A years-old Hotmail problem
October 24, 2006 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Back when it was free for Hotmail to check your POP mail for you (Google says 2002, wow), I set it up to check my ISP email account. Not so long after, the option went paid-for -- meaning that I could no longer turn it off.

It has long puzzled me as to what exactly Hotmail did to my email, as the POP emails have continued coming to my Hotmail account for years -- even after I changed the password on the Hotmail account. But it never really bothered me enough to figure it out.

Then, today, I found that I'd not checked my Hotmail account for a month, and so it'd been deactivated, and everyone who sent me email to my ISP POP account was getting bounce messages. But the bounce messages weren't coming from Hotmail -- they were coming from my ISP.

Reason: Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable
Please reply to
if you feel this message to be in error.

"Aha!" I say to myself. It seems obvious that all those years ago, Hotmail changed some kind of setting on my ISP's mail server, telling it to forward emails to the Hotmail account ("and they have the audacity to charge people for that now?", I ask myself).

And so we finally come on to the question:

How on earth do I turn this off? I assume there's some special code I have to somehow send to my ISP's mail server, but what is it?
posted by reklaw to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, mail headers should read:

Recipient: me@hotmail.com
Reason: Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable
Please reply to postmaster@myisp.com
if you feel this message to be in error.

They got screwed by angle brackets.
posted by reklaw at 10:54 AM on October 24, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Um, and it should read "changed the password on the POP account". I suck at proofreading, apparently.
posted by reklaw at 10:55 AM on October 24, 2006

Do you access your POP account any other way? If so, does it still work? 'Cause it sounds like it's your POP account that's having the problem, not Hotmail.

And, if I'm clear on the concept, Hotmail didn't tell your ISP to forward the mail, it accesses your POP mail like any other POP client.

Can you still access your Hotmail account? Do you want to?
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:04 AM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: I can still access both the POP account and the Hotmail account. The Hotmail account always left the messages on the server, so it hasn't interfered with my normal email usage at all. The only reason I noticed it was because my Hotmail account got closed and so the POP-to-Hotmail forwards started bouncing all the way back to the original senders.
posted by reklaw at 11:08 AM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: And it's impossible that Hotmail is accessing my mail like any other POP client would, as it doesn't know my POP password any more (because I've changed it several times since).
posted by reklaw at 11:09 AM on October 24, 2006

The only way your pop account would be forwarded to hotmail would be if you contacted your ISP and said, "hello, pls forward all my email to blahblah@hotmail.com". Most ISPs will do this for free.

Hotmail connects to and retrieves your pop mail just like outlook does, or thunderbird, or whatever email client you use.

I know, you have changed the password on your pop account. I can't explain that. But I would definitely contact your ISP and explain this all and raise holy hell about why your email was still being retrieved without the correct password.
posted by routergirl at 11:39 AM on October 24, 2006

oops, sorry, "I can't explain that. " was meant like, "man, that's bad, if he's contacted his ISP, changed his pop password with them and hotmail was still able to retrieve his mail."

A pop mail server only holds your mail for you until you authenticate, and then shoots it to whatever you authenticated in, be it outlook or hotmail or JackBetty's A+++ email client.
posted by routergirl at 11:41 AM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: Then why is my ISP sending "we tried to forward to me@hotmail.com but it failed" bounce messages?
posted by reklaw at 11:46 AM on October 24, 2006

POP3 does not do the things you think it does. You probably have some forwarding rules youve forogtten about. Or your contacts keep emailing your hotmail account not knowing you have a different email address. If youve replied to an hotmail popped email your TO: field is probably something@hotmail not something@myisp.

Call your ISP and just change your pop password. Now hotmail cant access it. It will get authentication failures.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2006

Then why is my ISP sending "we tried to forward to me@hotmail.com but it failed" bounce messages?

Is that the text of the message? 'Cause you told us:

Reason: Requested action not taken: mailbox unavailable

Which is definitely different.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:49 AM on October 24, 2006

Also, the hotmail account getting closed and causing bounces most likely means people are sending to your hotmail account, not your @myisap acount.

In the end youre asking the wrong people. Your ISP should be able to tell you whats going on here.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:52 AM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: No-one is sending emails to my Hotmail account. The bounces are going to my ISP account.

If I send an email from my ISP account to my ISP account RIGHT NOW, with Hotmail being involved in no way whatsoever and without going anywhere near Hotmail, I get back a "mailbox unavailable: me@hotmail.com" bounce message to my ISP account.

Hotmail doesn't know my password. Hotmail can't be doing the grabbing here. Somehow, the emails are being pushed.
posted by reklaw at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2006

You really need to ask your ISP, because they can see the things that everyone else on the Internet can only guess at.

(My guess is that you've set it up to forward mail, too. The bounce message comes from your ISP's mail server because that's the last place the message was delivered before the hop that failed.)
posted by mendel at 12:50 PM on October 24, 2006

You've set up your ISP account to forward mail to Hotmail. This likely has absolutely nothing to do with Hotmail's settings at all, as others have mentioned. Any time a piece of mail is received by your ISP account, the mail server is attempting to forward a copy to Hotmail, which fails.

