete the password information. Do this for incoming and outgoing.
Stop and restart Thunderbird:
  • Ask Thunderbird to get AT&T email.
  • Thunderbird should ask for a password for the incoming server for which the password was just removed. Enter the secure mail key. Emails should begin downloading.
  • Ask Thunderbird to send an email. Thunderbird should ask for a password for the outgoing server (can be the same password as for the incoming server).
  • If emails begin downloading and sending, the problem is solved (You may now scream "Eureeka!").
Some things to note:
  • Get one secure mail key for each AT&T email address.
  • Secure mail key won’t affect your AT&T email password for the web site logon.
  • Secure mail keys never expire.
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