If you’re using POP3 for your e-mail, you have probably encountered the following scenario: Someone has sent you a huge email that you don’t really want, and you have to download it or you won’t be able to get any of your other emails. If you’re on dialup, this can be a real annoyance.

Luckily, deleting the offending message is very easy. People that use webmail just click it and press delete, and that’s what we’re going to do, in a way. The way your client (Outlook, Thunderbird or whatever) talks to the server is by issuing simple text commands.

Here we go, if you’re in windows run “telnet <yourserver> 110”, without the quotes and replacing <yourserver> with your e-mail server. For example, if your email is yourname@name.com, then your server is name.com. Run it, and a window will open. If you’re on Linux, telnet to your mail server at port 110. The server will politely greet you, saying:

+OK Hello there.

Only the +OK part is mandatory, the server is free to say anything it wants after that. Now, type in user <your email>, and when the server says +OK type pass <yourpassword. Here’s what I did:

user igettons@ofspam.com
+OK Password required.
pass ihatespam
+OK logged in.

Good, now you’re logged in. If you made a mistake just retry, if the window closes just run it again. Now that you’re logged in, you can find the offending message. You can use the commands stat and list to see the messages and their size.

+OK 2 1909
+OK POP3 clients that break here, they violate STD53.
1 804
2 1105

As you can see, we have two messages. One is slightly larger than the other, but I can’t remember which one I want to delete, so I’ll just read the top few lines of it, by issuing the top command (the syntax is top <message number> <lines to read>):

top 1 10
+OK headers follow.
Return-path: &lt;allthese@emails.com&gt;
Envelope-to: have@been.com
Delivery-date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 18:28:52 -0500
Received: from \[\] (port=1401 helo=changed)
by someone.com with esmtpsa (TLSv1:AES256-SHA:256)
(Exim 4.52)
id 1F84Ad-0007Lf-Lc
for iam@tired.com; Sat, 11 Feb 2006 18:28:52 -0500
To: "ofchanging@allthis.com" &lt;ofchanging@allthis.com&gt;
Subject: Test
From: Myself &lt;me@my.com&gt;
Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed; delsp=yes; charset=iso-8859-7
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
Date: Sun, 12 Feb 2006 01:28:39 +0200
Message-ID: &lt;op.s4t0t1cc85fbr2@pwnage&gt;
User-Agent: Opera Mail(BETA2)/9.00 (Win32)
X-Antivirus-Scanner: Clean mail though you should still use an Antivirus

Hi, this is a test.

This is the message I want to delete, so I’ll go ahead and do it, using the dele command (dele <message number>):

dele 1
+OK Deleted.

Beware though, the message hasn’t been deleted yet, the server is lying to us. It’s only been marked for deletion, and we need to quit in order for the deletion to be completed, so don’t just close the window (on the other hand, if you made a mistake, just close the window without quitting and the message will reappear). Issue the “quit” command and your session will be terminated:

+OK Bye-bye.

That’s all, our email has been deleted. If you want to delete more, just repeat the “dele” command and delete them all. Also, just for the record, if you want to get an entire message the command to use is “retr <message number>”. Now you can impress your friends by reading your emails through a command line. It will also make you especially popular with the ladies (or, if you’re a woman, it will actually work for geeks).