POP3 unknown user name or bad password

I have several Microsoft accounts and check for e-mail on them using POP3.  Starting a week or two ago one of my accounts started returning "unknown user name or bad password" errors.  POP3 still works for the other accounts.

  • Fetching mail from all of my Microsoft accounts works except for one. For the account that fails the server responds with "unknown user name or bad password" when the password is entered.
  • Sign-in on https://login.live.com/ works. I've been copy/pasting the username and password.
  • While signed into https://login.live.com/ in I tried disabling and then re-enabling POP3. No joy.
  • I changed the password for the account.  While I can still sign in using https://login.live.com/ I can't sign in using POP3.
  • For one of the accounts that works I disabled POP3 and discovered the server responds with "unknown user name or bad password". Thus we do know for sure what's wrong with the account.
  • I'm getting the same results from both pop3.live.com and pop-mail.outlook.com
  • I tried each of the nine servers by IP address for pop3.live.com and each of the four servers for pop-mail.outlook.com and get the same results.
  • I added an @outlook.com alias for the account.  While I can send/receive mail using webmail I still get "unknown user name or bad password" when I try to sign in via POP3.  I also added an @outlook.com alias for one of my accounts that works and verified that POP3 works for sign-in using that alias and the password for the account.
  • I tested from a machine that's in another part of the country.  (This was mainly to test using a different IP address)

While I normally use Outlook I did the debugging above using OpenSSL as it's much quicker to try various things and I can see the exact server response.  I've used:

  • openssl s_client -connect pop3.live.com:995
  • openssl s_client -connect pop-mail.outlook.com:995
  • openssl s_client -connect 40.97.121.18:995
  • ... (with each of the IP addresses)

Regardless of which server I connect to the server reports "+OK The Microsoft Exchange POP3 service is ready. [T...]" and is waiting for POP3 commands.

USER *** Email address is removed for privacy ***

The server responds with +OK

(The server response is +OK for accounts that work and for the one that does not)

PASS R3pefQ2ldX

That's not the actual password but is similar in style to the one I'm using for testing It has no special characters or other strange stuff.

The server responds to the PASS command with either:

  • -ERR Logon failure: unknown user name or bad password.
  • +OK User successfully logged on.

For the accounts that work (and get +OK ...) I can use the STAT or LIST commands. 

I'm looking for ideas of other things to try.  As far as I know, I had made no changes to the account.  I don't use it for e-mail but had been checking it from Outlook as Microsoft occasionally e-mails notifications.

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Hi,

There are possible reasons as to why you're receiving the said error. May we ask if you are using a business/exchange account?

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There are possible reasons as to why you're receiving the said error. May we ask if you are using a business/exchange account?

It's a free account. The one thing that's different about the account that is now failing compared with the other Microsoft accounts I use is that it's linked to my Microsoft Partner account. I'm able to sign into the Microsoft Partner site, view my license keys, etc. using this account. The web site experience has been, and continues to, work fine.

I did a round of testing today and Microsoft's POP3 servers continue to respond with "-ERR Logon failure: unknown user name or bad password." for that account. However, there's a behavior change in that I'm now getting "+OK User successfully logged on." for the account alias I had created for that account. I updated the Outlook profile to use the alias, re-enabled receiving e-mails, and now polling/fetching of e-mails is working.

POP3 access for the account is still failing but it works for the account's alias. An alias always uses its parent account's password meaning I know it's not a password issue.  I have Outlook configured to poll for mail every 30 minutes meaning I'll know if the POP3 access using the alias starting failing again the way it was in late January.

AndreePin, you had written "There are possible reasons as to why you're receiving the said error." Is there a list of the possible reasons available for POP3 to return "-ERR Logon failure: unknown user name or bad password."?  I know of:

  • Wrong user name used
  • Wrong password used
  • POP3 not enabled in the account's mail profile.

I had double checked those three items but other than "mysterious Microsoft failures" what are the other possible failures?

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The said error could sometimes mean that it is requiring you to change your password. It's a great thing  that you managed to find a workaround in regard with this issue. Kindly try to change the password of your Office or Microsoft account and check if the said error still persists.

Keep us updated if anything comes up so we can further assist you.

If you think this was helpful, do not hesitate to "mark it as answer" to help those who are facing the same problem.

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The said error could sometimes mean that it is requiring you to change your password. It's a great thing  that you managed to find a workaround in regard with this issue. Kindly try to change the password of your Office or Microsoft account and check if the said error still persists.

I had changed the password as part of debugging the issue. See the 4th bullet in the first message of this thread.

