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Why Is a Message Stuck in My Outbox?

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When I send an email, the message goes to my outbox, but it stays there. I can’t send the message from my outbox.

In an email program, the outbox is a holding area – a place where messages go after you click Send and wait until the program can forward it to the mail server. The outbox helps you do other things in the email program, so you don’t have to wait for the mail server.

Let’s talk about the outbox. Many different email programs use an outbox and because you didn’t say which email program you’re using, I’ll use Outlook in my examples.

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Outlook’s outbox

In Outlook, doing a Send/Receive (pressing the F9 key) causes the program to send anything that’s in the outbox immediately. If it doesn’t, Outlook should display an error message, which you’ll use to fix the problem.

Now, there are several different possible reasons why a message might get stuck in your outbox.

Your computer is not connected to the internet. If your email program can’t connect to your email server, it won’t be able to send the message.

Email envelopeThe SMTP configuration in your email account might be wrong. That’s separate from your POP3 configuration. SMTP is the protocol the email program uses when you’re sending an email. You need to make sure that this configuration matches what it’s supposed to as defined by your email service or ISP.

Your email provider could be the one having problems. Check with your email provider to see if there’s something wrong.

It’s possible that your ISP is blocking or altering outgoing mail. You might experience this when you’re traveling. For various reasons, hotels sometimes either capture or block SMTP email traffic to prevent spammers from  sending all of their spam from a hotel room.

It’s also possible that the email program itself is the problem. In that case, consider a repair install of that program (if that option is available). You may have to reinstall the program or reconfigure the email account from scratch.

Those are my recommendations. Start by clicking Send/Receive, see if you get an error, and note the specific messages that appear.

36 comments on “Why Is a Message Stuck in My Outbox?”

  1. Leo,

    In almost every case I’ve come across with messages getting stuck in outboxes, it’s been due to an add-on. (My experience only applies to Outlook, I can’t speak to other programs.) The biggest culprit has been an ITunes add-in. Each time I’ve had a problem and ITunes is loaded on the computer, disabling it frees up the stuck Outbox issue.

    • This is the usual tricky issue! Many times, we simply assume that MS or any other developer has done a bad job during such problems. I regret to inform you that I was one such type.
      After reading many articles of Leo, I stand corrected now. Many of the problems seem to arise elsewhere due to faulty drivers, updates, add-ins, extensions, and unknown software installations in our systems.

  2. Almost the only reason I have seen for messages getting stuck in the outbox is either because the message is too large eg a user trying to send 60MB of uncompressed photos (this happens more from home users than business users). Outlook has a default maximum size of 20MB which can be increased to 30MB. Or, almost the same reason, your ISP has a maximum size that can be sent through them. Through a series of takeovers the ISP I started off with has turned into Vodafone. They apparently are still using some very old software to run their email and this has a limit of either 5MB ot 10MB according to who you talk to there. So Outlook is happy but the ISP isn’t. This is very frustrating because a lot of people, who know how to compress a picture file, still can’t send a reasonable 12MB email containing a few photos.

  3. My problem is that the mail is received by the intended recipients and yet it is still in my outbox… Often I keep re-sending the thing trying to make it go only to receive a mail from the recipient to say that he has received it 4 or 5 times… but its still in my outbox… now what?????

  4. Barry, if you are using an old program like Outlook Express for your email, your problem is probably a full or corrupted “sent items” folder. Someone with some tech experience should be able to fix this for you quite easily.

  5. I have a similar problem but figured out a work-around. I set Outlook 2003 (can’t face those ribbons!) to not send emails immediately. (I often hit Send and then remember something to add.) When I open an email from the Outbox and later hit Send again, it NEVER leaves. But, if I drag it from Outbox to Drafts, open it from there, and then Send, it will go. Took me a while to find that combo.

    Now, who knows the fix for me? (Other than ribbonizing!)

    AL

    • Thanks Al,
      That was the problem I was having. Not all the time though and not large emails either.
      I will use this when it happens and until someone can explain to me why?
      Outlook issue as usual.
      Su

  6. I have Windows live mail and after writing several long messages I found they have not been sent. A caption appears to say they are still there. And the email has closed and won’t open while the caption keeps coming on every time I try to open the Windows live Mail

  7. I actually have the same problem but can say it ONLY happens when I right click on an item and select “Send to” —> “mail recipient”, and then send the email. Every time I send an email this way it hangs in outbox until I do a send/rec.

