SUMMARY: Disappearing mail

From: Elmar Kurgpold (
Date: Wed Mar 10 1993 - 03:52:49 CST

I have not resolved the situation to my satisfaction, but I did receive
some helpful responses. I checked everything that was suggested with
no luck. Here are the tips that I got, along with a few of my own (not
necessarily in any order).

1. Check that the partition /var/spool/mail resides on is not full.
2. Check ~/mbox, mail sometimes saves unresolved messages here.
3. Make sure that /var/spool/mail and /usr/spool/mail are linked, and
not two separate directories.
4. Avoid suppressing attribute caching ("noac" mount option) on the mount point.
5. Don't run more than one mail application.
6. Try running the mailtool from the mailhost to get around NFS.
7. Check in /var/syslog for the message that killed the mail (if you
have syslog.conf setup to log sendmail activity).
8. Install patch 100173-09 NFS jumbo patch.
9. Make sure that the local /tmp filesystem is not full and has enough
room to fit your mailfile.

I don't suspect NFS so much, because my mail file was not "corrupted".
That is to say, there was no garbage, and /usr/ucb/mail did not
complain about blank spaces at the top of the file. Someone or
something simply **deleted** exactly 580 messages. We have been using
the same method for years, without change, and it still is setup
exactly as Sun had it after initial installation.

Another thing I remembered from my Sun 386i admin days was that we
found a limit of about 2000 messages, which I believe was a Sunview
limitation. After this, certain messages (I forget now whether they
were at the top or the bottom) would not display. Deleting some
messages would resolve the problem, so nothing was ever actually lost
without a trace.

I did indeed recover my mail from backup tapes, and I don't think I am
missing anything. Even though I have my messages back, I will not rest
easy unless I can find out what really happened. The reason is our
organization relies very heavily on e-mail, and all
H-E-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose when something goes wrong.

If anyone ever sees this behavior in the future, please post.

Thank you, as always, for reading this far. And special thanks to...

David Willard (
Susan KJ Thielen (
Geert Jan (
Brian S. Boyd (
Michael Harrington (
Pat Pawlak (
Glenn Satchell (glenn%ups.uucp@fourx.Aus.Sun.COM)

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