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Being over quota means you've received or kept too much email. Dealing with an email quote means understanding just where that email is being kept.

After I did a recovery on my computer, Outlook Express has not worked properly as far as the inbox is concerned. I used to be able to get 700-800 or more emails in my inbox (if I went on vacation or didn't check for a while) and after the recovery once I reached about 80 emails it started bouncing my messages saying I was OVER QUOTO!!! How can that be? It is getting worse now. I can have only 40 messages in my inbox and it will start bouncing my messages, still saying I am OVER QUOTO! Soon, I won't get ANY messages!

A couple of clarifications:

First, it's over quota, not quoto.

Second, believe it or not, being over quota has nothing to do with the inbox on your PC, or even what email program you're using.

But it might have everything to do with how your email program is configured.

A quota is nothing more than a limit of how much disk space your email can take up. The catch is that it's not on your machine, but on the servers of your email service provider. It's your email service provider that imposes a quota. That could be Hotmail, Yahoo, GMail, or the email provided by your company, your ISP or whomever else you're using for your email.

For example, in GMail I have this message at the bottom of the page:

You are currently using 731 MB (9%) of your 7326 MB.
"Outlook Express does not 'bounce' email - your email provider does."

That means I have a space quota of 7326 MB, or right around 7 gigabytes. Presumably, if I exceed that limit GMail will start rejecting email sent to me.

And that's the big clue in your question: Outlook Express does not "bounce" email - your email provider does. So if a bounce is being created, then it's being detected by your mail server before your mail program is even involved.

The most common cause for being over quota? Going on vacation.

When you go on vacation you don't download email, so it accumulates ... at your email provider. If while you're away the email you receive exceeds the amount of space the email provider has set aside for you, you're over quota and further emails will typically get bounced back to the sender.

The only real solution is to ask for a larger quota, check, download or clean up your email from time to time while you're away, or move to an email provider with a larger, or no quota.

Now, it sounds like you may have a little more going on, since after getting back and presumably downloading your email you're still running into trouble.

There are two likely possibilities: you're using IMAP instead of POP3 to download into Outlook Express, or you've got a particular setting in your POP3 configuration.

When you set up your email account in Outlook Express (or any of several other email programs), one of the configuration options you needed to specify was what type of email server you've been provided:

Incoming mail server types in Outlook Express

IMAP by definition leaves all the messages that you don't delete on the email service provider's servers in addition to downloading to your email client. In this case, the act of downloading and viewing your email doesn't free up any space against your quota, only actually deleting messages will do that.

If you use IMAP and are reaching your provider's email quota, you have three options to resolve the issue:

  • Ask your email provider for a larger quota. This may or may not be available, and may or may not require payment.

  • Delete messages. This might be the most practical approach if you want to keep on using IMAP. If there are messages you want to save, perhaps save them locally to disk before deleting them from your email program.

  • Switch to POP3. When you download email from a POP3 server, it's downloaded to your machine and removed from the mail server. Thus the act of downloading email to your email program automatically frees up space that counts against your quota. This is perhaps the most common configuration.

Remember that if you download email to your computer using POP3, you need to take responsibility for backing it up. You should be backing up anyway, but this is a great example: if you've downloaded your email and your hard disk dies all your email will be gone. (Along with all your documents, settings, and whatever else is on your computer.) Backup.

Speaking of POP3, there is an obscure setting that I occasionally see set when people don't expect it. In Outlook Express it's located in Tools, Accounts..., (click on your mail account), Properties, Advanced. In that dialog you'll see this:

Leave a copy of messages on server option in Outlook Express

And it does pretty much exactly what you'd think: rather than removing the messages from your mail server when you download, it leaves them there so that they continue to count against your quota.

The odd thing is that this is not the default setting, so before changing it you'll want to check out why it was set in the first place. But the bottom line is that like IMAP you'll need to start deleting messages (after saving what you want to save elsewhere), or turn this option off and rely on your PC to keep all your email.

Article C3731 - May 15, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Just J
May 16, 2009 8:55 AM

Hi Leo

Regarding the use of either POP3 or IMAP.

Is it a choice?

I was under the impression that you had to comply with the requirements of your ISP, so it was they who specified whether your account was POP3 or IMAP controlled.

Is it an end-user choice after all, depending on your personal requirements?

You're right, in that it's totally reliant on what the ISP provides, but in reality more and more ISPs are providing both. IMAP is gaining in popularity (as a result of people's internet connections getting faster and faster), and thus it's a choice you can make when you configure your email program.
- Leo
17-May-2009
Mark Jacobs
May 17, 2009 9:29 AM

The choice between IMAP and POP3 is offered by some providers. I all depends on your provider. As for a quota problem, you could open a GMAIL accont which has enough room for most people's email needs as Leo said almost 8GB. You could then tell everyone about your Gmail acct and keep your old address open for stragglers who might try to email you for years after switching to Gmail. I never close an email account, I just tell everyone about my new acct and stop giving the old one to people. But then I usually check my old address occasionally for people I may have forgotten to tell my new address to. I've gotten emails from people I haven't seen in years on my old accts. I know Leo doesn't recommend free emails, but if you use the email address of your ISP and you change ISPs for som reason you can lose a lot of emails.

Gwyn
May 19, 2009 12:28 PM

Can someone please tell me what sort of wording the email provider uses when notifying a sender that their email has been bounced. ( I have never seen such a notice, unless they just send a general notice stating that the mail is undeliverable. And if this is what happens it surely must be unfortunate, for many people will not think of trying to send the email again in a week or two I should think.

upama
December 13, 2009 10:11 PM

i have read this but i had sent some messages and it returned back to me stating reason: over quota
again i tried to send through another mail address i was delivered what is the reason behind this!

Please read the article you just commented on - it answers this question.
Leo
14-Dec-2009

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