Tech Q&A: Finding out if your email was received is harder than it sounds

Question: If I send an email, is there a way to know if the recipient got it? I’m interested because some people to whom I’ve sent an email say they never got it (not even in their spam folders.) — John Wezowicz, Suffield, Conn.

Answer: There are ways to track whether an email has been received, but none of them are very reliable and one is widely considered to be an invasion of privacy.

The “nice” ways to see if your email has been received are to ask for a “read receipt” or a “delivery receipt” when you send the message. Mail programs that can do that include Microsoft’s online mail service, the PC based Microsoft Outlook mail program and, to a lesser extent, the Gmail systems that are used by schools and businesses.

A read receipt is just a message that asks the recipient to respond if he or she reads the email. But responding is voluntary. If the recipient fails to reply, you won’t know if your email was received. To make matters more complicated, some recipient email systems might not allow the use of read receipts. As a result, read receipts might or might not work.

A delivery receipt is a little more sophisticated. It tells your email server to ask the recipient’s email server to confirm that the email was received. But not all recipient email servers will respond to these requests. So, delivery receipts also might or might not work. (To learn more about email read receipts and delivery receipts, see

The “less nice” way to see if an email has been received is to put a “tracking pixel” in the email. Tracking pixels are small, barely noticeable images that are downloaded to your email message each time a recipient opens it. Tracking pixel software tells you who opened the email. (For more details, see and and

However, there are two problems with using tracking pixel software:

Because the technology is widely used by spammers and email marketers, many people consider its use to be an invasion of their privacy.

Some email systems can block tracking pixels (see They do that by not allowing an incoming email to display any images. As a result, a tracking pixel can’t reveal if an email was opened. (However, if the email recipient asks to see the images, the tracking pixel can do its work.)

Question: What’s the best way to convert my family videos on VHS tape to digital computer files? I’d like to do the work myself, but I’d consider paying a company to do it. — Dave Urban, Dassel, Minn.

Answer: It’s practical for you to do the conversion work yourself. Whether it’s cheaper than paying someone to do it will depend on how many VHS tapes you need to convert.

You’ll need a VHS-to-digital conversion device (new for $25-$175, see and a VCR (used for $130 and up on eBay or Amazon.) Cables may cost extra. For simple directions, see this article from Forbes ( This Tom’s Guide article ( is a bit more technical, but also lists services that will do the conversion for you for about $20 per tape.