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Where did my messages go? - 11/06/06

From: Email Guy
Subject:       Where did my messages go?
Date: November 6, 2006 8:49 PM
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We see a couple of reports every day in the Feedback mailbox from users who say that the messages in their Web Mail Inbox disappeared. Since EarthLink never deletes messages from any user's Inbox, we take such reports very seriously. If this has ever happened to you, maybe this explanation will help.

In every single report I've ever investigated, the problem came down to a misunderstanding about how email software works. When we check the logs, invariably the messages were deleted by the use of an email software program like Outlook Express or TA Mailbox, that the user was running on their own computer (sometimes inadvertently), and not from Web Mail.

Could we ever actually lose someone's email due to a problem with our systems? Perhaps. But we go to great lengths to make this a very remote possibility. And I'm not aware of any case when it ever occurred. The mailbox was probably emptied by an email program like Outlook Express and the messages are sitting somewhere on a home or office computer, and therefore can't be viewed anymore in Web Mail. Sometimes another family member or coworker may have inadvertently run the email software that has your account set up, and they accidentally retrieved your messages unknown to you. And course, it could have been you, and you either forgot, or didn't realize how the two ways to check email were different. Again, check any computers that have your email account set up on them in an email software program like Outlook Express or Eudora.

When you check email using email software on your computer, the application uses what is called POP3 protocol to retrieve a copy of the messages from our server and put them on your local computer to be viewed by your email software. And unless you have changed the default settings of your software, it then deletes the server copies for you automatically. This is what is meant by "retrieving" your mail. Most email applications do this automatically when they are run, and then continue to do so on timed intervals unless you shut them down.

Web Mail on the other hand, is a way to view messages that are on our servers using your browser. And it does not make any local copies on your computer. So you can check Web Mail from multiple computers and see the same messages, plus any new ones that have arrived. We never automatically delete any messages from anyone's mailbox except Trash and Spam, which are cleaned periodically for your benefit. So when messages go missing from your Inbox, look on any computers that have your email account set up on them and you will probably find it.

If you often switch between using Web Mail and an email software application on your computer (perhaps at work and at home), you may want to set your software to leave the messages on the server. You can find help changing this setting here (scroll down). Then your messages will always be visible in Web Mail. If you do this you'll need to check Web Mail frequently to make sure your mailbox doesn't fill up and stop accepting messages.

UPDATE: here's a concise answer in response to a user's question, which may also be helpful.

And here's another article where I've updated this information and explained it in more detail.


    « Previous   |   Showing Comments 26-40 of 40

Posted by: Kelly   |   March 6, 2007 1:47 PM    |   (26)

thankyou for having this blog. I think it should be mandatory memorization for all the customer service reps. Of course the outsource language barrier does add an element there. They ask questions. We give answers and then point to those answers in the next 4-5 questions. I think after reading these entries I can proceed to fix my problem. I sure did not get helped by CS.
I was on msnbc.com today and was prompted to click on 'contact us' to respond to a question they raised. When I did that it brought up an email form for me to send to them. I sent it. big mistake! I was on a new XP PC(1) that is waiting for Dell to send a copy of Vista for. Only have used it for web browsing and email via earthlink WEBMAIL.
I went to my work PC(2) and tried to access WEBMAIL. Nothing in my inbox. Went 2 rounds with a couple of CSR's that accused me of having
another email product set up on the machine despite my explanation that MSNBC contact probably used express to send and in the process set up express on the new PC(1). My first question was also what did Earthlink do with my inbox emails. Nothing I realize now after reading your blog. Something similar happened to me 3 years ago on a client machine that did not have email set up. The only thing I am wondering about is could Earthlink not have something set up that would ask you if you wanted it to be the default once it has been rendered helpless by MSN's products initiation? I know this is not tech support but be rest assured they didnt know how to resolve this. One guy was actually trying to set me up on Outlook. The other lady kept asking me to look for a version on WEBMAIL. very frustrating. but at least we are fortunate for your blog which has pointed me to the outlook express set up. I just hope my inbox 50 messages dont get lost in the process.
I also have to figure out how to export my 200 meg of stored email so I too can leave earthlink email eventually or will need to stop buying PC's I guess. Too bad, I like the WEBMAIL convenience and reliability. Feb 16 2006 is the only time I remember email being down for the last 5 years. But the fact that your email can be downloaded by another PC without you entering your PW is frightning.

