BOOT CAMP 370 (29/03/05)
Troubleshooting Outlook Express,
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
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
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
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
A program or service that acts as a go-between, allowing PCs
connected to a network to send and receive data from the Internet
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.