Over the last month several of the more common e-mail problems have surfaced resulting in varying degrees of problems sending, receiving and deleting e-mail messages. These problems vary depending on the program that you use for e-mail purposes. The most common of these programs currently in use includes Outlook Express & Microsoft Outlook and these are the 2 programs we will discuss in this article.

Outlook Express came packaged with all versions of Windows up until Windows Vista at which time it was replaced first with Windows Mail and later with Windows Live Mail at the time Windows 7 was released. In many ways it is still my favourite e-mail client and has a lot of good features. It does however have a number of structural weaknesses that can act up periodically.

For Windows XP users employing Outlook Express, the major potential problem that can occur is mail box corruption. This is typically caused by an overflow of messages in any one mailbox. The mailboxes most commonly affected are the: Inbox, Sent Items & Deleted Items folders. These mailboxes see the most traffic and are hence the most vulnerable to corruption caused by overflow problems.

Inbox problems occur most often for users that do not create additional mailboxes to file e-mail messages that they no longer need but want to retain for historical purposes. We strongly recommend creating additional mailbox folders to store old messages. These can be organized by customer, supplier or other categories. When you have read and acted upon a particular e-mail just drag and drop it into the appropriate folder for safekeeping. This has the additional benefit of leaving your Inbox dedicated to more recent or ongoing issues that still need to be addressed without having to search for them.


The next Mailbox that often runs into trouble is the Sent Items Folder. This accumulates the history of every e-mail you have sent. This can be useful in confirming the details of what was promised to a particular client, so it can be important to retain this data, just not all in one place. Periodically I like to create another folder like 2009 Sent Items. I perform a mass Drag & Drop of older messages to this sub-folder. If I am looking for some older e-mail correspondence, I look in the year in question.

The last Mailbox that experiences frequent problems is the Deleted Items Folder. Many users delete old e-mail but do not empty this folder. In this case the folder can get quite large over time. It is recommended that you either have this folder empty automatically or that you periodically delete messages older than 2 or 3 months as a suggestion.

More complicated viruses complicate life by blocking the ability of your protection software to get the necessary updates to remove the infection. Some will even identify your Anti-Virus software as infected and block it from running altogether. This requires that you escalate your efforts to remove the virus by rebooting in Safe Mode and retrying the scans.

So what are the symptoms of a damaged or corrupt mailbox? This will generally depend on which mailbox is affected:

Inbox Corruption: Most typically your program will display an error when retrieving mail and no mail will appear in the inbox.

Sent Items Corruption: When you send mail an error will occur and the mail will not appear in Sent Items. Generally the mail does go to the recipient and users send the same piece of mail several times when the error occurs.

Deleted Items Corruption: When you try to delete messages they will not delete.

To correct these problems delete older items and/or move them to other folders and then compact to reorganize the folders. In cases of severe corruption the mailbox may need to be rebuilt in which case you may need to give us a call for assistance. Following the above advice can help avoid permanent data loss.