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lost e-mails due to full mailbox

(5 Posts)
jobhuntersrus Sun 04-Oct-09 08:08:56

Anyone know anything about what happens to your e-mails on a mac when your mailbox is full? We stopped recieving e-mails for a day or so this week due to mailbox being full. So spent ages clearing it all out deleteing stuff. New e-mails now coming through but nothing for those days when it was full. Are those e-mails lost forever? Am job hunting and has sent a few e-mail enquiries. I am worried they replied and the e-mail never came through!

That's a complicated question.

I assume it's the mailbox at your ISP which was full? Typically I would expect your ISP's mail server to return a "temporary failure" to any mail server attempting to deliver. The sending mail server should then queue the message and retry. Normally I would expect messages to be retried for a week, before being marked as undeliverable and returned to the sender.

This all depends on the various servers involved having a normal set up. Some servers have shorter delays to stop the queues taking up too much room, or for other reasons. If I think about it I can imagine various other scenarios where email might be lost.

The bottom line is that email delivery is never guaranteed. If you normally expect a certain amount of email every day and none of your email for that day has come through, then it may well have been returned to the sender, or even lost.

Having re-read your post, I think that I should qualify that last sentence

If none of your email for earlier days has come through 24 hours after you have freed up space in your mailbox, then it may well have been returned to the sender.

The key point is that the email will not be queued on your ISP's mail server. If an email from was presented to your ISP when your mailbox was full, it will have been queued on's mail server. They should retry eventually, but they may well leave a gap of an hour or more between retries after the first 3 or 4 failures. This means that mail from will not come through just because you've got mail from other senders, but it should turn up eventually.

WebDude Sun 04-Oct-09 22:50:05

The way mail servers treat messages is quite variable, and unfortunately it seems so many are set up by young kids people who never knew what it was like when it could take a few days to get through, so they seem to set very short (48 hours or less) limits before throwing away failed mail.

I think CruelAndUnusualParenting is optimistic about there being retries for up to a week... I think with the growth of e-mail (and spammers etc) there must me a lot of mail which is "return to sender" sitting in queues, and staff have perhaps reduced the number of hours/days to not allow their servers to get overflowing with e-mail - it runs to hundreds/ thousands of GB for a big ISP with a couple of million customers, and must be a big cost.

The sender should get a message (in days gone by it was common to get a 'mail has been delayed, still trying' message at the sending end, until it was either sent OK, or failed, and there'd be a 'sorry, given up on sending this' message).

The senders might try again, if the error message they get says "mailbox full", but if they just get some arbitrary "mail failed" then either they will think "too many applicants, too much hassle to chase this" or "one more go", so is partly down to the sender and the server they use, and you use (what message goes back).

Days gone by it was common to double the time between tries. So sending at noon on Wednesday, it might try a second time at 1400 then 1800 then 0200 Thursday, then 1800 Thursday, maybe 1800 on Friday or possibly give up. Depends on the server... You'd see "new" messages from old dates (and in random order, because one message might have 4 goes, another only 3, as it was sent after the other, but while the first was waiting 16 hours before trying again, the message sent an hour later had just finished waiting 8 hours and there was room in your mailbox when it tried to send to you...

I know many ISPs offer free e-mail accounts, but it is sometimes worth paying a fee - I've used and for some time... they both do free trials, and the Fastmail service can be as cheap as US$5 a year (and can be made to work even from behind an office or ISP firewall that blocks all but web browser traffic). You can buy extra mail storage space at modest cost from Fastmail these days - much less than I paid 5+ years ago.

Runbox is more expensive but gives 10 GB of mail storage and 1 GB of file storage and can give you free web hosting of your own domain so you might have (or if '' is already taken)

Google Mail allows several GB of mail so won't 'fill up' but some people might not want to use a free mail account at Google, for job vacancies.

Back to Fastmail (for the benefit of anyone else, esp anyone stuck behind a firewall) - they use a proxy system whereby you can access each service (POP, IMAP, SMTP, etc) through any port number. See bottom of page for details. They charge $20/year for 600 MB of mail storage, and $40 for 6 GB of mail storage (though both reduced by $5 for signups).

jobhuntersrus Mon 05-Oct-09 11:36:13

Thank you for the replies. It seems these systems have a mind of their own sometimes! I am going to keep on top of the mailbox from now on so this never happens again.

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