Thanks for your comments. Here's a couple things:

I think you'll find the messages. That link you clicked simply opened your computer's default email software. Also, you will be getting 1GB of storage later this year, so thanks for being patient. On your last statement, no email can be downloaded without your password. But email software lets you store your password so you don't have to enter it anymore, if that is what you mean. Your software sends the password automatically. At some time in the past, probably when you first installed your EarthLink access, your email account was set up on your computer.

Email Guy

Posted by: Kelly   |   March 7, 2007 5:03 PM    |   (27)

Thanks emailguy. 1G sounds great. Found my inbox emails. They were in TotalAccess which had been installed by Dell when they asked me for my ISP/email carriers when I purchased the PC. Both Totalaccess and Express now have the box checked that says 'leave emails on server'. So they should always be in my Webmail, now. Had to send them to a free email account and forward them back to Webmail snce both Totalaccess and Webmail use the same webid.

I did come up with a backup plan in case I am on a machine somewhere that does not have 'leave on server' checked to alleviate losing emails in the inbox. I created a myinbox folder. At the beginning and end of each day I select all inbox emails and move them to myinbox folder until I can review them all. Only the email in the inbox are 'taken' by the non Webmail email software like Express, Outlook and Totalaccess.

The only emails that were not recovered were 2 or 3 that were years old. They were emails I was 'going to get to one of these days' that were obviously not that important. Probably to old for
Totalaccess to retain.

One question. I use myearthlink, webmail, scamblocker, popupblocker, etc. Is there a way to get rid of TotalAccess mail.?

By the way, the reason Totalaccess was able to access the emails without asking is that I had the PC memorize my email address and pw when using Webail. Not doing that again.

It sounds like you figured out how to remove the saved passwords in the account settings. You can remove EarthLink Mailbox or Outlook Express in the same way you uninstall other software. On Windows XP click Start / Settings / Control Panel / Add-Remove Programs. Total Access Mailbox will show up there are "EarthLink Mailbox" and it is a separate component from your other EarthLink features.

Also keep in mind that no email software on your computer will retrieve messages unless you run that software. Just don't ever open them if you only want to use Web Mail.

Email Guy

Posted by: Tam King   |   March 16, 2007 3:59 AM    |   (28)

Dear emailguy,

How do I view the oldest emails I have stored on my webmail account? I have a lot of very old emails that I'd like to access, but I can only view the latest emails that fall on the first three pages of my account. (My account only lets me go back three pages).

I know the old emails are still being stored on the server because they are taking up storage space. Also, whenever I delete an email from one of the first three pages, one of the older emails will move up to the bottom of page 3.

I'm using Web Mail 5.13.1, and no external webmail programs. Please help!

I have rebuilt the index on your mailbox to make sure you are seeing correct quota information, and also to hopefully clear up this trouble. This is the first I've ever heard of anyone encountering what you describe. If it continues, please send email to email-guy at earthlink dot net and we'll investigate further.

Note to others: that address only accepts messages I have specifically asked for in advance, and all others are immediately deleted.

Email Guy

Posted by: Carl Monson   |   April 2, 2007 9:41 AM    |   (29)

I was reading my email on webmail yesterday, 4/1/07, and got a message note in lower right corner that 700+ ( i do not remember the exact number but remember it was ove 700) messages had been received. That message, nor any like had ever been received by me before. Instead of being received, they were "deleted" from my inbox. Most had been read, but i chose to save them in that inbox file. Some had not been read. Is there any way to recover these? They did not go to "trash" like other messages from the inbox i had marked to delete. They are just gone.

That indicator was not from Web Mail, it was from the other email software you have running. Your messages are now in that software and can be viewed there. If that was not your intention then you need to shut down that software, or at least go to the account settings in that program and set it to "Leave Messages on Server".

Email Guy

Posted by: Ella Temprosa   |   July 9, 2007 3:05 PM    |   (30)

dear email guy,

can you tell me how I can export my saved email in another folder in webmail down to my local email software? I tried customer service on 2 levels and the best that they can say is that i have to forward every single email to another account, huh??? Is there a better way? even an xml export or something is better.


The last paragraph in this FAQ may be helpful.

Email Guy

Posted by: mary   |   November 13, 2007 10:19 PM    |   (31)

please excuse my stupidity...i opened webmail this evening to find almost all my messages gone. i read faq and comments but since i do not have an alternate email program set up on this computer, i'm at a loss as to how to find the messages. i was on live help with at earthlink but the tech ended the session abruptly. i realize from reading the articles that the messages should be available somewhere on the computer (actually two computers...i use webmail strictly on the one with vista home basic (accessed through netscape navigator) and the other computer does have an inoperable netscape 7.1 program on it that i've been unable to access for over a month (which i why i changed to webmail). i would appreciate it if you could lead me in the right direction to access the messages that seem to have disappeared from the webmail inbox. thank you.

