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Why do some people get 60 copies of messages I forward?

Question: I forward funny and nice emails to friends but sometimes they receive 60 copies. I keep my system updated as soon as I’m notified by Microsoft that something’s available. I don’t use online programs that are free; I try my best to figure out why this happened but no luck. My friends don’t want me to send them emails anymore. This is Windows Vista, and I’m using Windows Mail and Brighthouse’s Roadrunner for my internet connection. I hope you have the answer so I can get back to email. Thanks in advance.

This kind of thing can actually happen for a variety of reasons. Let’s take a look at the most common. And then, when I’m done, I’m going to express a little opinion about what you’re doing.

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One way multiple copies can happen

Typically, what’s happening in a situation like yours is something like this: Your email program sends an email, and the email server accepts it, but the indication that the server has accepted the email doesn’t actually make it back to your email program. So, the email program thinks that the send has actually failed, even though it hasn’t. The program tries again, and yet again, creating a vicious cycle.

Why doesn’t the indication about the server accepting the email message actually get back to your email program? That’s a little harder to say. It can be due to network connectivity problems, but I doubt that’s the case here.

The problem could be mail server overload. In other words, the email service provider’s server that you’re connecting to is just running too slowly to get that acknowledgment back in a timely fashion. By the time it does, your email program may simply have given up.

Full MailboxMultiple recipients can exacerbate the problem

Do you have this issue when you send emails to one or two people, or only when you send a message to many recipients? It is possible, depending on your email server configuration, that the amount of time it takes for it to acknowledge successful receipt of that message could be dependent on the number of people you’re sending it to.

In other words, the server may have to validate each of your recipients’ email addresses individually before it’s actually allowed to tell your email program, “Okay, I got it”. If you’re sending to a lot of people, it’s possible that the email server is just taking too long to get back to your email program to tell it that it has successfully received the message.

Sending fewer and waiting longer

So, what do you do? Well, a few things. First triple check that your account configuration is correct. You’ll need to check the SMTP, the POP3, and the IMAP settings that are all part of your account configuration in your email programs that have been given to you by your email provider. This is one of those situations where they’re probably okay, but it’s definitely worth checking.

Next, look in the Advanced Settings of that account configuration for an option to change what might be called a timeout. Make that number bigger. Double it or triple it from whatever it’s set to now to see if that has any effect. All raising the timeout number will do is tell your program to wait longer for the “Okay, I got it” message from the email server before it gives up.

Another thing to do is try forwarding to fewer people at a time. For example, if you usually send a message to 20 people, send it to ten or five instead, and see if those go through once or 60 times. That way you’ll know whether the problem is somehow related to the number of people you’re sending a given message to.

And finally, certainly do contact your email provider to see if they’re aware of any issues that might be leading up to this.

Perhaps send none at all?

So, it’s opinion time.

My question to you is this: Are you sure that you want to forward that kind of thing at all? Many people find this kind of forwarded email annoying, irrelevant, or just so much noise. In the worst case, they may even start marking the mail you send as spam. And of course, they won’t tell you for fear of hurting your feelings.

My personal advice is to always think twice about forwarding just about anything. Social media is a great tool for sharing funny or sweet links and messages, be it Facebook, Google+, Pinterest or any number of different services that are set up for that kind of stuff.

I’m not saying you should never, ever forward emails; there are definitely times when it’s perfectly acceptable and the right thing to do.

When you do, however, I want you to do two things:

  1. Make sure to remove all of the previously forwarded email addresses from the message. This prevents the recipient that you’re sending it to from seeing all those names and email addresses of all those people that have seen the message in the past. It prevents email addresses from being shared, from being stolen, and from being exposed.
  2. In similar vein, make sure to use BCC to prevent exposing the email addresses of everybody you’re forwarding the message to.

Do this

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4 comments on “Why do some people get 60 copies of messages I forward?”

  1. I agree with leo on the philosophy.
    You said “funny and nice emails” but not wanted or requested. Most people really don’t want them.
    It gets annoying even on social media. I have “unfriended” a couple people who swamped facebook with large numbers of “funny and nice” things till they were most of the updates I saw.

    Consider making a mailing list of the people that tell you they appreciate them (has anyone?) and only send the stuff to them.

  2. Ah, forwarding lists! Got on one years ago from an old high school girlfriend (with numerous other e.mail addresses in the Forward area, including mine), and to make a long story short, ended up with a virus! My e.mail address did the weirdest things, and I finally had to shut that Yahoo account down. Had to get rude with the ex-girlfriend (and now ex-friend) to get her to take me off. People just need to understand – DO NOT SEND MY E.MAIL ADDRESS OUT TO ANYONE I DID NOT SPECIFICALLY ASK YOU TO SEND IT TO! Ahem, thanks Leo, as always.

  3. Yahoo! provides a useful protection against email spam, in the form of Disposable Addresses. These are accessed from the email page though Settings / Security. I simply create a new disposable email address for each new contact and then, if that results in spam, I can simply delete the relevant disposable email address. This is the main reason I continue to use Yahoo! email, despite a number of other failings.

  4. Agreed– forwarded email should be exactly on target, not merely “possibly of interest”.

    Regarding multiple-address mail lists, a good practice is to test, first. Send a single test message to self, which will help determine hidden problems with the message without involving the many addresses involved.

    If that test works well, any anomalies are probably due to the mail list, itself– too many names and/or too many attachments (especially photos and graphics) multiplied by the excessive number of names. In my own case, I have found with Thunderbird that the application works best with long mail lists if I first save all my work, quit the program, and then restart. That RAM-refresh action helps free system resources for any long mail lists I have, and many other mail programs can benefit from the same action.


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