Internet Support: Troubleshooting the 4 Most Common Email Errors

27. October 2011 Internet Support 0

Last month I discussed ways in which you could easily verify your Internet connection status. This month I will cover a few things that might save you some time troubleshooting and resolving your email issues. As before, I will also help provide direction about who to speak with or what you can do to resolve these problems in the fastest time possible so you can move on.

So, we’re again back at the office, it’s almost closing time and you just have to get that last report emailed and the email just won’t send. You’ve verified that your Internet connection is working fine so that can’t be it. Time to check your email software…

Before going further I want to say that there are so many email clients and different versions of those clients out there that it is impossible to cover all possibilities for all email clients within this post. Skyway West has a web page that provides setup instructions for a few of the most common web clients.

So then, where were we? …oh yeah, can’t get the email out. The first and most obvious check: does your software load properly? If so, go on to the next step. If not, time to call in your IT tech to have a look at your computer.

Assuming your message is still in the outbox waiting to send, as your mail client starts up it (e.g., Microsoft Outlook) should try and send the message and receive new ones. Typically send happens first. Note that if your message is large this could take a few minutes. Also note that if you still have your message in the queue waiting to send you may not receive any new email until the message in queue has been delivered. If your message goes (and/or new messages come in), then restarting the email software may have been all that was needed to resolve your problem. You may want to to talk to your IT Professional about this issue, as there may be something in the software settings they need to address. If there was no activity on restarting your email client, try to force a send and receive of your email.

If messages still don’t come or go, you may have received an error message. Depending on the error, you should be able to take appropriate action. Below I will present four of the most common email errors and their general solutions. If ever in doubt, please either contact Skyway Support ( – 604-482-1212), or talk to your computer tech. Here, then, are some of the most common errors:

“Can’t communicate with server”: Generally speaking there could be two reasons for this error. Either something has changed on the mail server or the main client, or the server may be down. If you haven’t already done so, restart your email client and try to send and receive email again. If you get the same error message, call Skyway West Support. You may also need to involve your tech but Support will make that suggestion if needed.

“Bad username or bad password”: This error most often turns up if there was a brief Internet connection issue or a glitch in the mail client that causes a password reset. A wrong password then gets accidentally entered (or a correct password misspelled), and you’re stuck. First have your authorized Administrator contact Skyway West and confirm your user ID and password. The support tech you speak with can also guide you through the process of entering the password correctly on your computer.

“Message too large”: Skyway West, like most ISPs, puts a cap on the size of any email going through our mail server. This is to protect our mail server from being overwhelmed by an email loop. When email was first created it was meant to send simple text messages. Attachments were not considered until much later, but once they became an integral part of email it became apparent that email servers did not like attachments added if they were in their original form. Email was intended, after all, only to send text. Someone came up with the idea of converting attachments into a text format and eureka!, mail attachments were born.

The one con that came out of this process was that an attachment could effectively double in size once converted to text, with compressed graphic formats and other compressed files the worst culprits. Document files usually don’t suffer too much as long as there are no graphics embedded within the document. The maximum size of an attachment Skyway West allows is 30 MB after being converted to text. The best rule of thumb, then, is not to attach files larger than 15 MB before text conversion. Anything larger will be sent back to you with the “message too large” error coded in the message.

If you absolutely have to send a large attachment, best practice is to use an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server. If you must send the file by email, break the attachment into smaller files, compress them if possible, and send the attachment across multiple emails. Consult your IT personnel for information on how to do this.

“User unknown”: This error usually refers to a problem with the address of the recipient of your email. This could be anything from a mistyped email address, to having quotes around the recipient’s name when pulling it from your address book, to an email address book corruption. Contact Skyway West Support if you’re confident that the email address is not the problem. We can help you determine what else it might be.

Some errors may require you to reinstall your email software. If it comes down to that please ask your IT support to assist you. WARNING! A wrong move could delete all your email. I highly recommend that you back up your mail and other data regularly AND periodically test to make sure your back-up is working in case one day you need to restore.

Mail problems other than the four common errors above will pop up from time to time. They can be on either end of your connection – the mail client or the mail server.  Because of this, problems with email can be difficult for you to diagnose, and you may need our help along the way. Your Skyway Support team is here for you when you need us, as close as a phone call away. And, as always, drop me a line if you have a question or comment about anything in my post. I always appreciate the feedback.