BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2005

  

 

BOOT CAMP 370 (29/03/05)

Troubleshooting Outlook Express, part 1

 

Outlook Express has always generated a fair amount of letters and emails but over the past nine months we have noticed a significant increase in the number of grumpy Connected readers reporting problems with it.

 

The reason isn’t hard to find and the underlying cause is undoubtedly the deluge of Spam, viruses and email ‘worms’ flooding the Internet. On its own Outlook Express is a generally reliable and simple to use program but a succession of security updates to Windows -- notably XP Service Pack 2 -- plus upgrades to anti-virus packages, a proliferation of anti Spam measures, broadband, Firewalls and networking have all conspired to change the way OE interacts with the Internet.

 

We have dealt with some of the these difficulties in recent editions of Boot Camp but there’s clearly a need for a more concerted approach to solving OE problems and we’ll begin this week with an overview of how OE works, basic configuration issues and some simple troubleshooting tips; next week, common error messages.

 

Outlook Express is a versatile email ‘client’ program with many advanced features but we’ll be concentrating on its most basic function, which is to send and receive emails. There are many ways this can be done but the vast majority of PC owners use the standard POP3 email account provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP) when they sign up for Internet access.

 

POP stands for ‘Post Office Protocol’ and this is a set of rules that determines how the data that makes up an email message is received and processed by a computer. Emails sent from a PC use a different set of rules, called SMTP or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and in order to separate the two message streams incoming and outgoing mail are handled by different ‘server’ computers operated by the ISP.

 

To send or receive email your PC must first be logged on to the Internet. With a dial-up connection this should happen automatically when you click the Send button in an email message window or the Send/Receive button in the Outlook Express main window. If you have broadband the connection to the Internet is normally established when the PC boots up and it will be on all of the time the PC is running.

 

Tip 1. If you are having any sort of problem with OE check the blindingly obvious (but easy to overlook) and ensure that you have a working Internet connection. Just open your browser to display your Home Page and click a link or two.

 

When you compose an email and click the Send button OE goes online and logs onto your ISP’s SMTP server. The server has its own Internet address, which will be something like ‘smpt.myisp.com’ (where myisp is the name of your ISP). Once the connection is established the message is uploaded to the server and then routed over the Internet to the recipient’s ISP where the message is stored on a server computer and there it will remain until it is downloaded to the recipients PC.

 

To receive email messages OE logs onto your ISP’s incoming mail server, which also has it’s own Internet address, usually in the form of ‘pop.myisp.com’. If there are any messages waiting they will be downloaded into OE and stored in the Inbox folder after which they can be read.

 

Tip 2. Check that your POP3 and SMTP server addresses are correct. Open OE, go to the Tools menu, select Accounts then the Mail tab. Highlight your default account (if you have more than one email account) and click Properties then the Server tab. The POP and SMTP addresses shown should be the ones supplied to you by your ISP when you opened the account. If you don’t know what they are they can normally be found in the Help or Support sections of your ISP’s web site. If you are having logon problems check that you have entered the correct Account Name (usually all or the first part of your email address, before the ‘@’ symbol) and password.

 

That’s basically how OE is supposed to work but nowadays a number of extra steps have been introduced into the process. Firewall programs can block OE’s attempts to connect to the Internet. Anti-virus programs with email ‘scanners’ can do all sorts of odd things to connection settings. Anti-Spam software can also foul things up, and if your PC connects to the Internet through another PC or a network Outlook Express’s POP3 and SMTP proxy settings may have been incorrectly reconfigured. Most of these programs make the necessary changes to OE, Windows and your Internet connection automatically when they are installed, without incident, but things can and do wrong…

 

Tip 3. If your PC is online but OE stubbornly refuses to cooperate try switching off or disabling any other programs that share, control or monitor your Internet connection. Most of them appear as icons in the System Tray. Right click one of them and select Exit or Close then  try sending an email to yourself. If that doesn’t work try another one. Some anti-virus programs also have components that continue to operate in the background so press Ctrl + Alt + Delete and check the Applications and Processes tabs. If you see anything that relates to your anti-virus software click  ‘End Task’ or ‘End Process’ and see if that makes a difference.   

 

Next Week -- Troubleshooting Outlook Express Problems, part 2

 

JARGON FILTER

 

FIREWALL

Program that monitors an Internet connection, preventing unauthorised access by hackers. Most commercial firewalls also stop programs on a PC from using the Internet connection without permission

 

PROXY

A program or service that acts as a go-between, allowing PCs connected to a network to send and receive data from the Internet

 

SYSTEM TRAY

The area next to the desktop clock displaying icons of running programs that are loaded when Windows boots up

 

TIP OF THE WEEK

If you can’t send or receive messages through Outlook Express and you suspect you have emails waiting then you can still log on to your ISP’s mail servers by using a 'webmail' client. Go to: www.mail2web.com/, enter your email address and password and your messages will be displayed. You can reply to, forward or delete messages and it’s all free.

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