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A Simple PHP mail() Function For Testing SMTP Delivery

Making sure mail is sent properly from a PHP website is a bit difficult when it’s not your server, like shared hosting. You never have access to the mail logs, so you can’t see mail moving. I host several websites on shared hosting and recently found my CMS was not sending emails to me. So I opened a ticket and I concluded it to be a SNAFU.

I’m never satisfied when I conclude something doesn’t work because it’s complex. The best thing to do is to snap into diagnostic mode. The first rule of diagnosis of the problem is start simple and work from there. The saying of getting to the root of the problem is accurate.

I looked at the CMS code and concluded that the function being called to send mail is the PHP function of mail(). So I needed to check the PHP mail function by itself, without the complexity of the CMS. If the mail() function sends mail, then the problem is the CMS or my email. If the mail() function does not send mail, then my provider has something that they can work with and I can present the problem to them. Simple I created a simple PHP script called testmail.php with this short little string of code:

$to = 'youraccount@youremail.com';
$subject = 'Sent on '.date("F j, Y, g:i a");
$message = 'Test message';

mail($to, $subject, $message);

This routine will send mail to the $to variable and also tag the date in the subject. This is all done via the sendmail variable in php, you can do a phpinfo() to find which program sends mail. This can be handy if you need to see when it left the other system and came into yours. Just look the original header and you will be able to see all details.

In the end my problem resulted in my SPAM filter catching the email thus never showing up in the Inbox. Stupid problem, but until you verify the flow of mail with your hosting provider and scale your complexity back… You won’t solve the problem.