Troubleshooting

This page is only designed to help people who cannot send mail to AOL members.
If you are an AOL member and are having problems getting mail at your AOL account, please open a Postmaster Support Request.

Tools for Troubleshooting

  • Verify Connecting IP
    • Confirm your outbound mail IP. Even if you believe you know your outbound IP, please do this test. You could be sending through a proxy server or firewall, or your IP may have changed.
  • Manual SMTP Telnet Test
    • Perform a manual SMTP telnet test. This should work under a variety of operating systems. We can often troubleshoot an issue by looking at the telnet results.
  • Confirming DNS Resolution Ability
    • Verify your system's ability to resolve AOL's name-servers.
  • Verifying your IP's rDNS
    • Check your IP's rDNS against AOL's name-servers to insure you have reverse DNS and that it has propagated to the AOL network. If you have recently changed your rDNS, please allow 48-72 hours for full propagation across the Internet.
  • Review our SMTP Error Messages
    • Error messages, both spam-policy-specific, and standard SMTP errors...and what they mean.
  • Ensure your IP is not an open relay

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Other Resources

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Verifying Your Ability to Resolve AOL's DNS servers

There are a number of ways to verify your capability to properly query AOL's DNS records, which is an essential part of being able to send us email. The following procedure should work under a variety of operating systems, including Windows, UNIX and Linux. Do not replace "aol.com" with your own domain, as the purpose of this test is to verify you can resolve aol.com's MX records!

From a Command prompt on the affected server, type:

nslookup -q=mx aol.com

This command searches for the domain names and IP numbers belonging to the aol.com receiving mail servers. These are referred to as MX records. AOL's MX records are mailin-0[1-4].mx.aol.com.

Information similar to the following should appear:

C:\>nslookup -q=mx aol.com.

aol.com MX preference = 15, mail exchanger = mailin-04.mx.aol.com.
aol.com MX preference = 15, mail exchanger = mailin-01.mx.aol.com.
aol.com MX preference = 15, mail exchanger = mailin-02.mx.aol.com.
aol.com MX preference = 15, mail exchanger = mailin-03.mx.aol.com.

aol.com nameserver = dns-02.ns.aol.com.
aol.com nameserver = dns-07.ns.aol.com.
aol.com nameserver = dns-06.ns.aol.com.
aol.com nameserver = dns-01.ns.aol.com.
mailin-02.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.137.89
mailin-02.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.138.120
mailin-02.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.155.72
mailin-02.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.249.91
mailin-03.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.109.56
mailin-03.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.252.17
mailin-03.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.138.153
mailin-04.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.138.88
mailin-04.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.159.216
mailin-04.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.138.57
mailin-01.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.222.197
mailin-01.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.156.248
mailin-01.mx.aol.com    internet address = 205.188.159.57
mailin-01.mx.aol.com    internet address = 64.12.137.169
dns-01.ns.aol.com       internet address = 64.12.51.132
dns-02.ns.aol.com       internet address = 205.188.157.232
dns-07.ns.aol.com       internet address = 64.236.1.107
dns-06.ns.aol.com       internet address = 207.200.73.80

If you see the 4 AOL mail exchangers, then your systems can resolve AOL's DNS.

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Manual SMTP Session Instructions

There are a number of ways to manually perform a mail transaction using telnet. The following procedure should work under a variety of operating systems, including Windows, UNIX and Linux.

This section describes how to manually perform a mail transaction using telnet. If you do not receive the replies shown, copy the entire transaction and save it so that you can report the error you received. In order for this test to be useful, it must be run from directly from the affected mail server.

Generally OK codes start with 2xx and Error codes start with 5xx. An example of an error code would be if you connect to us and receive 554 RTR:SC .... A 5xx error code could indicate a number of problems - for example, a syntax error or AOL systems blocking your incoming connections due to lack of rDNS or excessive user complaints.

To manually perform a mail transaction using telnet, perform the following steps. IMPORTANT: If you make a typographical mistake, do not use back-space, which can send control characters that will cause a syntax error. Quit out and start over.

The explanation & instruction portion is in italics, and what the computer's responses should be are in bold:

From a Command prompt, type:

telnet mailin-01.mx.aol.com 25

This specifies to telnet to port 25 on an AOL mail host.

The mail host identifies itself. This should be accompanied by several lines of introductory text:

220-rly-mc02.mx.aol.com ESMTP mail_relay_in-mc02.5; Tue, 12 May 2009 14:17:08 -0400
220-America Online (AOL) and its affiliated companies do not
220-     authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer
220-     networks to accept, transmit, or distribute unsolicited bulk
220-     e-mail sent from the internet.  Effective immediately:  AOL 
220-     may no longer accept connections from IP addresses which 
220      have no reverse-DNS (PTR record) assigned.

