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Outage blocks e-mail

Apple warns that maintenance and repair to its e-mail service could temporarily close access, but some subscribers complain of a longer wait and say old e-mail is lost.

Mac users who get their e-mail through Apple Computer's servers had trouble getting access to their messages over the weekend, a problem the computer maker attributed to maintenance and repair of its e-mail servers.

Apple posted a message to the discussion boards of its Web site Sunday noting that about 20 percent of customers would be unable to gain access to e-mail because of the maintenance but said it expected to complete the work in about five hours. Apple provides free e-mail accounts and Web page hosting to Apple customers via its servers.

However, a number of Mac users complained that the outage was lasting longer and said that in addition to being unable to receive new e-mail, it appeared that their old mail had been lost.

"My e-mail account works now, but all messages and subfolders disappeared!" wrote e-mail user Justus Sahlberg on Apple's forums. "I really, really hope that I get them back! I'm currently looking for a new job, and I had very important mails at my account."

Apple responded to Sahlberg and others that it was aware of the issues customers were facing but assured them their e-mail was safe.

"We are aware that some users may be experiencing an issue where their previously stored e-mail is not available," an Apple representative said in a posting on the discussion board. "We are working on recovering all subfolders and messages. The recovery process may take up to 24 hours. Please be assured that no mail will be lost."

On Monday, Apple said on its Web site that new messages were again being delivered but said that it would not be fully up to speed until noon PT. The company said that by 1 p.m. PT all old e-mail should be available as well.

However, later Monday, Apple said that the process of restoring old e-mail was taking longer than it expected.

"This process has proven to be more time consuming than anticipated, and is proceeding alphabetically at this time," an Apple representative said in a posting to the discussion boards. Apple said that as of 8 p.m. PT it was up to the letter "E."

Bill Bumgarner, chief technology officer of New York-based CodeFab, said he experienced difficulty getting his e-mail over the weekend but said the e-mail reappeared Monday, albeit with his old mail showing up as unread messages.

"My mail client 'rebuilt' my iTools mailbox this morning and all of my old e-mail was still there," Bumgarner said in an e-mail message. "It appears that nothing was lost."

An Apple representative was not immediately available for comment.