Why Does Mail Hang Around in My Outbox Before Being Sent?

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All of a sudden, many of my outgoing emails go to the outbox in Outlook 2010 and sit there for a couple of minutes, sometimes much longer before it actually sends. Now I can hasten the sending if I click “Send/Receive” in the ribbon, but not by much. I checked the settings and “send immediately” is checked and the account settings has my address and POP/SMTP sent to this account by default. It’s always been this way so I don’t think this is the cause of the mail delay. I can send more information if you need it but I would appreciate any help you can come up with.

There are several factors that could be at play here. Let’s look at a couple.

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Send immediately

You’ve already checked the most obvious: Outlook has a setting to send something immediately and you’ve got that turned on.

When you click the Send button in Outook, that means that it should send soon. meaning immediately or very shortly thereafter. When Outlook is not set to send immediately, the sends are simply saved until next time the mail program does its automatic check for new mail; or if you have that disabled, the next time you hit Send/Receive.

It’s not gone until it’s gone

Mail will continue to appear in the outbox until it’s been completely sent.

If, for example, your email has a large attachment, it’s going to take a while to upload the attachment to the mail server. During that time, it will look like nothing’s happening. In your outbox, it will look like your email is still there, even though the message is actually in the process of being transmitted.

When the “send” completes, when it is really done, only then is the email removed from the outbox and placed in Sent Mail.

HourglassIt’s also up to your service provider

In situations like this, the ability to send mail, or the speed at which you send mail, is extremely dependent on your email service.

The servers that you are sending to could simply be slow. Your connection to the email service could be slow. It may be your internet connection, or it may be one of the other hops between your ISP and your email service. Even if the email service is provided by your ISP, it’s not as if it’s “right there”. There are always additional networking steps to get from wherever you connect to your ISP to the mail server. The server could actually be overloaded.

As a matter of fact, there’s a formal part of the sending or SMTP protocol that actually allows a server to tell your email program “I’m too busy; try this message again later”. So until later, well, your message sits there in the outbox.

There’s also an anti-spam feature that some mail servers will use that causes this exact same “try again later” reaction even when they’re not too busy.

Ultimately, I really don’t think there’s much to be done other than being patient or hitting Send/Receive to force the issue, as long as the emails do eventually send.

11 comments on “Why Does Mail Hang Around in My Outbox Before Being Sent?”

  1. I used to think that Outlook was slower in sending email than some other email programs. Reading this leads me to think that perhaps Outlook just displays things differently when sending messages. Those other email programs might just be moving the message from the Outbox to the Sent folder earlier in the send process.

    • That’s never been my experience. At best closing and restarting your email program might help for some cases, but I’ve never seen the need for a full system restart.

  2. I’ve actually set up a rule in Outlook that delays all my sent mail by a couple of minutes. There’s something in my brain that doesn’t trigger until I hit the send button, and then I suddenly realize I forgot to attach a file, or sent it to the wrong address, or that I forgot to say something (or said something I probably shouldn’t have). Almost daily, I’m dragging a file back out of the Outbox for some sort of adjustment.

  3. Another possibility (although unlikely) is that outlook is already in the process of receiving mails, and this is slow. In this case the sending will wait until receiving is complete.

    However every version of outlook I have run shows a message somewhere at the bottom of the window saying when it is sending or receiving, so you should be able to see if it is one of these that is taking some time.

  4. For the first time ever I have two “average sized” emails stuck in the out box and have received no new emails since Tuesday. I read what to do but do not understand what it means for me to do. The only variable is that I downloaded realplayer about the same time. I have been using gmail with no problems many times but now the two emails go nowhere. I have to hit edit to get to send in the outbox. But it doesn’t send.

  5. Do we get tools to monitor a particular outlook mapi client, my clients do complain for sluggish performance/long delays specifically when sending an email out through an outlook anywhere connection, in the office things are perfectly fine.

  6. Leo,
    could you please advise on the impact of huge size IMAP Gmail PST files (mine in 7GB in OL2010), and the need for reducing through e.g. start a new PST every year or so. I still haven’t figured if and how that works with IMAP! Since I have set IMAP to copy from Gmail to Outlook, if I start a new imap pst file on 1 Jan of each year, wouldn’t it copy all emails of last years into this new pst file as well, making it instantly as large as the previous year’s pst file? Same logic/fears applies to archiving, archiving older emails to a “last-year’s-email” file…. That doesn’t work either in IMAP I reckon. I have checked and checked the internet over and again, but NO clear answer/recommendation on this IMAP and Archiving thing.

    Could you help?

    • I would recommend compacting the PST instead of starting a new one. Also, my understanding is that in recent versions of Outlook IMAP accounts are stored in ost files, not pst.

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