Common Outlook Express Problems
Although there are several e-mail programs (called clients) that people use, in addition to Web-based e-mail such as Hotmail® and Yahoo®, Outlook® Express is the most common (besides AOL). The reason is that Windows and Internet Explorer come with Outlook Express. A few problems are common with Outlook Express, as we discuss here.
Outlook Express and General E-Mail Information
Note We will be covering Outlook Express version 6 here, the latest as of this writing. Much of this information applies to other e-mail programs as well.
The problem most people have with Outlook Express has to do with a change in their account. If there are any errors, you might not be able to send or receive mail. You must set up new accounts using the wizard. The wizard is very simple to use, as long as you have all the correct information from the ISP. To access the wizard, open Outlook Express. There might be icons for it all over the Desktop, but you should be able to find it in the Start menu program list. The first time you start it, the wizard will open. Just follow the prompts. If Outlook Express has already been configured, you can access the wizard by going to Tools > Accounts > Mail and clicking the Add button. This adds another e-mail account to Outlook Express. If the ISP has any unusual configuration requirements, you might have to configure the account manually anyway. To do this, select the name of the account in the Mail page and click Properties.
Common Outlook Express Problems
Incoming attachments won't download: Especially after updating Outlook Express in Windows Update, you might find that attachments won't download. This is because the update selects the "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus" check box. Go to Tools > Options and click the Security tab to find this check box. See Microsoft Knowledge Base article 329570 for more information (tutorial 11 has instructions for searching the Knowledge Base).
Attachment pages are blank: Sometimes, attachments download but aren't visible. This usually indicates a problem in the attachment as sent. If you can't get it to appear, download it to a folder, right-click it, click Open With, and select Notepad from the list. Among all of the useless characters you should find the message, as long as there are no images.
Attachments come up with many pages full of numbers or nonsense characters: The computer doesn't have a program capable of opening the attachment. Contact the sender and ask what program the attachment was created in.
Dial-up settings are wrong: Different users have different needs as far as how they read their e-mail. Many dial-up users prefer to open Outlook Express and have the system automatically dial their ISP, download their messages, and then disconnect. This way, they can read their mail and write replies without tying up their telephone lines. After they finish their replies, they click to send and the system again dials up to the Internet just long enough for the messages to be sent. The problem occurs when these settings are reset. Users can be-come rather unhappy when that happens, because it's not always easy to find the location to change these settings. Go to Tools > Options and click the Connection tab. If you want the connection to disconnect after downloading or uploading, select the "Hang up after sending and receiving" check box. The Change button on this page directs you to Internet Options as discussed earlier in this tutorial. Make changes to suit the user, but remember that these changes will affect Internet Explorer as well.
Backing Up Outlook Express
Full system backups will include Outlook Express data files. Outlook Express folders aren't real Windows folders. Messages and Outlook Express folders are actually stored in a single or a few files. The same goes with address tutorial information. If you are doing a manual backup of Outlook Express data, in 2000 and XP, copy the Documents and Settings\[username]\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express folders. It's a little harder to find in 9x; you can look in Windows\Application\ Data\Identities\ and Windows\Profiles\[username]\Application Data\Identities. The easier way is to click Find or Search from the Start menu and enter *.dbx in the text box. This will search for all files with the .dbx extension, which is where Outlook Express' data is stored. Copy the contents of all folders with these files.
When restoring, make sure to put these files back in the same or equivalent folders.
Troubleshooting AOL Connections
AOL is the most popular ISP in the United States and in many other countries.
Note Because AOL took over CompuServe™, virtually everything we say about AOL applies to CompuServe as well.
If you have connection problems in AOL and you have tried some of the hints provided in this tutorial to no avail, you can try uninstalling and reinstalling the program. Use the Add/Remove programs applet in Control Panel and let it completely remove all copies it finds. In AOL versions 6, 7, and 8 (possibly in earlier versions too), you can go to Start > Programs > America Online (or equivalent) > AOL System Information and then clear the browser cache and check the error messages. You can even uninstall the AOL adapter from the Utilities tab, and then reboot the computer and reinstall the AOL software.
If you are able to sign on to AOL but get an error message when you try to load a Web page, there might be a problem with TCP/IP. AOL uses a software device called an AOL adapter that actually shows up in Device Manager as a network adapter. There are two AOL adapters in all versions since AOL 5. Removing these and restarting the computer might solve the problem. The best place to do this is AOL System Information.
If you have been using AOL 6 or later, after uninstalling AOL, your address tutorial and most of your settings will be saved. If you are using an earlier version, copy the contents of your address tutorial before uninstalling. You will then need to redo all your settings after installation.
Since Windows 95B and C allow a maximum of four TCP/IP connections by default and AOL will try to use two of them, you might run into a problem if your computer has too many other TCP/IP connections. Check to see if there are any unused TCP/IP connections in the network settings and remove them. To do this, double-click Network in Control Panel. The applet will open to the Configuration page. Look for any TCP/IP listings in the network components box, highlight it, and click Remove. Click OK. You'll have to reboot the computer for the new settings to take effect.
If AOL is unable to find your modem, you might need to reinstall or replace the modem. If you have tested the modem and determined it to be okay, then you might need to go into Setup, remove the modem, and let AOL find your modem again. Depending on what version of AOL you are using, the dialog boxes vary slightly, but the option to get into Setup is at the bottom of the Sign On screen window in all versions.
If AOL has been installed for awhile and suddenly you keep getting disconnected, and you have ruled out faulty cables and modem, you might need to select the access numbers button on the Sign On screen and get updated telephone numbers to dial.
If you click the Help button from the Sign On screen, you can get lots of help there. Go to Setting up your computer to connect to AOL > Resolving Connection Problems > Disconnections to the AOL service > I get disconnected from the AOL service. Doing so attempts to repair your AOL connection automatically.