If you’re like me, you have multiple email accounts and have, at least occasionally, used the built-in Mail application that came with Windows 8.1 on your Surface.
For the most part, it works fine but I recently ran into a problem when one of my mail accounts became “orphaned” and it started telling me it “Needs attention”.
The account in question was one I had from the University of Michigan. I left my position there a few months back but I neglected to remove the account from the Windows 8 Mail App. This was not a problem…. until they finally got around to turning off my account.
Now, I’m stuck with an account in my Mail app with a “Needs Attention” warning that won’t let me access it. Worse yet, there doesn’t seem to be any way to get rid of this account from within the Windows 8 Mail app on my Surface.
So, what can I do about it? Well, first, let’s talk about what an orphaned account is and what causes this to happen.
Remove an Account from the Windows 8 Mail App: What’s an Orphaned Account?
An orphaned account is really just a mail account configured on your Surface that can no longer talk with the mail server. One usually happens because of one of the following reasons:
- The email account was deleted on the server-side
- You are using the wrong password
- There’s some corruption in the account configuration on the Surface
The mechanism for recovering the password will differ depending on the type of mail account (GMail, Yahoo, corporate email server, etc.), so you’ll need to figure out how to reset or recover the password for your particular type of email account.
If it’s account corruption causing the problem, you can usually fix it by doing a System File Check and Check Disk. I have instructions for doing just that here: Issues With Surface Tablets? Try These Fixes.
However, what if nothing works or if you just want that account gone from the Mail App?
Remove an Account from the Windows 8 Mail App: I Couldn’t Fix It. Now What?
If all else fails, you can forcibly remove an orphaned mail account from the Windows 8 Mail app with a bit of network settings trickery. Here’s how to do it:
- Restart your Surface to make sure there are no mail-related processes running
- After the restart, DO NOT start the Windows 8 Mail app. Instead put your Surface into Airplane Mode by bringing up the Charms menu, selecting Settings, then the network charm. From there, turn the Airplane Mode setting to On
- Now start the Windows 8 Mail App and tap on the orphaned account you wish to delete, it will try to connect and may give you a login screen. The one I received (from the University of Michigan) is pictured below. Yours will probably look different:
- Tap the back arrow (next to connecting to a service) and you may also get this message:
- Tap Cancel and it will return to the Mail app but it will no longer have the Needs Attention warning on the account entry
- Next, bring up the Accounts settings for the Mail app by swiping in from the right and selecting Settings then Accounts
- Pick the entry for the orphaned account then scroll all the way to the bottom of the settings screen to find the Remove Account Button. Tap it
You will be prompted to either remove the account from this PC or from all synced PCs. It doesn’t matter what you select since it’s in airplane mode and can’t communicate out to the other synced PCs anyway.
Next, turn airplane mode off and you will have a working Windows 8 mail app without that annoying orphaned mail account.
If you have multiple Windows machines, you may need to do this on each one but it’s better than having that orphaned account hanging around.