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  1. Computer Skills
  2. OS X
Computers

Quick Tip: Setting Up Gmail Two-Step Verification in Mail.app

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With Google’s recent move to enhance the security on its products, configuring your account with apps and services isn’t as easy as it used to be. If you’re using two-step verification for your Google account, for example, you can’t simply input your regular account password to access Gmail in Mail.app. Things get a bit more complicated than that.

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to sign in to your Gmail account in Apple’s email app when you have taken such security measures. We'll go over Google's process of creating application-specific passwords that can be used for any email client out there, and then we'll add the account to Apple Mail. Also, if you haven't yet started using two-step verification, I'll explain a few reasons why you should.


Why Two-Step Verification

Google's two-step verification promo image.
Google's two-step verification promo image.

So what's the big deal here? Why is Google pushing a special type of password protection? Isn't that what a strong password is for?

Google defines two-step verification as "an extra layer of security for your Google Account". Rather than using the same password for everything, this system assigns a specific password to each app you connect your Google account with. That means anyone who wants to sign in to your Google account on an unauthorized device will have a much harder time of it since they don't have your specific credentials at hand.

Another way two-step verification secures your account is using your mobile phone. On an iPhone, you can download the Google Authenticator app, which displays a code that changes every 30 seconds. This code allows you to sign into services without creating an application-specific password, but it only works with certain services, like Google Chrome or Search for iOS. That's why you need to know how to create an application-specific password for something like Apple's Mail app.

If you haven't already set up this feature on your Google account, head to your Google account and click "Turn on 2-step verification". You will be asked for your mobile phone number and Google will either call or text message you with a confirmation code. Enter that into the field in your Web browser and click Confirm to switch on two-step verification. Make sure to download the Authenticator app for easier setup with some services.


Step 1: Add Apple Mail as an Authorized Application

Start by managing your authorized apps.
Start by managing your authorized apps.

Head to your Google account’s two-step verification page and select the “Manage application-specific passwords” button. Alternatively, you can use this direct link: https://accounts.google.com/IssuedAuthSubTokens Here you will find a description of what application-specific passwords are meant for and Google's own guide and video on using them.

Generating a new application-specific password for Apple Mail.
Generating a new application-specific password for Apple Mail.

Scroll down to the “Application-specific passwords” section of this page. Type in a name for Apple Mail — I just went with those two words — and click “Generate password”. The page will refresh and a 16-character password will be displayed. Copy it to your clipboard, spaces and all, but don’t click Done.


Step 2: Open Mail and Add a New Account

A password that Gmail generated. Don't try it: the permissions are revoked.
A password that Gmail generated. Don't try it: the permissions are revoked.

Open the Mail app and click the File menu. Select Add Account and input your name, email, and copied password from the previous step. Click Continue.

The success screen.
The success screen.

If all goes well you’ll be shown a success screen asking if you’d like to set up additional features with this account, such as notes, messages, and calendars. To complete the process, click Create. Then go back to the Google two-step verification page, click Done, and everything is wrapped up.

Tip: You can always add other account features in the future by going to the Mail, Contacts & Calendars pane of System Preferences.

That’s It!

To sum things up, you just added your Mail app using an application-specific password. This involved signing into your Google account, opening your Security settings, finding the two-step verification button, and adding a new app to your list. Then you copied the generated watchword and pasted it into Mail's password field.

This method will also work for Sparrow or Airmail if you're using them. Google makes two-step verification sound like it will take a while to understand, and that often scares people away from enhancing their security. But it doesn’t actually take long to set up. Let us know if you have any questions about the process.

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