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Email Connection Problems

There are several ways for email connections to go awry. Email is one of the most reliable communications mediums known once an email makes it onto the Internet, but almost everyone at some point has a problem with their basic connection.

If you are having trouble connecting to your email server, the first thing you should do is check your underlying Internet connection, for example by surfing some web pages you haven't visited in awhile, to make sure it really is a problem with your email. If you are setting up your email application for the first time or have recently changed your configuration, then also double-check your configuration settings, especially the server names, email address, and user name, since this is the most common cause of email connection problems.

Troubleshooting suggestions for several common email connection problems are provided below:

  • Connection check. If you haven't received expected mail and want to check the health of your connection, you can perform the email analogy of an Internet ping as follows:

    • Network check. Send a message to any address that will return a response, such as an automatic help address or autoresponder,. You can also try an incorrect address that will return an error message like error9876@yahoo.com, since your server will check with the recipient server before actually sending the email, but will still test the network end-to-end. If you get an email back from any of these methods, then it is likely your email and Internet connections are fine.

    • Server check. You can try a local connection check by sending an email to yourself. If you can receive your own email, but not external mail, then your server can't access the Internet for some reason. Give it a few hours, and if it doesn't clear up then contact your provider for assistance. If you can't send email to yourself, then you have a configuration problem and should contact your email provider for assistance.

  • Send problems. There are several common causes of problems with sending email:

    • Mail queued. If you appear to be able to send email but it never arrives, it may be in a queue. Some applications put email in a queue when you send it, and the user has to manually send all queued mail to actually transmit it. Check your File and Edit menus for any queues, and also check the status of the email in the Out mailbox to see if it was actually sent -- if not, send it again.

    • Send on check. This is a common problem -- many email servers are configured to use the password authentication involved with checking mail to allow the sending of mail, and therefore require clients to check for mail at the same time or just before sending mail. If you get an intermittent error message and can send at some times and not others, make sure the option "send on check" is enabled in your email settings. As a temporary fix, you can often solve the problem by manually checking for mail shortly (a few seconds or minutes) before sending mail. This problem can also produce the message "relaying not allowed" described below, for much the same reason.

    • Relaying not allowed. Many Internet access providers require clients within their network to use their own servers for sending mail, as a policy intended to cut down on email spammers sending spam through other provider's servers. If you have more than one email address and can download mail without problems from a POP account with a different domain name than is used by your Internet access provider, but get the error "Relaying not allowed" when you try to send, then you probably need to set the outgoing SMTP server address to the mail server of your Internet service provider, instead of your email provider. Search your Internet network provider's home page or call technical assistance to obtain the address of their SMTP server, and enter it in your email client settings (first copy and save your existing server setting in case you need to set it back). This error message can also be produced by the "send on check" issue described in the bullet above.

    • Server down. If you can do a successful connection check, and the above suggestions don't help, and a recipient continues to say that email sent from you does not arrive, and you are certain their address is spelled correctly, then one of the email servers between you and your destination is likely down. Blocked email is typically cached and sent when the missing server comes back up, usually within a few hours or days. If the problem persists and you can successfully send to other email addresses, then the email provider of your recipient is likely having a problem -- you should contact them by phone and ask them if they are getting email from anyone else, request they send an email to you, and if necessary suggest they do a connection check from their end to help diagnose the problem.
  • Receive problems. If you can receive email from some people but not others, and can do a successful connection check, then it is likely that your connection is fine and the sender is having send problems. However, if you can't receive email from anyone, then try the following:

    • Display checks. First, manually recheck for new mail again, and then close and reopen your In mailbox to try and reinitialize the display trigger. Then resort the In mailbox by the Date/Time field, usually by clicking on the Date/Time column header, and then check both the top and bottom of the mailbox to see if email was downloaded but listed out of view.

    • Filters. Check to see that email you are looking for isn't being filtered out of your In mailbox into some other folder before you see it. Check your filter folders, and if needed use your email application's "edit / find" function to search all mailboxes for an identifying string in the expected email, such as the sender's email address.

    • Configuration problem. If no new email shows up from the display check, and you are certain that messages from several sources are pending, then first check your configuration settings, especially your incoming POP server, email address, and user name. If you know your email password, try deselecting the "save password" option, closing and restarting the program, checking for mail, and reentering your password to reinitialize the connection. If these suggestions don't work, then contact your email provider for assistance.

  • Lost password. If your email application saves your password and the connection was recently broken by a program crash or similar event, then sometimes you will be asked to reenter the password as a security feature. If you are asked for your password when you try to reconnect, then just re-enter it if you remember it (often the same as your Internet logon password), or phone your email provider for help.
  • Country not connected. The FAQ On International Email maintains a list of countries and their current connectivity, so you can check to make sure your email can get through. These days most countries are connected all the time.
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