Proton explains the technical issues that caused the recent ProtonMail outages

Jul 18, 2022

Last week was a tough one for Proton users, the company experienced multiple outages spread across 3 days. Yesterday, Proton sent out an email to its users to explain the issues behind the disruption of its services.

Proton explains the technical issues that caused its recent outages

I didn't think the issue was a big deal, as I never noticed any downtime, maybe because I'm in a different time zone than the users who had reported about the outage. That's why I didn't write about it here, because I didn't experience the issue first hand. Some users wrote that they couldn't access Proton VPN and ProtonMail, while some could use the VPN.

When I saw new complaints about another outage the next day, I was quite surprised. Though I could still access ProtonMail, I noticed that the site was slower than usual. I thought it was trying to connect but failed, but it worked after several seconds. Interestingly, or worryingly, the issue recurred for a third consecutive day, and I reckoned this could be a major problem. I don't think I've ever seen an email provider experience so many outages in such a short time frame. You can check the logs at for more information.

ProtonMail outage

Image via reddit

Many users were concerned about these outages, the biggest complaint was that they were unable to access their mails, receive new messages, or reply to them. There was another question that had been raised, has Proton been hacked or under attack? Would this result in loss of mails? The short answer is no, the company was experiencing some technical difficulties.

What caused the ProtonMail outage?

As you may know, Proton had been working on various improvements for its products. We just noticed the changes on the front-end, but it appears that the company had also been working on upgrading its infrastructure by adding new servers, and new software with better performance and higher storage capacity. Proton says that it upgraded its servers that were running its core database to a new version on July 10th.

The software had passed the quality checks without any hiccups, before the main database was upgraded. But, it turns out that the core database, which has higher activity than others, was overloaded after the upgrade. High user activity isn't something that could be simulated, which might explain the tests could not predict the outcome. The security system, which Proton had in place, noticed the high activity, and misinterpreted it as a threat. So, it activated some protective measures (on July 11th), which in turn caused a roadblock for users who were trying to log in to their Proton accounts, including users who had previously logged in on the web and on their mobile apps.

Proton states that it solved the problem by splitting the load of its database over multiple servers, and slowed down lower priority services like push notifications. The company had to add more servers, and eventually managed to restore the stability and performance of its systems. Proton has promised to publish more details about the outage on its blog this week.

I don't use Proton as my main email provider, so I wasn't really impacted by the outage. Some users may not be satisfied by the company's approach to fix the issues, after all it did take 3 days to sort out the problems completely. If I were a paying customer who relied on ProtonMail, I would have certainly been annoyed by the downtime, and not being able to get to my receipts, documents, etc.

That's why I think it's good it's important that Proton sent out the mail to users as an apology and explain what happened. It shows that they are willing to take responsibility for the issues that they inadvertently created. The transparency would be appreciated by users, but it is also a neat way by the company to reassure users that they weren't hacked, and that their data is safe.

Were you affected by the Proton outage?

Proton explains the technical issues that caused its recent outages
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Proton explains the technical issues that caused its recent outages
ProtonMail and Proton VPN suffered from multiple outages last week. Proton has sent out an email to users explaining what caused the issue.
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  1. JMGG said on January 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    You said that Outlook isn’t your main email client, so which is your main one?

    1. BalaC said on January 19, 2012 at 9:42 am

      I think its thunderbird

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 19, 2012 at 10:15 am

      It is Mozilla Thunderbird.

  2. Salaam said on September 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Awesome! This actually solved my problem… what a stupid bug.

  3. Claud said on December 19, 2012 at 2:08 am

    If this is the same bug that I’ve encountered, there may be another fix: (1) hover over open Outlook item in Taskbar, cursor up to hover over Outlook window item, and right-click; (2) this should give you Restore / Move / Size / Minimize / Maximize — choose Move or Size; (3) use your cursor keys, going arbitrarily N/S/E/W, to try to move or size the Outlook window back into view. Basically, the app behaves as though it were open in a 0x0 window, or at a location that’s offscreen, and this will frequently work to resize and/or move the window. Don’t forget to close while resized/moved, so that Outlook remembers the size/position for next time.

    1. Lynda said on February 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      THANK YOU Claude!!! I could get the main window to launch but could not get any other message window to show on the desktop. You are my hero!!!!

    2. Chad said on November 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Solved my issue! 6 years later and this is still problem…

    3. Ivan X said on January 21, 2021 at 4:50 pm

      Fantastic. Thank you. Size did the trick.

  4. Andrew said on October 26, 2013 at 7:06 am

    This solved my Outlook problem, too. Thank you. :)

  5. Charles said on December 7, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    Thank you so much, this started happening to me today and was causing big problems. You are a life saver, I hope I can help you in some way some day.

  6. garth said on November 7, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    You are a god – thank you!

  7. Faisal said on February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    thanks a lot…. work like charm.. :-)

  8. Simon said on March 24, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Yah…thanks Claude. I’ve been having the same problem and tried all the suggestions…your solution was the answer. It had resized itself to a 0/0 box. Cheers

  9. Olu said on April 14, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Excellent post. This had me baffled even trying to accurately describe the problem. This fixed it for me.
    Thank you

  10. Coenig said on July 23, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Thanks a lot for the article. Don’t know why it happenend, don’t know how it got fixed, but it was really annoying and now it works :-)

  11. Fali said on January 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks a lot. I was facing this issue from past 3 week. I tried everything but no resolution. The issue was happening intermittently and mainly when I was changing the display of screen ( as i use 2 monitors). The only option i had was to do system restore. But thanks to you.

    1. MIki said on January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      I’ve been tried to sole this problem for 12hours. Your comment about changing the display of screen helped me a lot!! Thanks!!

  12. Christina said on January 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you…don’t know why this happened but your instructions helped me fix it. Running Windows 10 and office pro 2007

  13. Oz said on July 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Great tip! Thanks!

  14. Tracy said on September 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Worked for me, too – thank you!!!

  15. shawn said on September 9, 2016 at 10:25 am

    It’s Worked for me, too
    thank you very much!

  16. Jari said on October 31, 2016 at 11:53 am

    I had a similar issue with Outlook 2013 on Windows 10 and this helped me to fix it. Thank you very much!

  17. Michel H said on November 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Thank you so much. Solved!
    Considering you published this in 2012, incredible not been debugged by Microsoft.
    Thank you again. M

  18. Ziad Bitar said on January 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

    This problem was faced by only one user logging to TS 2008 r2 using outlook 2010.The issue was resolved.


  19. Anonymous said on February 15, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Great tip. Thank you!!!! If it helps, I had to use the Control Key and the arrow keys at the same time to bring my window back into view. Worked like a charm.

  20. Rochelle said on March 6, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thank you, this worked !!!!

  21. anom1234 said on May 20, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Man, you are a fucking god. Thanks a lot, what an annoying bug!!

  22. JC said on October 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    Awesome, this post solved the issue. Many thanks!

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