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Knowledgebase: Troubleshooting
Why am I not able to receive email?
Posted on 20 December 2003 06:21 AM
If you are having trouble actually connecting to your POP3 server and your domain name has in fact fully propagated, this tutorial will help you narrow down where the problem might be. Additionally, if you have a large email that your email program cannot seem to download and you just want to delete it, this tutorial will show you how.

The most common reason for not being able to receive email is that the email address is set up to forward to an outside email account. If your shell email address is set to forward to an outside email account, you will not be able to log into your mail server for it (as there would be no need to do so). You can control this feature from your CNC panel.

If the mail is not being forwarded and you are still unable to retrieve email, it is possible that your ISP is either blocking your access to outside servers on port 110 (the port used for receiving email), or they could be intercepting the connection, forcing your mail connections through their own POP server.

There is an easy way to test this. It involves using your telnet program, and connecting to your mail server in the same way your email program does. This way you can see the exact conversation that takes place between your mail program and your mail server.

If you are using Windows, click on Start --> Run. Type in "telnet", without the quotes, and click 'Ok'. The Windows telnet client should launch.

On Windows 95/98/ME, click on 'Terminal' and then "Preferences". This will bring up a dialog box.

(On later versions of Windows, such as Windows Vista and Windows 7, telnet is not installed by default. See the following: Install Telnet Client).

Make sure the following options are checked:

    Local Echo
    Block Cursor

Click on "Ok".

Now click on "Connect" and then "Remote System" and fill in the following:

    Host Name: yourdomain.com
    Port: 110
    Term Type: vt100

Make sure not to leave the port set to "telnet", the default. For POP3, it needs to be port 110. Click on "ok".

Windows 2000 users, simply type in the following in your telnet window:

    open domain.com 110

Make sure to replace domain.com with your domain name.

If you are not using Windows or are using a different telnet client, the above steps may be different. The important thing is that your port is set to 110, and the remote host is set to your domain name or IP address.

You should now see:


If you see something else (such as login:), you are probably using the wrong port. Double check your settings and try again.

If you cannot connect, your ISP is probably blocking this port. If this is the case, your program might appear to hang and/or you may receive a Connection Timeout (or similar) error message.

If you can connect, but you see something other than the FutureQuest® +OK prompt in the welcome message (perhaps you might see something with 'proxy.aol.com' in it), your ISP is not blocking the port -- rather they are intercepting your connection.

In either of the above cases, you will need to contact your ISP for further assistance. You might want to have this tutorial and your telnet session handy when you call them, for reference.

If you have connected successfully to the mail server, the following steps will take you through the rest of the process.

First, we need to log in. Unlike other protocols, POP3 does not explicitly ask for authentication; you must provide this yourself. Type the following:

    user username

This is simply the word 'user', followed by a single space, then followed by your username. You should see:


Now we need to enter a password. Similar to the above, we will now type:

    pass password

Make sure to replace password with your account password. You might want to look over your shoulder, as the POP3 protocol does not mask your password while you type it.

If you see:

    -ERR authorization failed

This means you have not typed your password or username correctly. You will need to login and try again. Note that while the [backspace] key may appear to work on your screen, standard terminal emulators do not usually send the Backspace key correctly, and it will not have the effect it might appear to have. So type carefully!

If you instead see:

    -ERR unable to scan $HOME/Maildir

This usually means that you are on one of the older servers (without a dedicated IP address), and you have forgotten to use the VMIP part of your login. The VMIP is usually 'x' followed by your domain name (without the .com). For FutureQuest.net, the VMIP would be xaota. So to log in, you would use xaota-username, where username is the login name for the POP account being tested.

Next, let's obtain a list of messages in your mailbox (if any). You might want to send yourself a test message before proceeding -- but note that it will not show up until you log in again if you are logged in while the mail arrives.

To obtain a list of messages, simply type:


Each message is represented by an index, which is simply the number of the message starting with 1, followed by the size of the message in bytes.

To view the message, type 'retr' followed by the message index. For example, to view message number 1, type:

    retr 1

Note: If you do this on a rather large message, it might cause problems with your telnet program -- especially if there are binary files attached. Usually restarting your telnet program is all that is needed if this happens.

If you see a rather large email that is perhaps causing problems, and you wish to delete the message, you can do so with the 'dele' command. CAUTION: We cannot be responsible if you accidentally delete an email message that should not have been deleted! So be very careful with this option.

As an example, if someone emailed you a very large file, and because of this your email program will not finish checking mail and times out each time, you might look for something like this:

    1 2034
    2 421
    3 5012431
    4 3319

In this case, message number 3 is about 5 megabytes in size, and is probably the one causing problems. To eliminate this problem, we would type:

    dele 3

Note: The POP server will not actually delete the mail until/unless you properly log out from the mail server, which brings us to our final command:


You guessed it -- this logs us out of the POP server and closes the connection.

There are, of course, many more POP commands, but for the purposes of this tutorial, these are the most important to learn when troubleshooting email problems. Note that this procedure will not help if you are having problems sending email, as sending and receiving are two different protocols.