Not receiving email

Why am I not receiving email?

Common causes

The most common causes for people not being able to receive email are:

No automatic collection (POP)

You have a file called .noautomail in your home directory. This prevents the system from automatically collecting your mail. See Using IMAP (General Usage) for an explanation of why you might do this.

Over disk quota

You are over quota, or your .Xauthority file does not have write permission set, which is interpreted as being over quota. Either way the system will not allocate you the disk space needed to read new mail.

Mail forwarded to another address

You have a mail alias which is redirecting all your mail elsewhere. Type mlalias <username> or visit the Account Control Panel (and click Mail: Forwarding) to check.

Corrupted IMAP cache files

You have corrupt files in your IMAP cache. This can cause issues with Dovecot and prevent the viewing of mail via IMAP. Delete your .imap/ folders located in your mail directory, usually mail/.imap/ (and sometimes mail/mail/.imap/ may also exist).

Mail files locked

A mail program has crashed (or otherwise exited uncleanly) and left behind a .incoming-mail.lock file and possibly a kernel file lock. Removing the lock file and the kernel lock will allow mail to flow. Run getmail -t to see whether this is happening. You will get a message like this: getmail: cannot lock mail file: File exists If you run mutt -f mailbox this will unlock and display the file mailbox for you. Use Control-C to quit mutt.

An older, complicated way of clearing a mail lock

cp -p .incoming-mail rm -i .incoming-mail rm -i .incoming-mail.lock mv .incoming-mail

Large messages

Your getmail process is blocked on a too-big email in your mailbox on the mailserver (i.e. you don't have enough diskquota to collect the mail). Download it to somewhere that isn't restricted by your disk quota, such as /tmp, with getmail -1 > /tmp/big-mail-file or similar. You can then view the contents of the email by opening up this file, and then suitably admonish the person who sent it to you.

SGI machine

If your machine is an SGI, check you have a file called .mailrc containing the line 'o inbox' in your home directory. You may also need a file called .automail.

Quick diagnosis

A quick way to check what's going on is to run the command getmail -t This will provide some clue as to why you're not getting any email. If you see lots of output, followed by a line like 76 messages transferred to /import/kamen/1/rlawther/.incoming-mail it means everything is working fine, and chances are that you've got a .noautomail file as described above. If you see something like -su-2.05b$ getmail -t <- +OK note POP3 server ready (can-local) -> LOCAL <- +OK I'll keep it to myself -> CAPA <- +OK Capability list follows -> LOCAL <- +OK I'll keep it to myself -> USER rlawther <- +OK Mailbox is open -> RPOP rlawther <- +OK -> STAT <- +OK 0 0 0 messages transferred to /import/kamen/1/rlawther/.incoming-mail It means you just don't have any mail. Send yourself a test email to check if it gets through. If getmail -t complains that it cannot get a lock on your mail file, then follow the instructions above on how to fix this.
Last edited by Craig Robert Howie 06/07/2012

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