Outgoing e-mail problems can sometimes be more difficult to troubleshoot than incoming e-mail problems. Troubleshooting these types of problems in Mozilla’s Thunderbird is fairly easy if you understand how outbound e-mail works.
Outbound e-mail uses a process called SMTP (simple mail transport protocol). SMTP is the standard for e-mail transmissions across the Internet. SMTP is generally used to send messages from a mail client (Thunderbird) to a mail server. The e-mail is stored on the server until retrieved by another e-mail client using a POP3 or IMAP retrieval protocol.
Outbound e-mail problems can be frustrating to deal with because you rarely see an indicator as to what might be causing the problem. However, there are fewer factors involved when setting up the SMTP section in Thunderbird, so isolating the problem can be much simpler. Unlike setting up an e-mail retrieval for inbound e-mail, with SMTP, a single SMTP setup can be used to cover all of your e-mail addresses, regardless of how many different ISPs are involved. Most SMTP mail servers are set up to allow e-mail accounts from other ISPs to be run through them. Thunderbird identifies the first SMTP account that you set up as being the default account. That is because in most cases it can be shared by all of your e-mail accounts.
Most of the configuration issues with sending e-mail can be resolved in the Server Settings section in Thunderbird.
- Select Account Settings from the Tools menu.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the list if e-mail accounts.
- Select Outgoing Server (SMTP).
The section that you want is at the top of the right-hand side.
Highlight an SMTP account and click the Edit button. The SMTP Server dialog box will pop up.
The Description is not important, but you can certainly enter a description to differentiate SMTP accounts. The Server Name and the User Name are the two important areas to focus on. You will need to get this information from your hosting company or ISP. The account name is usually just the primary account name from your ISP. That is the name to the left of the @ in your primary e-mail address.
When you are sure that this information is correct, click the OK button, shut down Thunderbird and then start it up again to make sure that any new settings are loaded. If you have multiple e-mail accounts and you know that inbound e-mail is working, try sending a test message to another of your e-mail addresses. If it still does not work or you see an error, make sure that you Internet access is active. If you can access the Internet using your browser, you should be able to send e-mail messages once the SMTP information is correct.
If you are still having trouble connecting to the SMTP server, Thunderbird will usually display a message, but depending on the type of error, sometimes it does not. Most of the time the User Name is just the account name, but some configurations may require a complete e-mail address. If one way does not work, try the other.
If your SMTP server requires a secure connection, you may have to check the SSL box. I sometimes use the SMTP server at my AT&T account. AT&T connections usually require that you check the SSL box.
If you are having connections problems, post your issues in the Comments below. Try to give us as much information as you can and we will see if we can help you to get connected. 😉
I have been receiving dozens of questions per week from people who are experiencing the same issues with SMTP server connections for outgoing e-mail with Thunderbird. The problems seem to start without warning. For the first time, I experienced the same issue.
I have three SMTP server connections set up in Thunderbird. The only one that worked is my AT&T account, which uses a secure connection. I went into the SMTP server configuration described above and selected the SSL radio button for one of the two non-functioning SMTP server accounts and clicked OK. Guess what? The connection now works.
Try doing this if you are having problems with outgoing e-mail with Thunderbird and let us know if it works. You may be asked to re-enter your password when you send your first message.
Why did this work? At this point I don’t have a clue because the SMTP server that I changed to use an SSL connection does not use SSL for e-mail.
If this resolves your outgoing e-mail problems, you may also have to change the incoming e-mail setting to SSL under the Server Settings for each e-mail account.
I have now experienced the problem that has been tormenting so many of you, but I still do not know the root cause of the problem. The morning after I made the changes to the SMTP configurations to enable SSL, I changed the setting back to their original state and everything is working fine. Go figure.
So was Thunderbird the cause or did something else happen on my PC or the Internet? I find it hard to believe that two SMTP servers would experience the same problem, but nothing else on my PC or my internal network changed. The only thing that did change is that I upgraded to version 220.127.116.11 (20080708) after I experienced the problem. Thunderbird was working correctly after I booted the PC in the morning. You might want to try doing the update and then reboot your PC to make sure that everything refreshes. Just select “Check for updates” under the Help menu.