''This is the standard greeting text issued after any successful connection to the AOL mail system. This text will be shown after a connection is made regardless of the state of the PTR record on the connecting IP. If in doubt, you can check to see if you have reverse DNS (rDNS).''

Type:

EHLO example.com

where example.com specifies your mail server's domain. Your host's name will be repeated back to you by the AOL mail server, preceded by the name of the AOL server you are connecting to, similar to the below:

250-rly-dd06.mx.aol.com yourhostname.example.com

then you will see: 250 HELP - this is normal. Keep going.

Type:

MAIL FROM: <you@example.com>

where you@example.com indicates the address the mail should appear to be from.
Note: You must include the < > signs.
If you type it correctly, you will see:
250 OK. If not, you will probably get a SYNTAX ERROR.

Type:

RCPT TO: <yourrecipient@aol.com>

Note: You must include the equality(< >) signs.
If you type it correctly, you will see:
250 OK If not, you will probably get a SYNTAX ERROR.

Type:

DATA

and you will see: START MAIL INPUT, END WITH "." ON A LINE BY ITSELF

Type a brief message, followed by <Enter>
Type a period (dot).
Hit <Enter> again. (Type a period on a line by itself, then hit ENTER.) You will see:

250 OK

A successful transaction should appear similar to the following:

telnet mailin-01.mx.aol.com 25
Trying 205.188.159.57...
Connected to mailin-01.mx.aol.com.
Escape character is '^]'.
220-rly-da06.mx.aol.com ESMTP mail_relay_in-da06.3; Mon, 09 Nov 2009 13:54:08 -0500
220-America Online (AOL) and its affiliated companies do not
220-     authorize the use of its proprietary computers and computer
220-     networks to accept, transmit, or distribute unsolicited bulk
220-     e-mail sent from the internet.  Effective immediately:  AOL
220-     may no longer accept connections from IP addresses which
220      have no reverse-DNS (PTR record) assigned.
EHLO example.com
250-rly-dd06.mx.aol.com yourhostname.example.com
250 HELP
MAIL FROM: <you@example.com>
250 OK
rcpt to: <yourrecipient@aol.com>
250 OK
DATA
354 START MAIL INPUT, END WITH "." ON A LINE BY ITSELF
testing 123
.
250 OK

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Verify Connecting IP

Many mail servers, even those with an external IP address, route mail out through a firewall or proxy server. From the perspective of AOL's servers, the firewall or proxy IP address is the one connecting to AOL, not the internal mail server. If you are unsure whether you are sending through a firewall or proxy server, the following test will show the path of any mail that leaves your system.

Automatic Process:

Send an email to ipconfirm@postmaster.aol.com. You will receive a response from "ipconfirm-response@postmaster.aol.com". The response will contain the IP address that connects to America Online.

Manual Process:

  1. Send an e-mail to an account outside your own domain.
  2. View the full header of the e-mail as received by the external account. You will see a series of lines beginning with the word Received. For example:
Received: from 123.123.123.123 (EHLO mail2.sammy.com) (123.123.123.123) by server.outsideEmailServer.com with SMTP; Sat, 23 Aug 2003 12:43:16 -0700
Received: (from send@localhost) by server2.sammy.com (8.8.5/8.8.5) id MAA14276; Sat, 23 Aug 2003 12:43:19 -0700

In this example 123.123.123.123 is the IP address of the server that connected to the external mail server, even though the mail originated elsewhere. Should you find out that you have been connecting through a firewall or proxy server, please run the RDNS and Manual telnet tests again using the IP address of the firewall or proxy connecting to AOL's mail servers.

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Open Relay Search

What is an open relay?

An open relay, also known as third-party relay, is an e-mail server that allows anyone on the Internet to connect to it and send e-mail. For example, "Joe User", dialed in through "Big ISP" can connect to the open relay and send his mail to any destination he chooses. This abuse is popular with spammers.

Checking for open relay

The way to test your server is to telnet to the IP address in question on port 25 from a different Internet Service Provider and manually initiate an SMTP transaction. If you can send mail from yourself from the different ISP to an outside e-mail address, your server is an open relay. There are also open-relay testing sites available, easily searchable on the Web.

Why should I close my open relay?

Your server may encounter severe problems if it is used to send unsolicited bulk e-mail (spam). These problems may include the server crashing or being blocked from sending e-mail to some domains and networks. Such abuse will also have a lasting impact on the server's IP reputation, making it difficult to send legitimate mail. There can be significant expense incurred in bandwidth and repair costs.