In other words, tell it to stop forwarding a copy and your troubles disappear.
posted by mikeh at 1:03 PM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: I've never set it up to forward mail manually. That's basically my question: is there any way that Hotmail could have set a setting on my behalf to tell the server to keep forwarding my mail? It doesn't seem beyond the bounds of possibility that POP3 would have a command for that, but hey.

I'll try asking my ISP, but I bet I'll just get some clueless monkey.
posted by reklaw at 1:04 PM on October 24, 2006

The pop3 protocol is soley for retrieval of email. It cannot send, do forwards, or pull a rabbit out of its hat. I dont know why you insist it can. This is how pop3 works:

posted by damn dirty ape at 2:23 PM on October 24, 2006

"Is there any way that Hotmail could have set a setting on my behalf to tell the server to keep forwarding my mail?"

No. There is not. That's the stuff of pure fantasy.
posted by majick at 2:30 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: Unless Hotmail used your information to log in to some interface—like webmail, for instance—and set a forwarding address, no, there is no way Hotmail could have done it. It is very very unlikely that Hotmail did this.

Do you have a webmail interface or some other way to set forwarding addresses?
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:31 PM on October 24, 2006

If you really want to understand how pop3 works, read damn dirty ape's link. It is not as powerful as you seem to think it is.

I'd lay it all out to the ISP tech support and keep any sort of "could it be?" out of it. They may ask for the exact error messages people are getting, what error message you might be getting, whether you want them to reset your password. Keep it limited to the facts and they'll be more likely to be able to help you out.

They may also say, "We don't support hotmail." At which point, yes, save yourself the headache and move on to a different tech.

I've maintained mail servers. The settings don't change and the forwarding simply will not happen unless it's done on the mail server end (on your ISP's side).
posted by routergirl at 2:38 PM on October 24, 2006

Does your ISP allow for telnet/ssh access? If they're pretty low tech, it might be as simple as a .forward file in your home directory. If this is all foreign, I doubt you did it.
posted by mikeh at 2:57 PM on October 24, 2006

Best answer: I keep reading people telling reklaw he/she doesn't know what he/she's talking about, which seems unfair.

A client (on reklaw's computer, or Hotmail itself) can check a POP account and leave the mail on the server. It contacts the POP server, it asks for mail, it tells the server to not delete the messages.

The delivery system at reklaw's ISP will be the thing that does the forwarding if it's being done at the ISP (which, I suspect, is indeed the case) and just because reklaw referred to his/her POP account doesn't mean you have to jump on him/her and say things like "I don't know why you insist it can." Obviously the delivery protocol does not do the forwarding, that isn't the point; many ISPs will refer to mail accounts as POP accounts and refer to forwarding without taking the time to point out in a paragraph-long footnote that POP actually refers to the delivery method and not what we use on the server side to deliver mail.

However, all of that being said - reklaw, if all you have is access to your mail account through a client on your personal computer, there's no way you can affect forwarding settings yourself, because it sounds like it's being done server-side; a copy of each incoming mail is sent to Hotmail, but the mailbox is, as the error message says, unavailable.

wemayfreeze may be on to something with webmail -- if you access your ISP mail account through a web interface, or have any ability to do so, there may be some settings you can change there that you might have forgotten about, perhaps Hotmail had some instructions to do so at the time you set it up, and you've forgotten about it; or, your ISP allows old passwords to be used, which is strange and ridiculous and unlikely.

I feel sort of bad for all the piling-on that's gone on in here, I can imagine it must be very irritating to ask a question and get these sorts of replies, but I guess I'll shut up about it now.

In summary: even though you will inevitably get a clueless monkey, you'll probably have to talk to your ISP, and you'll probably have to go through reams of escalations to find someone who actually knows how e-mail works and can do something about it. Be adamant, though, about the fact that the mail must be being copy-forwarded to Hotmail by your ISP, because the only other way it can work is if all old passwords continue to work at your ISP, which better damn well be false.

Good luck.
posted by blacklite at 3:43 PM on October 24, 2006

Response by poster: Turns out that there was an option in my ISP's webmail interface to turn off mail forwarding, and that fixed the problem.

BUT - I know, absolutely for sure, that I'd never seen that setting or even, in fact, any of that webmail interface before. Hotmail MUST have changed that for me at some point.
posted by reklaw at 11:32 AM on October 26, 2006

If Hotmail must have changed it, you have a duty to inform your ISP that they are capable of breaking in to their users' accounts and changing their configurations.
posted by mendel at 12:07 PM on October 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

posted by russilwvong at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2006

Yeah, just to be sure other people don't come along and read this thread at some point in the future and get the wrong idea:


Read the MetaTalk thread for more details.
posted by delfuego at 12:20 PM on October 26, 2006 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, for the sake of posterity, future searchers, it's best that you ignore what delfuego just said, considering he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.
posted by reklaw at 1:23 PM on October 26, 2006

Okay, well I know what I'm talking about so I'll say it:

posted by grouse at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2006 [3 favorites]

Holy sweet Jesus, you're a militantly-ignorant douchebag, reklaw.
posted by delfuego at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2006

Damn, delfuego, chill...
posted by Doohickie at 7:54 PM on October 26, 2006

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