David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

October 26th, 2007 at 9:40 am Print This Post Print This Post

Outlook Loses Emails: Just The Fix

in: E-Mail

The problem: Microsoft Outlook 2003 with a POP3 account works fine — except when emails are sent from a particular address just disappear. In the past several months, I’ve encountered two instances at the other office I work at (still using POP3 accounts) where Outlook sends and receives emails with no problems whatsoever, except for one exception. The first time was between two people in the accounting office. When they emailed each other, one of them never received email from the other. But most other email was coming in fine, with a few undocumented reports of missing email from other people. I tested the situation thoroughly, sending multiple test emails from the problem address and from other addresses that worked just fine. Each time, the emails from the problem address would animate the Inbox and “appear” to come in, so it looked like the email was coming through, but then it would disappear without a trace.

I did searches across all folders, I checked the Rules and Alerts settings (no rules were configured at all); no results at all, except for emails from several months prior when it was working just fine. To verify that it was an Outlook problem, because I first suspected a POP3 server issue (since other emails worked fine in Outlook), I closed Outlook, sent an email from the problem address, and logged into the webmail interface. There it was. So back to Outlook. I tried repairing the .pst file with scanpst. I did some Google searches without any useful results. And then I created a new profile, manually recreated the POP3 account in that profile, and imported the .pst file from the previous profile. And the problem went away. I almost wish I’d done this sooner, but at the same time, I wanted to know why the problem was happening!

I thought this was an isolated occurrence, but last week I had a report that another user was trying to use the copy machine’s scan-to-email feature and the emails were disappearing! Emails to another user were working just fine, and that user could forward emails from the scanner to this original user just fine; it was just emails from the copier (I was told after the problem was fixed that emails from the user’s personal Gmail account were not coming through either; this hasn’t been tested yet but I suspect that is fixed as well). Initially I suspected that the copier was configured incorrectly, perhaps sending the email to an incorrect address. But a check of the copier showed it was fine, and a check of the webmail account showed that the emails were arriving just fine. Of course, Outlook was kind enough to remove the emails from the server when throwing them away, just as before! This time, Outlook didn’t “pretend” to be receiving an email though, the messages simply disappeared.

At least this time I knew the fix: create a new Outlook profile, set up the email account, import the old data. Worked like a charm. The new .pst file ended up being a couple hundred megabytes larger than the old one, so I’m going to guess the old one was corrupt. This computer is a brand new one that’s around three months old, so I’m a bit concerned that such a problem showed up so fast, but the .pst file being used was copied over from this person’s previous system so it may have brought the problem with it.

Like the title says, I don’t have a reason behind the solution, just the fix. And I have the long-term solution as well: Exchange! I’m moving this office to SBS 2003 by early December, if everything goes as planned. This should solve the POP3 problems above in addition to giving us RPC over HTTPS access for laptop users, calendar sharing of course, webmail integrated with the mailbox, the VPN capabilities of ISA 2004, and I’m sure a few things I’m forgetting. I’ve been working slowly towards a move to SBS for about a year, and in January I had all the software and some extra drives quoted. I just had the quote updated in preparation for purchase, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the SBS licenses for the server and 25 user dropped in price by about $1000 since the first of the year! I’m glad things have come up to delay the upgrade! Should be fun to go from Server 2003 Standard to SBS 2003; I’m sure I’ll have some blog entries to share when it happens!