Useful Commands When Using Telnet on a POP3 Mail Server

This article in the series of telnet articles will give you some handy commands to use when connected to a POP3 mail server. You would not normally have reason to get at your e-mail in this fashion but it could be handy if there is a huge e-mail in your mailbox that is clogging everything up behind it. This was perhaps more of an issue back in the days of dialup where a 1MB e-mail could take nearly ten minutes to download but as people send offensively larger attachments it might still be worth knowing.

In a nutshell, these are:

  • stat
    • this command will let you know how many messages you have waiting and their total size in bytes (i.e. a value of 1000 equals 1KB and a value of 1000000 equals 1MB),
Telnet - Stat Command

Telnet – Stat Command

  • list
    • typing in this command will give you a numbered list of messages waiting and their size in bytes,
Telnet - List Command

Telnet – List Command

  • top
    • this command will display the first x lines of a given message,
    • typed in as top <message number> <number of lines> (i.e. “top 1 30” to display the first thirty lines of the first message),
Telnet - Top Command

Telnet – Top Command

  • dele
    • this command will delete the specified message,
    • typed in as dele <message number> (i.e. “dele 1” to delete the first message),
    • you need to repeat this for each and every message,
    • in order for the deletions to take effect you have to use the quit command afterwards.
  • quit
    • this closes your connection to the mail server and makes your changes permanent (if you’ve deleted any messages).

Using these commands, you should be able to work out how full your mailbox is as well as which messages are the largest and then delete them off the mail server.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to cope with deleting massive amounts of e-mail in one go when typing in commands line by line is not feasible.

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