Your email is definitely being retrieved by other email software on one of your computers, and you will find the messages there. Most recently this has happened at these times:
Nov 13, 6:33:23 PM EST
Nov 13, 6:44:46 PM EST
Nov 13, 11:28:44 PM EST (3 times within 2 minutes here)

Check the other email software installed on your computer, and see this FAQ for more help.

Email Guy

Posted by: Anna Vervoort   |   November 14, 2007 12:24 PM    |   (32)

To add to "Mary" from Nov. 13 Message #31... I also have had my messages disappear from my inbox. Sent messages and trashed messages stay there, but I 've had incoming messages disappear before I read them. THEY ARE NOT EVEN ON MY COMPUTER FOR 1 DAY????? I went to help and they suggested I go to preferences, which I did and thought I had successfully changed my settings so that this would not happen (do not auto-delete). I read Mary's comment and I do pull my Email from 2 separate computers (home and during lunch at my office). I have checked the verizon sysytem (office) that send my mail to Outlook, and it's not there. I don't know what else to do. The message I got the time before last, said "self-cleaning".

Read this FAQ for more help. Your message were retrieved and deleted by the other email software on your computer, and you will find them there. I've confirmed from your mailbox logs that this is the case. Change the setting in your other email software (not Web Mail) so that it leaves all messages on the server. You'll find this in the Account settings.

Messages in the Inbox are never deleted by EarthLink for any reason, and there is no setting that you can use to even make this happen. There is no setting to change in Web Mail and no self-cleaning, and there is no auto-delete setting for the Web Mail Inbox. You may have seen that note on the Trash or Spam folders, where there are options for self-cleaning (controlled by the user). There isn't any such option for the Inbox.

Email Guy

Posted by: Frank Vorlicek   |   January 18, 2008 9:10 AM    |   (33)

Dear email guy,

I use Outlook Express (but NOT Earthlink Total Access).
I read in one of your postings that the email I retreive to MY computer is stored on MY computer in something called ELNKMAIL.MDB
I'll be dammed if I can find it. Is it because I don't use Total Access?
And if not, where is my retrieved email stored on MY computer?

BTW after having read your postings I have changed my account settings so that my mail STAYS on EARTHLINK server.

Have been earthling customer since 1998 and am very happy.
Frank V

That file is used by EarthLink Mailbox, not Outlook Express. Outlook Express stores messages and other data in .dbx files, which is a proprietary format not used by anything but Outlook Express. You will usually find the files in this location:

\Documents and Settings\(user)\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\

You can find or change that location inside Outlook Express, by clicking Tools / Options / Maintenance / Store Folder.

Email Guy

Posted by: ewidick   |   January 23, 2008 4:57 PM    |   (34)

I had earthlink and lost my emails or became corrupt... I don't know! I am looking for the files where my emails on my harddrive were stored so I may recover some info! Thanks
I used Total Access and let it set up as default. I just need to know where the emails are - is it a dbf/mdb file?

On Windows XP the files are stored at:

"Documents and Settings\your_windows_profile\Application Data\Earthlink\6.0\Identities\"

The email is in .mdb files (standard Access database) and there are other files in that folder with the settings and other information about the mailbox.

Email Guy

Posted by: della   |   April 25, 2008 1:10 PM    |   (35)

I evidently pushed 'block' instead of 'delete' on an e-mail a friend sent me. Now, whenever she sends me an e-mail it is blocked. I have, repeatedly, gone in and deleted her e-mail address from the 'block' section, but everytime she sends me an e-mail it goes into the blocked file. How can I remedy this?

There is no folder for messages blocked by you on the Blocked Sender List, they are deleted on delivery. You must be referring to the Known Spam folder. If the messages are in there, it is not related to your personal Blocked Sender List or to anything you did. See this FAQ for help with that problem.

Email Guy

Posted by: Jack   |   July 1, 2008 10:33 PM    |   (36)

I accidentally edited a Word doc while it was open in webmail rather than DLing it to my PC. I saved it and now it is nowhere to be found. It was my mistake but is there someplace I can look in Earthlink folders to retrieve the lost work? Next time I'll know to save it to My Docs BEFORE working. Is there anywhere ELSE it could be (like on the Earthlink server) if I can't find it on my PC...which is the case as of now. This account never uses Total Access, only webmail. Thanks.