I have not been using the "make me change my password every 72 days" feature but you have a good point in that someone using it would likely start getting pop-ups from Outlook (or whatever their mail client or devices are) asking for the username/password as the POP3 or IMAP login would start failing, would then need to sign in at https://login.live.com/ and change their password, and then would need to change the password in Outlook (or their mail clients or devices) for their POP3 or IMAP login to work.

I did some more testing today.

  1. POP3 logins for main account still fail and it still work for the account's alias. That the login using the alias works it tells me I know the password and that it has not expired. An alias uses its main account's password.
  2. I changed the password on the main account.
  3. POP3 logins for main account still fail for the new password and it works for the account's alias using the new password. I also verified that I can retrieve e-mail using POP3 while signed in as the alias.
  4. POP3 logins for both the main and alias fail for the old password. (this is expected)

I was then thinking of other things I could test and realized there is a possible cause for the POP3 login failure. The Microsoft account that has been failing is using one of my work e-mail addresses. If I send e-mail to that address it goes to the Exchange server at work and not Microsoft's Outlook/Live/Office servers. I had been polling the Microsoft account via POP3 for many years on the theory that from time to time Microsoft may send notifications to the mailbox directly and not via the Internet.  Thus Microsoft could return "failure" for accessing the mailbox if it recognized that it's not possible for mail to get delivered to that mailbox.

That theory gets disproven by two things. 1) I have other Microsoft accounts using external (non Microsoft) e-mail addresses and can successfully poll those using POP3.  2) I added an @outlook.com alias to the account that's failing. When I send e-mails to the @outlook.com alias they show up in the https://outlook.live.com/owa/# web based mailbox when I'm signed in under the main account. Thus I know there's a mailbox associated with the account. I rechecked and verified that POP3 is enabled for the mailbox.

Thus, the underlying issue still exists in that POP3 logins do not work for a single account's main e-mail address though logins and mail fetching work if I use an alias for that account.

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I did a test using IMAP instead of POP3 and discovered that the same problem exists. Login using the main account fails and it works for the account's alias.

Using OpenSSL the sequence for debugging is:

openssl s_client -quiet -connect imap-mail.outlook.com:993
    * OK The Microsoft Exchange IMAP4 service is ready. [T...A==]
tag login *** Email address is removed for privacy *** my-password
    tag NO LOGIN failed.
tag login *** Email address is removed for privacy *** my-password
    tag OK LOGIN completed.
tag logout
    * BYE Microsoft Exchange Server IMAP4 server signing off.
    tag OK LOGOUT completed.
    read:errno=0

The indented stuff is the Exchange server's response.  Unfortunately, it seems I'm unable to change the subject line for this forum thread as it should be "IMAP and POP3 login failure for account but it works for the alias"

Also, for those seeing this thread and trying out an alias as a fix for their own IMAP or POP3 login issue is that the alias did not work right away. I don't think it even worked the next day but a few days later it started working. 

I also saw a similar delayed response when I changed the password as part of debugging.  I changed the password and on a whim did my first test using the old password.  It worked. I estimate it took somewhere between two to five minutes for a password change done on https://account.microsoft.com/ to be noticed by the POP3 servers. That puzzled me as I thought password changes would have been pushed/replicated to all domain controllers within Microsoft as fast as possible.

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We thank you for the update that you have provided us. May we ask if you are having trouble with Outlook.com or the Outlook app?

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We thank you for the update that you have provided us. May we ask if you are having trouble with Outlook.com or the Outlook app?

It's both outlook.com and the Outlook app. The problem is a failure within the outlook.com servers that prevents all versions of Outlook (and all external e-mail clients including smartphones) from fetching or viewing e-mail that's on the outlook.com servers via POP3 or IMAP.  From a user perspective it's an Outlook or device failure but the root cause is a failure within the Microsoft POP3 and IMAP servers for specific user accounts.

I had been successfully polling a Microsoft account via Outlook using POP3 since May 2008 (nearly ten years). I use the save-password checkbox (cached account/password) checkbox.  I started getting pop-ups from Outlook asking for the username/password some time in January 2018. At first I assumed it was a temporary glitch and would do one of clicking "Ok", enter the password and "ok", or "cancel" each time I got the pop-up. As it was for an account that I almost never get e-mail on I was not concerned.

After about a week of pop-ups asking for the username/password I decided to look further into this. That was on January 27, 2018. I saw in https://account.live.com/Activity that there were occasional successful POP3 syncs which made me think the issue is intermittent.  There were no "Incorrect password entered" or other errors logged in the activity log. There are no entries from anything other than my normal IP address. As part of debugging I changed the password on January 29, 2018 and when that did not work I added the alias.

