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troubleshooting email problemsAs a part of my job, I deal with a lot of email issues – problems sending and receiving email. Over the years, I have noticed that many people experiencing email problems can have them easily fixed and actually fall under just a few categories. Occasionally, email problems will be caused by a problem that only a system administrator can fix but for the majority of problems, they can be fixed by the end user (you) with minimal effort.

Read on to find some quick tips to help you when sending emails become an issue.

1. Check The Spelling Of The Email Address

I would say this is the most common error that I come across. One of the first things I do when walking someone through an email problem is confirming that the email address they are trying to send to is the real email address of the person they are attempting to reach.

The problem is further broken down into 2 types of typos – the first is the “username” part (the part of the email address before the @) and the second is the email domain (the part after the @).

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If the username part does not exist on the remote email system, one of two things will happen – the first is that you will simply hear nothing back. The second is that you will get a message back that says something to the effect of “the user ‘username’ does not exist on this system.”

If the domain does not exist you will typically get a message back, from your own mail server, which states something like “DNS Error: Domain name not found“.

Read The Error Message

Usually when an email is rejected for some reason, there is a detailed error message passed back with the technical details of why it failed. Most of this message is for technical system administrators who can trace back a message if there is a further problem, but I’ve found that usually the error message that is within this email explains what the problem is. If you read through the message, look for the “core” problem.

Usually it is one of the following:

2. The Mailbox Is Full

This happens when the person whom you are sending the email to has no more disk space left on their email server. The most typical message returned is “mailbox is full” or “quota has been exceeded“. There is nothing you can do on your end about this and the best thing to do is to call or contact the person using another method and let them know about their problem so that they can talk to their email provider.

3. Your IP is on a blocklist

troubleshooting email problems

This is an anti-spam measure and if you aren’t sending spam then either your computer has been compromised in some form, or you are an innocent bystander in the “war on spam.” The error messages are usually technical in nature and can be hard to decode. Here is a sample message I recently received after sending a mail from Gmail:

554 554 5.7.1 Service unavailable; Client host [74.125.82.47] blocked using dnsbl.sorbs.net; Currently Sending Spam See: http://www.sorbs.net/lookup.shtml?74.125.82.47 (state 14).

The name for these lists vary but are typically called blacklists, RBL (realtime block/black list), black hole or blocklists. I’m personally not a fan of them because many times they do affect “innocent bystanders” – but using them does help to cut down on spam considerably. In this case, the actual blocked IP address is owned by Gmail and there is nothing you can do about getting off this list if you do not own the email server.

In this particular case, I just re-sent the email and it uses another IP address going out and was delivered fine.

What To Do If Your IP is on a Blocklist

You can check to see if your local computer’s IP address is on a blacklist by visiting a website such as this one on AboutMyIP or via the Check My IP link at valli.org. Email servers do not necessarily use every RBL, but most usually use some. If you are on a consumer internet provider connection, chances are you will be listed in some and it will usually note that. This is because generally speaking, email does not actually go out on email servers hosted on a consumer internet connection – they provider their own servers for sending email.

You can also check the IP of your outgoing email server if you know it, otherwise your email server system administrator would need to check it at the links above.

On your end, make sure you have antivirus on any computer on your network because if you have been “hacked” and a bot is running on your computer this is a common reason why you might be on a blocklist.

4. When There Is No Error Message At All

If there is no error message, and you have confirmed the email address is correct; it is very possible some anti-spam provisions implemented by the mail server administrator is filtering your email. This can be based on the IP (as above) or based on some content in your email such as an image, phone number, or other text. Unfortunately these can be hard to trace – since there is no error message you need to contact your mail service provider to see what the problem might be.

5. I’ve Checked Everything – What Next?

If you have checked everything and you still can’t send email to someone – it is time to take it to the next level. If you are on a consumer internet connection and you are trying to send email from your provided email address, contact customer service to see what the problem might be. They will probably ask for a sample of the email you are trying to send along with any error messages or codes that you’ve received. Make sure to give them whatever they need to help solve your email mystery as they are your best bet at getting your email working again.

Have you ever had problems sending emails? What did you have to do to get it fixed? Let us know below so that your experience can benefit others!

Image credit: Shutterstock.

  1. Tomas
    December 23, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Thanks the author, very useful advice.
    my pc starts up very slow, which always drive me crazy, I want a program to solve my slow computer, several days ago my friend recommend me a software tuneup360, now I'm waiting for the result.

  2. Perez Studios
    December 17, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Wow, I would love to post these steps on our company website. I get some pretty dumb calls from time to time and these would cut some of the calls in half.

    Thanks!

    • Dave Drager
      December 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      I agree. Most common errors can be solved by a quick google search too, but so many users don't even bother to do that :(

  3. Perez Studios
    December 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Wow, I would love to post these steps on our company website. I get some pretty dumb calls from time to time and these would cut some of the calls in half.

    Thanks!

  4. Craftsmancutter
    December 13, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    My new Gateway ZX4800 has Windows 7 on it . . . although I do not have the full version . . . "why" am I forced to use Wondows Live Mail"?

    Windows Live Mail SUCKS . . . I can not find why there is no spell checker and this is make me think that Windows 7 is so bad.

    So how do I find the spell checker on this Windows 7 thingy?

    • Dave Drager
      December 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      Please ask this in MakeUseOf Answers as this has nothing to do with this topic. Thanks.

  5. Craftsmancutter
    December 13, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    My new Gateway ZX4800 has Windows 7 on it . . . although I do not have the full version . . . "why" am I forced to use Wondows Live Mail"?

    Windows Live Mail SUCKS . . . I can not find why there is no spell checker and this is make me think that Windows 7 is so bad.

    So how do I find the spell checker on this Windows 7 thingy?

  6. Ben Webb
    December 13, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I had never experienced email problems except for some typo errors before. I often use Yahoo and Gmail email services and they do most of the things for me, especially blocking those spam emails.

  7. Raza
    December 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    I cant send emails to Yahoo, Hotmail, Comcast and many many more servers. Kindly help me out.

    • Dave Drager
      December 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm

      There is a good chance your email address or IP address has been listed as a spammer's in the past or currently. Check the blocklists to see what is listed there, if it is listed you will need to 'clean' up your IP (also check for Malware on your network) and then it should automatically be removed from those sites, in time.

  8. seenu
    December 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    My IP address is in some of black list servers

    • Dave Drager
      December 13, 2010 at 12:48 pm

      If you are on a dialup, DSL or other consumer internet line, there is a good chance you will be in at least one - it is usually stated as so in the description. If not, then you should check the individual block server and see if a reason is listed.

  9. Dave Drager
    December 13, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    If you are on a dialup, DSL or other consumer internet line, there is a good chance you will be in at least one - it is usually stated as so in the description. If not, then you should check the individual block server and see if a reason is listed.

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