If you open a doc in your browser that way, by default it will be saved to the Temporary Internet Files folder. When the save dialog comes up, you have to change that location to save a copy elsewhere (or save the doc before editing as you mention). If you are using IE as your browser, you can find it in the temporary folder by clicking Tools / Internet Options / Settings (for temporary files) / View Files. Or you can just use My Computer and locate that folder in your Documents and Settings (I"m assuming you are using Windows).

Email Guy

Posted by: Wendy Powers   |   July 16, 2008 7:31 PM    |   (37)

Suddenly, without doing anything nor even being close to reaching maximum quota in my web mail box, all of my mail was deleted! GONE! The only mail I still had (8 pieces) went to the spam file and it was not spam . . so I forwarded it to my inbox. This has happened many time over the years, but it just happened just a few minutes ago. WHY? This is not O.K.! I pay a monthly service fee for this e-mail address and the web mail service. This is unacceptable. I am also getting hundreds of pieces of spam every week . . most of them about pharmaceuticals like viagra for cheap. I never open any of them. I always delete all of them, but do not put all of the addresses into the blocked e-mail file as it has a limit of 500 . . which is not efficient at all. WHY DOES MY MAIL GET DELETED? I have read all of your many explanations, but not one of them fits my situation. I did nothing, changed nothing and did not set anything to do this - it just happened! NOT O. K. ! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

The logs show that you are downloading your messages to other email software, not Web Mail, many times every day. You will find the messages in that software. Spam filtering is not related to deleting messages.

Email Guy

Posted by: Steve   |   July 17, 2008 1:13 AM    |   (38)

Blaming email mistakes on local client software is pointless. Everybody makes mistakes, and software or connections are subject to failure.

Why don't you (Earthlink) set up a trash bin for POP3 accounts that auto-empties every 24 hours, instead of permanently deleting?

Then, if a person or client software inadvertently deletes an important message, at least the user would have a chance to recover it within 24 hours of the loss.

This wouldn't take huge amounts of additional storage space on your servers because of the autodelete iun 24 hours.

I just lost a good chunk of mail because of a client malfunction (due to an uncompacted mail folder causing a program download glitch). It would have been extremely helpful if I could have accessed a trash bin at earthlink via the web email interface to recover it.

Downloaded messages are usually not lost, they are simply stored on the user's computer rather than our server. In Web Mail, we do keep messages that you delete from within Web Mail, as the Trash folder is saved for a default of 14 days and you can set it to save forever. But when a user downloads and deletes messages from the server, we have no control over that. I agree it might be nice if we had a backup copy in case of user error, but on a massive scale that isn't practical, which is why no large email service provider can do this for individual users.

For the case you describe, you simply set your client software to not delete the server copies upon download. Most users who use both POP and Web Mail do it that way. Then you always have two copies. And after you have archived your local data periodically then you can delete them from the server via Web Mail anytime it is convenient.

Email Guy

Posted by: corinne   |   November 27, 2008 8:14 AM    |   (39)

I accidentally deleted then trashed an important message that I did not read. Is there a way to retrieve it from wherever it went after I trashed it?
PLEASE advise....

When you Delete a message in Web Mail, it is placed in the Trash folder. When you empty the Trash folder, those messages are permanently deleted, as indicated on the popup confirmation that you must say Yes to when you empty the Trash. There is no way to recover them.

Email Guy

Posted by: Shawn   |   November 26, 2010 6:10 PM    |   (40)

Even though this is an old post I figured I would post my experience with this as this thread is the first result when googling "earthlink mdb".

I'm a computer tech that was working on a customers system today. He cancelled his account with earthlink a couple months ago. EL tech/support person exported his email in an .mdb format so it could be reimported into another mail program.

I spent over an hour trying various utilities to either convert his mail to csv or open it in Outlook so it could be converted or accessed. Finally after speaking with EL tech support online it turns out the the .mdb files exported by EL can not be converted or opened by other utilities! Normally this wouldnt be an issue, but his account was terminated two months prior. Oh and it was a waste of my time also :) .

Yes, it's somewhat of a gray area. He should have exported his mail. At the same time he is computer challenged and to expect customers to know how to do this is a bit optimistic. On the other hand: If you work for an ISP and export customers data - EXPORT IT IN A NON-PROPRIETARY FORMAT! And no, the files would not open properly in Access on two different machines also.

So... if you have .mdb files for your mail, but no EL mail app (or whatever EL customers use for email client - I'm assuming some type of web mail) you're out of luck.

    « Previous   |   Showing Comments 26-40 of 40

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