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3.7   INBOX, mbox, and Lost email (or no email to read)

(added 19 October 2005)

From a Matt McCleary ticket, 10 May 2005

Here's a little background for the following questions and answers.   Our servers are set up so that email in your INBOX is stored on the mail server (in your "mail spool"), while mail you copy to a different folder will be stored under your home directory.   The critical difference between the two is that we make tape backups of user home directories, while we do not back up mail stored on the mail server (i.e. your "mail spool").   Email stored in any folders you create, and email stored in your INBOX.Drafts, INBOX.Sent, and INBOX.Trash folders, will be backed up on tape and can be restored.   If you need one of those folders (or any other folder or file) restored just file a (category) Request (subcategory) Restore ticket (you can use our web interface to the TCC ticket system and give particulars as to what you want restored.


I've been using SquirrelMail for quite some time (perhaps years).   Just the other day, when I logged into SquirrelMail, I discovered that all the messages that had been in my INBOX were missing!

The first question we (that is, the TCC) should always ask in a case like this is, "Is SquirrelMail the only mail reader you use?" (for other questions see About email Problems).   Have you experimented with another mail reader (such as Outlook or Thunderbird), or do you perhaps use SquirrelMail in combination with another mail reader?

The reason we ask this is because sometimes when a person uses multiple mail readers, the two (or more) mail readers will fight each other for who gets to keep the email messages.   SquirrelMail prefers to keep all INBOX email on our mail server, while other mail readers will generally prefer to download the email and keep it on the local computer.

If you use multiple email readers, or have recently switched from SquirrelMail to another mail reader -- or have even tried a different mail reader, even if only once! -- it is likely that your email is located on the PC on which you used the alternative email reader.   Please try checking on that PC to see if your email is located there.


I recently switched from SquirrelMail to another mail reader (for example, Outlook or Thunderbird).   It was working okay, but then I decided I didn't like it and tried to switch back to SquirrelMail.   When I went to log into SquirrelMail, I discovered that my INBOX mail was missing! What happened?

Most likely, your alternate mail reader (Outlook, Thunderbird, etc) was set to use POP mode and to delete mail messages from the server after it downloaded them.   What this means is that your mail reader stored a copy of all your mail on PCs you used it on, so all those messages are no longer on the TCC's server.

If you wish to stop using Outlook/Thunderbird/etc. and revert to SquirrelMail, you can go back to reading email just like you used to -- but the messages you downloaded can't be placed back on the server unless you resend them all to yourself (or have the original senders resend them to you).

If you plan on using SquirrelMail exclusively, be careful to not start up your alternate mail reader accidentally.   If you do, it will most likely launch and download all your email from the server once again, and then it will look as though your INBOX is empty or missing.


I've been using SquirrelMail for years, and (to my knowledge) have never used another mail reader.   The other day when I logged into SquirrelMail, I discovered that my INBOX was empty.   I know that yesterday there were at least a few messages in there.   What happened? How can I get my email back?

Do you share your account with another person (perhaps a boyfriend or girlfriend), or have you given out your password? If any of the preceding is true you have violated your account agreement with the TCC.

If you have lost your account password it is possible that someone else may be using your account.   If you suspect this is the case, please change your password immediately or come immediately to the TCC for assistance.

To protect the people's privacy the TCC does not back up email.   If your INBOX has been lost, the TCC will not be able to restore it.   You may perform your own backups by following the instructions given in the next section.


Okay, my INBOX was lost and it appears there isn't anything that can be done, unfortunately.   How can I avoid having this happen in the future?

Assuming that you are using SquirrelMail to read your email, the best way you can prevent losing your inbox is to periodically save your mail messages to a different folder.

If you would like to create a different folder to store your email, here is how to do that within SquirrelMail:

  1. Log in to SquirrelMail.   Your INBOX folder will display any messages you have received.
  2. Click on the Folders link near the top center of the page.
  3. In the Create Folder box, type the name of the folder you want to create, and click the Create" button. SquirrelMail should say Created folder successfully!.
  4. Click on the Refresh Folder List link just below the success message.   Your new folder will now show up in the left window pane.

To move a message from your current INBOX to your new folder:

  1. Click on INBOX to display your message list once again.
  2. Find a message you would like to move to your new folder. You will notice that to the left of each message in your INBOX, there is a check box (it is located immediately left of the "from" address).   To select a message to move to your new folder, click in the check box.
  3. To move the message to the new folder, go to the box above the message list that is labeled Move Selected To:, and click on the pull-down list.   Select your new folder, and click on the Move button.   The message you just selected will disappear from the INBOX list, and will now be located inside the new folder you created.   You can verify this by clicking on the new folder in the left window pane.

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