How to Check Your PHP Mail Configuration to Ensure its working

October 31, 2017
How to Check Your PHP Mail Configuration to Ensure its working

PHP mail configuration issues are common; however, we can mitigate the situation using our troubleshooting tips.

How to Create PHP Mail Scripts That Actually Work

It is an all too familiar problem, finalizing the code on your PHP mail script but once you send the first email nothing happens. It is a common problem faced by many like you but luckily here is how you can correct or mitigate the situation.

Whenever you encounter the issue of your PHP mail script not sending out emails, it’s time to run a diagnosis. Whether you suspect the problem to be big or small, the following troubleshooting tips will clear all doubts.

Turn on error reporting

The problem could be as simple as forgetting to enable error reporting on your PHP mail scripts. This reporting system gives a red flag whenever there is a general problem the PHP faces. Here is a simple code to help turn on error reporting on your PHP.

Ensure the function mail () is called

This is a common overlooked error when setting up PHP. Analyze your code to see if mail () was left, include it in case it was commented out during the coding phase.

Check web server logs

If your web server is not logging all the attempts you made to send an email, then diagnosis of the real issue even gets tougher. On other hand, availability of the log files means you can check through them and see what problem your web server registered. Web server should be accessible on a root directory labeled logs, if not, contact your web administrator to help locate them.

Do away with error suppression operator

When the symbol @ (error suppression operator) is prefixed to any PHP expression, it means any error that may arise from that expression will be ignored. If you have anything like @mail(…) in your code, this could be the reason why you cannot diagnose errors. Remove the prefix @ then run an error_get_last() test to check for all issues.

Assess the return value mail ()

Return value denotes TRUE if the mail serve accepts to deliver the mail, and FALSE when it states otherwise. But just because you get a TRUE return value doesn’t mean your mail successfully reached the intended recipient.

A FALSE return value is easier to diagnose because it indicates your mail server isn’t accepting to send your email; thus it’s not a problem with coding. Contact your mail host to check if it’s a problem with server configuration on their end. A TRUE on the other hand only means your PHP server successfully accepted the action but did not fully execute it. Further diagnosis on your end is required to determine whether the problem is beyond PHP’s control.

View spam folders

It’s common for new emails to end up in the recipient’s spam folder so confirm this first before reviewing your code. However, it’s possible to prevent email from being flagged as spam during the backend process. Here is what you can do to avoid emails resulting in spam folders;

  • Check reverse DNS to see if the mail server IP address is in line with the domain you send emails through
  • Check that the ‘reply-to’ address is a valid and existing one
  • Use full or real names in the ‘To’ addressee filed
  • Make unsubscribing easier for your users lest they are tempted to use the spam button
Check mail headers

Are they all supplied? Mail servers or spam software will block any email that omits a ‘From’ and ‘Reply To’ header. See example below

Check headers for syntax errors

Double check your syntax to ensure there is no character that looks off on headers. Such omissions often go unnoticed by PHP thus unleashing an emailing nightmare on web owners.

Check recipient values as well

Incorrect recipient values stem from incorrect variables used in the coding process. Below are two ways to test this as shown below

Or hardcode the recipient values in the mail () function as shown below

Email different accounts

Send multiple emails to different accounts or use different email providers to send mail to one account. This is to help rule identify if it’s really your PHP setup or an error in email account service. If mails are delivered one email and rejected on another, then it’s the email account service that is blocking your mails.

PHP mail issues are common; however, we can mitigate the situation using the above troubleshooting tips.

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Article by Sifat Author
Published on: October 31, 2017
Last updated on:

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