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Friday, September 4, 2009

Troubleshooting Your Internet Headaches (Part 3: Email)

Many of us are familiar with the difficulty of getting our precious email messages.  Whether you have gotten an error, or the email message was cut off, or perhaps embedded pictures didn't load, it's all frustrating, and there's a good chance that you had similar difficulties like those at some point in your internet browsing experience.  I, too, had experiences of extreme difficulty in getting my email to open properly.  However, like previous blogs of mine have mentioned, if you are willing to have patience, and a cool-headed approach to the problem, you will be able to overcome most obstacles in this area.

There are many different interfaces to read, write, and send your email to your friends and loved ones.  like Hotmail, Yahoo, even Gmail.  And then there are those of us who prefer having a software client email program like Outlook, Outlook Express, AOL, and others.  Many times do I get the familiar question "Why can't I open my email?"  Well, the reason can be many depending on how you are accessing your email whether through a web-based service like Hotmail, Yahoo, even Gmail, or through a more traditional client software program like Microsoft Outlook, Eudora, or even AOL's own software program.  Whatever interface you use, it's important to know how to approach each type.  First, if it's a web-based service email like Hotmail, Yahoo, etc, you'll want to follow standard internet troubleshooting as covered by my two previous blogs on this topic, Part 1, and Part 2.  And second, if you are using an email client program, you'll want to read on further about what tips to consider when dealing with a problem accessing your email.

1) Settings - Commonly, the problem lies with settings in an email client program.  Just like a web browser, if the settings are too high, you're going to have problems, but you don't the security settings too low either.  Also, making sure you have the SMTP and POP3 fields properly configured is another trick.  If these aren't set EXACTLY as they should be, you're not going to get far with your emails. On rare occasion, these settings can change, so always check with your ISP or your email provider to make sure your settings aren't in need of tuning.

2) Firewalls - Yep, these can be full of problems on their own, but add an email client to the mix, and you can bet you'll run into some issues.  The best advice on this is to make sure your firewall is configured to allow your email client to connect with both inbound and outbound connections, and since most POP3 email setups use ports 110 and 25, there shouldn't be much of a problem, unless you are using Gmail in your client program, which the ports are 995 and 465.  If ever your client program stops processing inbound (or outbound) messages, this is a good place to start.

3) Your Internet Connection - I know, pretty obvious, right?  Remember what I said about the obvious, sometimes it's overlooked, because it is obvious.  Always check to make sure your internet connection is active.  If it's not, do the internet troubleshooting as described in Part One, and if still unsuccessful, it may be time to contact your ISP for more assistance.

4) REBOOT! - Again, always let this be your FIRST and LAST step.  Sometimes, it can be the client program itself that is not working, and a simple restart, or a cold boot can resolve the issue. Never underestimate the power of the reboot/cold boot process.

5) Anti-Virus - It is true that these programs can be helpful in either cleaning an infected file or computer system, or even prevent one.  However, in my experience, I have found that sometimes (not often, though) programs like these can cause more issues with email than what they solve.  Additionally, an email that doesn't show through means two things, one is that the email might be infected with a virus, and your Anti-Virus software won't allow it to be viewed, or two is that the settings for the Anti-Virus are so sensitive that any file is considered a virus, even if it's a false positive.  Always be sure you are using the latest Anti-virus definitions and updates, and if you are still having problems, try resetting the software back to defaults.  If still unsuccessful, there may be a problem with the email message itself.

Programs like AOL have their own internal mechanisms for retrieving email, chatting, and internet browsing.  If your standard internet troubleshooting hasn't worked, it may become necessary to call the technical support line.  There's not a lot I can tell you about programs like these where your email isn't showing, except that there are ways to resolve the problem, but none are generally available since AOL is proprietary software (meaning no "one size fits all" troubleshooting method can be applied).  Furthermore, AOL technical support reps usually know about tricks that can be used on the software that most other techs do not know about.

Have a comment?  Suggestion? A topic you'd like to have discussed on my blog?  Email me at  And if I don't know the answer, I'll post up information on who to ask, where to go, or what to do to get your answer.  :)  Until then, have a great day, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my computer tips so far!