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PHP mail() function returning false, but with no error

Posted by: admin December 2, 2021 Leave a comment


I am using php’s mail() function for the simple process of E-Mailing the input of a contact form to the respective person. The strange thing is that the form always used to process the E-Mails, but one day this all stopped, now the function returns false, but gives no error at all.

The site is on a shared host. When asked about this, they recommended I use the smtp relay xx.xxx.x.xxx

Correct me if I am wrong, but the mail() function does not provide provisions for this does it? Surely it is up to the HOST machine to have it’s relays configured correctly?

My question is this: Does this seem like an error with the host config, or is it my code? Here is a sample of the mail code I have used:

$to = "[email protected]"; //to who?
$subject = "Website Contact: $mysubject";
$headers .= "MIME-Version: 1.0\r\n";
$headers .= "From: $fname<$email1>\r\n";
$headers .= "Reply-To: $email1\r\n";
$headers .= "Return-Path:$email1\r\n";
$headers .= "Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8\r\n";
$headers .= "Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable\r\n";
$msg2 = nl2br($msg);

$send = mail($to, $subject, $msg2, $headers); //process mail

  //error stuff here

Many thanks,

@eisberg – I use a custom error handler like this:

//error handler function
function customError($errno, $errstr){
$err = "\n".date('Y-m-d H:m:s')." Error: [$errno] $errstr";
$fh = fopen("errlog.txt", 'a+');
fwrite($fh, $err);
set_error_handler("customError", E_ALL);

Would that mean I need to change set_error_handler("customError", E_ALL); to set_error_handler("customError", -1); ?


mail() function returning false, but with no error

Welcome to PHP!

Does this seem like an error with the host config, or is it my code?

Who knows? mail() is a black box from which you will find no useful information when something goes wrong.

When asked about this, they recommended I use the smtp relay…

Indeed, you probably should. Take a good look at SwiftMailer, an excellent, comprehensive, modern PHP mailing library that can speak directly to that SMTP server. It excels at building MIME messages, like the one you seem to have painstakingly put together above.

Other popular options include PEAR’s Mail, Zend Framework’s Zend_Mail, and the classic of classics, PHPMailer.


Sounds like your host disabled mail(), you should look into using SMTP to send mail, a good PHP mail class such as SwiftMailer will allow you to send mail via SMTP easily.


You shoud take a look at the mail logs. They hold the answer. You probably have to wrestle with your hosting company for the logs though.


More likely a host config. I think (but may be wrong) that mail() use the server mail command. So if you have no sendmail/postfix/ssmtp or other MTA installed on the server it cannot work.
If they told you to address a SMTP server directly you should use another library that implements the SMTP protocol and a Mail class to build mail and send it via SMTP directly (in PEAR or Zend Framework PHP classes you’ll find that)


I had a similar problem and my site is hosted by shared hosting service. I could figure out the issue by fixing the header. The problem was:

$headers .= “From: $fname\r\n”;

You used user email in the from field. My hosting only accepts emails with my domain name for this field. So I replaced it with this:

$headers = "From: [email protected]" ."\r\n" ;

And it fixed the problem! PHP mail() works fine after that.


Check if web is allowed to send mail by giving
getsebool httpd_can_sendmail from terminal. If the output is

httpd_can_sendmail --> off

give https the permission for sending mail by issuing setsebool httpd_can_sendmail 1
command. You must have root permission for issuing these commands.