Unfortunately, on the morning of January 26, 2018 I cleared out my %TEMP% folder.  Thus I don't have any older "Outlook Logging" files.  From the logging files I have available I can see that Microsoft's POP3 server was returning "-ERR Logon failure: unknown user name or bad password." for that account as early as 2018.01.26 19:27:21. Outlook did not log any successful logins for that account but then started logging "<rx> +OK" once I configured Outlook to sign in using the account's alias. It continues to log "<rx> +OK" for the alias.

I added a tickler file item to check the status each morning via OpenSSL.  Since February 2, 2018 Microsoft POP3 and IMAP servers continue to report login failures for the main account and continue to return "success" when I use the alias.

As https://account.live.com/Activity shows occasional "Successful sync" for POP3 access for the account in January 2018 I'm also thinking of setting up something that polls my account every 10 minutes that also logs all of the POP3/IMAP traffic to see if Microsoft's POP3/IMAP servers returns failure 100% of the time or if from time to time I get "success". When testing manually via OpenSSL it's always been 100% failure for the account and 100% success for the alias but https://account.live.com/Activity implies that logins for the account are successful once a day or so when I had been polling it using Outlook. I do have a concern that if I did this that Microsoft may block the account for repeated "login failures" even though I'm providing the correct password.

https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook_com/forum/oemail-oapps/pop3-cache-fail-and-sts-failure/7de852ab-7818-4ca7-a5dc-c084a099f69e seems like the same issue as what I'm seeing.  I had created a new forum thread as at the time I did not understand what "Pop3 Cache Fail" meant in the subject line.  I now believe it means that the username/password are cached in Outlook or devices the people are using.  I also was not seeing "FederatedStsYnreachable" and "STSFailure" but now I believe those messages are from a specific device or version of Outlook.  Thus, whatever those people are/were seeing is likely the same as what I'm seeing.

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With the recent system improvements Outlook.com servers have been going through it may prove helpful if you get in touch with the back-end support team for Outlook.com. You may contact them through your Outlook.com. Kindly click the question mark (?) on the top right part of Outlook.com's webpage and click Help.

Feel free to get back to us should you need further assistance.

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Thank you Andree for the screen shot and notes on where to go. I have started the help ticket.

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Here's an update on what has occurred in the past few weeks.

1) I spotted an anomaly that may help others see if their POP3/IMAP issues are the same as mine. At the time IMAP and POP3 stopped accepting logins the Activity Log at https://account.live.com/Activity also stopped recording attempts to sync via POP3 and/or IMAP for the account. Today, when I try to sign in to my account via POP3 or IMAP the login attempt is rejected and nothing is logged in https://account.live.com/Activity  If I sign in using the account's alias the logins are recorded. If I use a bad password when signing in with the account's alias then it is recorded as an "Unsuccessful sync".

If your attempts to sign in using POP3 or IMAP, are rejected with "unknown user name or bad password", and nothing gets added to the "Automatic Sync" section of https://account.live.com/Activity then you likely have the same issue I'm dealing with.

Related to this is for accounts that are working that you only need go sign in with a POP3 USER/PASS or IMAP login command to be noted as a "Successful sync" (good password) or "Unsuccessful sync" (bad password) in https://account.live.com/Activity  You do not need to check for or retrieve e-mail messages. The activity log is only about the logins.


2) I spotted a minor bug in the version of Microsoft Exchange server used to host outlook.com. If you disable POP3 for an account then attempts to sign in via POP3 are rejected as expected. However, they are still getting logged in https://account.live.com/Activity as successful syncs. If you use an incorrect password on a disabled account it's logged as "unsuccessful sync" exactly like a standard bad-password attempt on an account where POP3 is enabled. I've reported this and hope that the Exchange server folks improve their logging to note that they rejected a login due to POP3 being disabled.  While Outlook.com's end-user interface does not allow us to disable IMAP I suspect the same issue exists on those Exchange servers where users or administrators have control over IMAP.

As I don't know what version of Exchange is being used to host outlook.com I only reported this to the outlook.com support people and hope they can relay that to their Exchange admins who will know which version of Exchange they are using.  FWIW, outlook.com looks like Exchange 2016's standard webmail interface and so they likely are using Exchange 2016.

3) My support ticket continues with Microsoft's outlook.com group. They repeated the same stuff AndreePin had me do, seem stumped, tried to punt me to the Outlook windows app group, and are looking further into the details as it's proven to be a problem on the outlook.com side.

4) I reviewed my notes and saw that the failure started at some point after 2018-01-24 16:49 (-0800 Pacific Time in USA) which was the date/time of the the last POP3 sync for my account logged in https://account.live.com/Activity  I have an Outlook Logging file record for 2018-01-26 19:27 confirming the failure by that date/time. Most likely the failure started on 2018-01-24.

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Last updated July 27, 2021 Views 12,111 Applies to: