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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.


    Showing Comments 1-25 of 40   |   Next »   |   End »

Posted by: Anonymous   |   November 13, 2006 4:55 AM    |   (1)

Probably more email 'disappears' because of earthlink taking all the email away if customers don't login as frequently as you folks want. Shouldn't it be up to the customer how often they login. If god forbid, you can't login for a while all you mail disappears and new incoming messages aren't even allowed in.

And with this abuse of their customers by earthlink, you have the nerve to blame the customer for their lost email?

Posted by: Email Guy   |   November 13, 2006 7:16 AM    |   (2)

Well, no email has actually been lost at all in the situation described in the article above, and no one is being blamed. We're talking about email that has been retrieved by the customer to their local computer and is no longer on the server or viewable in Web Mail. This can sometimes be confusing to users.

The situation you refer to is one where a mailbox has not been accessed by the user for three months, and in that case, no email is taken away. That mailbox simply doesn't accept new email after that until such time as it is reattended by the user. We have a great many mailboxes that are simply created and then abandoned since we allow users to create multiple mailboxes at will. So this policy prevents those abandoned ones from filling up with unwanted spam and taking up bandwidth and storage from all users. And it is optional, as any mailbox with the vacation message enabled will continue to accept new messages, and any mailbox with forwarding enabled will continue to accept new messages.

Posted by: george levenback   |   November 13, 2006 10:55 AM    |   (3)

I am getting some emails on my webh mail which don't appear in my total access inbox. Is there a way to delete the web mail or assure that all mail comes to my total access mail box?

Posted by: Email Guy   |   November 13, 2006 11:00 AM    |   (4)

Hi George - Your Total Access Mailbox (and other email software) should retrieve everything that is present in the Inbox as it appears in Web Mail. It cannot retrieve messages in other folders, which are only used by Web Mail. Note that your email software will only retrieve a specific message once, and will then ignore it on subsequent mail checks, and not retrieve it again.

Posted by: Eli Polonsky   |   November 13, 2006 2:47 PM    |   (5)

The original issue here is that some messages in the Web Mail inbox online occasionally seem to disappear. I say "seem" because I have found that they are not actually deleted. They are still there, but they are temporarily not being displayed, and therefore they can not be clicked on to open at that time. It appears that they are no longer on the server, but they are.

I have found that I can make the "dissapeared" messages reappear by trying two things. First, I try emptying the Web Mail "Trash" folder, if it has other messages in it that I actually had deleted. If that doesn't work, I log out of Web Mail, and then log back in again. That always "brings back" those "disappeared" messages to the inbox for me. It's apparently one of those weird intermittent glitchy things.

Posted by: K   |   November 15, 2006 7:34 PM    |   (6)

Nothing you described seems to help. I actually watched mail in my inbox disappear. What happened prior to that was that I couldn't click on next to get to the next message, but had to go back to messages or to inbox after reading each message. When I did that, it deleted messages each time.

Posted by: Email Guy   |   November 15, 2006 8:15 PM    |   (7)

K - if you are unable to click messages in the preview list to view them, you need to delete the cache in your browser (temporary files). In Safari, I believe you click on "Clear Cache". Then close the browser and restart it. Don't just close the window, shut down the browser application after clearing the cache. Then this problem will definitely go away. See what happens then. I'll contact you directly for more.

Posted by: K   |   November 16, 2006 11:54 PM    |   (8)

Nothing you suggested helps. I still have the same problem. I find it strange that this is occurring now. I've been with earthlink for some time now and have not changed anything. Why is this happening????

Posted by: Email Guy   |   November 17, 2006 9:52 AM    |   (9)

K - I'll contact you directly and we'll see if we can figure this out.

Posted by: sue tifft   |   November 28, 2006 3:07 PM    |   (10)

Have lost 5 email in te last week.Read mail and then lose it.Am tired of being outsourced.

Posted by: Terry Wilson   |   December 7, 2006 12:24 PM    |   (11)

i just updated to a new computer and i am trying to remove all my email and addresses from my old computer to the new cpu. i use earthlink with total access email. i cant figure this out where is the email stored at on my cpu?? i have been trying this for 3 days now. the old computer will not boot up so i cant just read them. i have hooked up the old hard drive to my new computer but cant locate the email. HELP PLEASE!!!

Posted by: Email Guy   |   December 7, 2006 2:31 PM    |   (12)

Terry - that software stores the messages in two files called EMaster.MDB and ElnkMail.MDB. You can search for them on the drive. If you have XP, they will be in the "Documents and Settings/your_profile folder. I *think* you could just copy those two files to your new installation. To be really safe, when you find them get all the files in that location and copy them over to an installation that is using the same version of the Mailbox software. Disclaimer: you're sort of on your own on this one.

Posted by: Klaranne   |   December 7, 2006 6:13 PM    |   (13)

I have the same problem with loosing e-mails. You read one then go back to the inbox and it is empty. Where do they go????
For this reason I will be leaving earthlink in the near future. I have lost way to may e-mails. My friends wonder why I am not answereing their e-mail. How can I when I don't get the chance to read them. This is very frustrating.

Posted by: Email Guy   |   December 7, 2006 8:48 PM    |   (14)

Klaranne - I just checked the logs for your account, and you definitely have software other than Web Mail checking your account and deleting the messages. It appears to be doing this constantly too, all day long, which explains why messages "disappear" when you are in Web Mail. They have been downloaded by your other email software and removed from the server. It also looks like there are two different computers doing this (not counting Web Mail), so you either have left email software running somewhere, or someone else is checking your account and deleting messages. I'm guessing that when you go online, you have another email program running and just don't realize it, and you go to Web Mail to check your mail too. You may need to change your password if software on another computer is checking your email unknown to you. Either way, those messages have been copied to a local computer somewhere that has your email account set up on it. So I hope you find them. I will also contact you directly and provide you more information if you need it.

Rest assured, EarthLink never deletes any messages from any user's Inbox. Once the message gets there, it just isn't really possible for us to "lose" it, unless we were to have some catastrophic failure affecting thousands of users at once on a server, and fortunately that hasn't happened.

Posted by: Tia   |   December 9, 2006 11:43 PM    |   (15)

Yesterday, December 8th while using webmail all of my inbox messages dissapeared. They are nowhere to be found. This is the first time I have ever experienced this and am I very concerned about it happening again. I have just changed my password as suggested. I really would like to have my inbox messages back. Any suggestions?

Posted by: George vonHilsheimer   |   December 11, 2006 1:46 PM    |   (16)

I received notice that 10 friends had been blocked by the antispam robot.
1. I did not ask for antispam, I know how to use delete.
2. All 10 are old friends or clients and have been transacting with me by
email not less than a year.
3. in one case there were 6 e-mails, in two 2, and 7 others, just one
e-mail. If you were dumb you might tread the 6X sender as junk mail, but all the Subjects were different, etc etc.
How do I get the SPAM robot to shut off? or at least calm down?

George von

Posted by: Email Guy   |   December 11, 2006 2:44 PM    |   (17)

George - make sure you didn't inadvertently turn on the Suspect Email blocking, which requires senders to be in your Address Book. Click spamBlocker then Settings to check this. If you did not, then the default level of spam blocking would not have caused what you describe, as only Known Spam is filtered. You can view all messages marked as Known Spam by going to the spamBlocker / Settings and changing the setting for "Delete Known Spam immediately".

Posted by: angela   |   December 19, 2006 11:09 AM    |   (18)

Thanks for responding to my feedback. I have followed the instructions in the article (check Outlook Express, change password) and still can't find the missing Inbox emails. I use Webmail exclusively. I have Outlook Express set up for my mail, but never use it. The only time I have used Outlook Express since setting it up months ago was during the Live Chat session after the Web Mail emails disappeared. During the Live Chat, I opened Outlook Express to see if I could find the missing emails. Outlook Express retrieved from Web Mail several new test emails I created during the chat, but the original Inbox emails were not there in Outlook Express. It is possible that there are automatic settings in my Outlook Express that retrieve emails from Web Mail, but could they also delete the messages automatically once they are retrieved into Outlook Express? I will check my Outlook settings. Or, as the article states, another account could be retrieving my email without my knowledge, and that becomes a security issue. I am curious about what happened to the Inbox messages. I have received "corrupt" messages in my Web Mail before, but did not receive these when the Inbox messages disappeared. They were just gone.

Posted by: Email Guy   |   December 19, 2006 11:51 AM    |   (19)

Angela - changing the setting or the password will only stop it from happening again. Messages that already got retrieved and deleted from the server are on a computer in your email software somewhere. To change the setting in Outlook Express to leave messages on the server, look here (scroll down).

Posted by: James Schwarz   |   January 2, 2007 5:29 AM    |   (20)

We use webmail exclusively and do not have any email program set up for messages from our earthlink account. On probably Dec 22 or 23, 2006, we accessed webmail from a relative's computer, which definitely doesn't have any email program set up re our earthlink account, and seem to have lost a critical email as follows: in webmail on our relative's computer, we first attempted to print the email but had a printer jam, then directed webmail to move the email from one folder to another, then exited the program. Since that time, the email has disappeared. We have searched every folder including the trash folder. This was an old email, dated about Sept 5,6,or 7, 2005, so it has sat on the server for a long time before disappearing. Is there any possibility under these circumstances that it can be recovered? What could have happened to it? Our use of webmail has mostly been free of these troubles.

Posted by: Perry   |   January 11, 2007 1:44 PM    |   (21)

I've had the same problems. For me, if I try to send e-mails to certain sites, those sites will somehow make my e-mail disappear. To find my disappeared messages I close all windows that are open. I then click on "Mail" on the Earthlink Control Center Tool Bar at the top (or bottom;wherever you have it) of my desktop with no windows still open. That then shows me every single e-mail that I've mysteriously lost. I haven't figured out how to retrieve them back into my web-mail inbox, but I can view them the same as if I were online. It's weird, but true.

Posted by: Email Guy   |   January 11, 2007 1:51 PM    |   (22)

There isn't anything weird about it, that is exactly what I've explained above. Your messages have been retrieved by your Total Access Mailbox software and deleted from the server, and are not accessible to Web Mail anymore as they are now on your computer and not on our server. Reread the article above, then consider changing the setting in your software using the link provided above.

Posted by: john   |   January 25, 2007 10:21 AM    |   (23)

My problem is not getting all of my emails using Total Access and having some of them disappear after moving them from "suspect mail" into my mailbox. These same emails seems to be getting to my my Outlook Express mailbox. I do not believe Earthlink knows how to solve this problem. I was told it may be a McAfee problem, but could it be a problem with IE7, I recently upgraded to? In any case, if this problem is not resolved soon, I will definitely switch away from Earthlink's email service.

Posted by: Email Guy   |   January 25, 2007 6:07 PM    |   (24)

John - when you perform that action, the messages are moved into your Inbox on our server, as if they were newly delivered. They are not being moved into your Total Access on your local computer. That will then happen on the very next mail check you do with Total Access. Just like it does next time you check with Outlook, as you mentioned. If you use either one of those and it is set to delete your messages from the server, then no other software can see those messages. Which is why you are getting them in Outlook and not in Total Access. You should set one or both of them to leave messages on the server, and only retrieve messages with the one you want to store the message in.

Posted by: Beck   |   February 13, 2007 5:27 PM    |   (25)

Lately, I have emails come in without text. Somehow the text was eliminated. Also, I found out that some of emails were returned to the sender without any reason. Can you please suggest what may have happened?


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