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How to Test Your Email Address

An email address is worth nothing if it is not working. But how do you find out if it is working? There are actually a number of ways to test your address...

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Reasons for Testing

There you are with your beautiful email address and your beautiful server and your beautiful email client. But do they actually work? (An interesting question that demands to be asked here is whether things are `beautiful' because they `work' or whether they `work' because they are `beautiful'. I most universally assume the latter, presupposing that beautiful things even work when they fail.)

The reasons to test your email address are many and diverse. Maybe you want to know what weird X-headers your email program inserts for you ("X-inserts-stupid-headers: Yes"); maybe something between you and the recipients gobbles up all the Japanese text you've inserted; maybe you want to experience the joy of seeing something work (and email miraculously often works).

Send yourself mail

The first and easiest attempt to verify that your address is usable would be to send yourself mail. In some cases this might not test what you want to test however, for example if you have re-configured your email server and want to see if it can talk to the outside world. Furthermore, it doesn't feel like you've proved anything; remember when you would juggle with these three three table tennis balls easily 77 times while alone, but as soon as you (eventually!) made your mother look there would be little to look at?

Free Email

A way to see if you can communicate with other people than yourself is to pretend you're someone else. Free email services make that possible. You set up an account and get an email address at some other, independent server for free.

Now you can send a message from the account that is to be probed to the new identity you got and see if (hopefully that) it works. You can also have a look at the headers, albeit probably not too comfortably.

This works, but unless you already own such an account it may be more trouble than it is worth. And, above all, it's not really beautiful.

Option 3: TU Berlin Echo Processor

A beautiful solution to the email testing problem is offered by the Technical Univerity Berlin in Germany: the TU Berlin Echo Processor.

A message sent to echo@tu-berlin.de will be bounced, or echoed, back from there to where it came from. After some system information you will find your complete original mail with all header lines inlined in the body, making it easy to spot possible errors or oddities.

Alternatively, you can possibly exploit an innocent mailing list server by sending some bogus command and making it return the original message it got from you. But is this beautiful?


"Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.
Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.
Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more."

Ray Charles
Hit the Road, Jack

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