SMTP Error Messages

By John Biswell on 4th March, 2011.

The Full Code List

A mail server will reply to every request a client (such as your email program) makes with a return code. This code consists of three numbers.

The first generally tells whether the server accepted the command and if it could handle it. The five possible values are:

  • The server has accepted the command, but does not yet take action. A confirmation message is required. Currently, this is not used
  • The server has completed the task successfully
  • The server has understood the request, but requires further information to complete it
  • The server has encountered a temporary failure. If the command is repeated without any change, it might be completed. Mail servers can use such temporary failures to keep untrusted senders at bay
  • The server has encountered an error

The second number gives more information. Its six possible values are:

  • 0: A syntax error has occurred
  • 1: Indicates a informational reply, for example to a HELP request
  • 2: Refers to the connection status
  • 3 and 4 are unspecified
  • 5: Refers to the status of the mail system as a whole and the mail server in particular

The last number is even more specific and shows more graduations of the mail transfer status. This leads us to the detailed list of ESMTP server response codes, as laid down in RFC 821 and later extensions.

SMTP Error Messages – The List

  • 211 – A system status message
  • 214 – A help message for a human reader follows
  • 220 – SMTP Service ready
  • 221 – Service closing
  • 250 – Requested action taken and completed. The best message of them all
  • 251 – The recipient is not local to the server, but the server will accept and forward the message
  • 252 – The recipient cannot be VRFYed, but the server accepts the message and attempts delivery
  • 354 – Start message input and end with .. This indicates that the server is ready to accept the message itself (after you have told it who it is from and where you want to to go)
  • 421 – The service is not available and the connection will be closed
  • 450 – The requested command failed because the user’s mailbox was unavailable (for example because it was locked). Try again later
  • 451 – The command has been aborted due to a server error. Not your fault. Maybe let the admin know
  • 452 – The command has been aborted because the server has insufficient system storage

The following error messages (500-504) usually tell you that your email client is broken. It’s probably best to let the program’s author know.

  • 500 – The server could not recognize the command due to a syntax error
  • 501 – A syntax error was encountered in command arguments
  • 502 – This command is not implemented
  • 503 – The server has encountered a bad sequence of commands
  • 504 – A command parameter is not implemented
  • 550 – The requested command failed because the user’s mailbox was unavailable (for example because it was not found, or because the command was rejected for policy reasons)
  • 551 – The recipient is not local to the server. The server then gives a forward address to try
  • 552 – The action was aborted due to exceeded storage allocation
  • 553 – The command was aborted because the mailbox name is invalid
  • 554 – The transaction failed. Blame it on the weather

John Biswell

Operations Director

John is Operations Director at Secura and a Windows Server expert. Before all things IIS related, he was also a champion powerlifter.

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