  8. Hi Leo, I have the same issue with Outlook 2007. It only occurs when I try and send emails from home. The error says that outlook cannot connect to your outgoing (STMP) e-mail server. When I get to the office, they’re sent out. Based on what you wrote, “You need to make sure that this configuration matches what it’s supposed to as defined by your email service or ISP,” How do I find my STMP at home without calling my ISP? Thank you.

  9. Only emails to one of my contacts always get stuck in the Outbox. I note that when I reply (or forward or Cc or start a New Email to them) that under OPTIONS the Delay Delivery is always checked for Do not deliver before the date I am replying (not the date they sent the email and will change from one day to next) at 1700, even if it is after 1700. If I uncheck this box it automatically regenerates a check. If I change the time it ignores it and does not send but will revert back to 1700 if I reopen the email from the Outbox. I use Outlook 365, guess it is same as 2013. How can I uncheck the delay so emails will send?

  10. I have the same issue where my emails get stuck in the outbox but only when i am replying to a previous email that someone sent me. Its not just one person, its every email. But, when i just go and create a new email, it sends perfectly. Does anyone know why this is happeneing? Thanks

    • My AOL email always says my outgoing mail server is configured wrong. I try to change it but still won’t work…
      I am 80 and not computer savy, but why has it worked for years and not working now.? I have 17 unsent mails
      that are important to me to send.

  11. I have an iPad through. Work which i have to send completions of work I have done, the email was working until yesterday but now every email I try sending goes to the outbox with an error sayin the message was rejected by the server . Was wondering if anyone can help me thanks

  12. Leo good clear advice . it is not often I can even understand answers to questions on the help lines well done stick to narrative/conversational style of answers.

  13. This is great! Thanks so much for the information that makes perfect sense to me. I was scanning and sending old family photos that were getting stuck in my outbox in my Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. I had Windows XP with Outlook Express for YEARS with no real problems but had to switch over to Windows 7 program because of CTB-Locker ransom ware taking over my Outlook Express and even calling me from Huambo, Angola, Africa saying they were calling about my computer and my “problem” with Microsoft. I threatened to hunt them down and squash them like maggots if they called my number again and reported everything to the attorney general in my state. But they kept family pictures, grandchildren, etc., kept leaving websites on XP to pay them through. Of course, they got nothing from me, not even a response except on the phone. Haven’t heard from them since. That was actually a year ago this time, end of Jan./Feb. and the call from them was in August.

    But I do understand about a LARGE email trying to be sent and put on hold in the outbox as that is what has been hanging up in there. So I will try your suggestions and not worry about it anymore as they would eventually get sent, I just never knew when. Thanks so much for your advise and help. I know where to go for anymore problems I come across of this very slow Windows 7 program.

    • I have this problem with Yahoo too, but only on my iPad. I thought my Internet Connection must be down or be poor, but i’ve noticed that If I send the Mail through Apple Mail it goes out immediately.

  14. Hi,

    i got a problem on my outlook, when i am sending and email specially a bit bigger file, its hows in my outbox but email has been sent already, until its send from outbox couple of emails ware sent to receiver, such as i was sent an email today it was about 2mbs file it was in my outbox but my colleague got 8 emails from me.

    would you please help me.

    thanks….

  15. my emails are stuck in the outbox of my email folder in my samsung galaxy 6 – it is not a POP account
    I can find nothing on the phone or in the outlook on my computer that shows me how to fix this.
    please help.

  16. I got around it by moving it to my inbox(on my laptop), then sending it from there on my phone. Very frustrating!

  17. Hi Leo. I use Outlook and my emails get stuck in outlook all the time. This only started a couple weeks ago. Don’t know what to do.

  18. Thank you Jodi. Moving it to my inbox worked. There I just deleted it. I could not delete it while it was hanging in the outbox.

  19. All of these seem to refer to Outlook, is this true of G-mail and other sources of email. I have 21 in my out box that are stuck there?????

    Cheryl

    • Usually this is about messages stuck in the outbox of your desktop email program, like Outlook (from Microsoft Office), Thunderbird and the link. If your email is stuck in the outbox of a web-based service like Gmail or Outlook.com, that’s something else — that to be honest simply shouldn’t happen.

  20. I didnt have an outbox option im my gmail
    I will recieve a tracking number for my home delevery …
    But there is no outbox in my gmail

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