Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 12 Issue 1
January 2018
Gmail: "Allow less secure apps" Option Must Be ON for A Regular Email Program to Access Your Account



To read this issue on my web site, please visit:
http://kadansky.com/files/newsletters/2018/2018_01_30.html

The problem

If you use Gmail, have any of these ever happened to you?
  • Instead of using a web browser to get your email on the www.gmail.com web site ("webmail"), you're trying to set up a regular email "client" program like Outlook, Windows Mail, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Entourage, Eudora, Outlook Express, etc. Unfortunately, even though you're sure you've typed in the correct password and server settings, your program gets errors like "Incorrect password" when you try to send or receive your email.
  • Using your Gmail account in your regular email program worked just fine for a long time, but all of a sudden it's failing with errors like "Authentication error," and you're sure that you haven't changed your email password.
  • You're trying to set up your backup software to notify you by sending a message to your Gmail account when it's done, but even though you typed in the correct password and server settings, it tells you that it's wrong.
  • Your backup software has been notifying you via Gmail when it's done for a while now, but all of a sudden you're no longer getting those emails, even though the backup is running just fine and you haven't changed your Gmail password.
  • You're getting "Review blocked sign-in attempt" email messages that a "Less secure app" tried to sign into your Gmail account.
The likely explanation: The "Allow less secure apps" option in your Gmail account is off, or it got turned off

Gmail considers regular email programs and backup programs to be "less secure," so in order for them to get access into your account, your "Allow less secure apps" option must be turned on.

Such programs are probably "less secure" because they only use your email address and password to get into your account, compared to other methods (like a web browser) where Gmail can employ additional security.

Where is this option?

Here's how to find this Gmail security option:
  • Open your web browser, e.g., Internet Explorer, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, etc.
  • Go to the www.gmail.com web site.
  • Sign into your account.
  • At the top right, click the colorful circle containing a capital letter (usually the first letter of your first name).
  • In the menu that appears, click "My Account."
  • A new browser tab or window will open.
  • Under "Sign-in & security" click "Apps with account access."
  • Scroll down and look at the "Allow less secure apps" option on the right.
If that option is "OFF," then your regular email program or backup program will probably not be able to access your Gmail account, even if the password and server settings you've entered are correct.

You will need to click the "circle/slider" at the far right to turn this option ON. This change takes effect immediately, and it will probably also generate a "Security alert for your linked Google account" email to you, notifying you that "Access for less secure apps has been turned on," just in case someone else (like a hacker) did this without your permission. (Gmail apparently doesn't notify you when this option gets turned OFF.)

You can now go back to your email or backup program, and you'll probably find that it can access your Gmail account with no errors.

If the "Allow less secure apps" option had been ON before, how did it get turned OFF?

I've seen three different scenarios that can turn this option off:
  • You got a notice on your computer, smartphone, or tablet offering to increase the security on your Google or Gmail account by not allowing "less secure apps" to have access, and you agreed to turn this option off.
  • You (or someone else) turned it off in your Gmail's "My Account" settings as described above.
  • You (or someone else) went into your "My Account" area, did a Security Checkup to review your security settings, and turned this option off as part of the process.
In all of the above scenarios, Gmail does not offer any explanation of the consequences of turning this option off. They should tell you that if you rely on a regular email program to access your email (or a backup program that notifies you by email), then you should leave this option ON.

Other explanations

If your "Allow less secure apps" option is already ON but your regular email program or backup program can't access your Gmail account, there are other reasons that might explain this, including:
  • Basic settings: You might have mistyped your Gmail address or password. I recommend trying to sign into your account using a web browser to confirm that you have the correct address and password.
  • Server settings: You might not be using the correct Gmail incoming (POP or IMAP) or outgoing (SMTP) server settings, port numbers, etc. See the Google support articles below for details.
  • 2-Step Verification: You might have turned on this option, which increases your security but makes accessing your Gmail account more complicated.
  • Older software: You might be using older software (or an older iPhone or Android device) that doesn't support the SSL or TLS security protocols that Gmail requires.
Where to go from here
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.