Learning the Language of Tech Support: Email Sending / Receiving Problems

by Barrett Avery on July 8, 2011

Welcome to the Learning the Language of Tech Support sessions, where we discuss how to understand what tech support is trying find out from us and how we can communicate effectively in order to get our tech support needs addressed in a timely manner. Lets face it, most of us are very busy and the quicker we can have an issue resolved the better. This series of blog posts will hopefully assist in giving you some background on speeding up the process of getting your technical issue resolved by knowing what to communicate to tech support.

In today’s session of Learning the Language of Tech Support we will be focusing on a common area in which we have all had to contact tech support about, our email. Email has been around since the 70’s and it does not look to be going away anytime soon. So what happens when a tool we have become so dependent on stops working or gives us an error? We will be going over a few common issues that come up with using a tool in which most of us have become quite dependent on.

An issue that is quite common among email users is “I can receive emails, but I cannot send them.” Sound familiar? This issue is one in which there could be several potential causes and solutions. To provide a bit of background on this issue in particular, if you can receive email but not send, it means that something is likely wrong with how your email client is configured or there has been a change on the server that has caused it to work only halfway. This problem is one that is not limited to only desktop or laptop computers, but also encompasses mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets. When getting ready to contact tech support about the issue here is some essential information you will need that they will undoubtedly ask for:

1.    What email client you are using
2.    Incoming and Outgoing server settings
3.    What the server port number for the outgoing mail server is

These three items are pretty easy to find and are the most common questions tech support will ask when you contact them. The first one, Email Client, has a Tech translation of: Program you use to check your email. The most common email clients are: MS Outlook, Mac Mail, Thunderbird and Windows Live Mail. This should be an easy one.

The second can be a little trickier, Incoming and Outgoing servers have a Tech translation of: The addresses in which data is either sent or received through. In other words, the location in which the email client will be connecting to in order to send and or receive the emails. This information is mostly found within the Accounts area of the email client, this is where we go to create a new account and or modify an existing one. Here is the location within the four major email clients:

Outlook 2010:
1.    Go to File > Info > Email > click on the email in question > Internet E-mail Settings

Mac Mail for OS X (10.5 and up)
1.    Go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Account Information.

Thunderbird
1.    Go to Tools > Account Settings > Server Settings (for Incoming Mail Server)
2.    Go to Tools > Accounts Settings > Outgoing Server (SMTP) (for Outgoing Mail Server)

Windows Live Mail
1.    In the side menu, right-click on the account in question and select Properties > Servers

Once you have found the Incoming and Outgoing server settings you can even provide those to tech support right off, as it will save a question and thus speed up the process.

The third is a little more tricky to find, the Port Number for the outgoing server has a Tech translation of: network connections, including those that go over the internet, have specific port numbers in which they use to send information. If a port becomes unavailable or is having a problem, then it can stop accepting new data through it, much like a highway; if there is a wreck, then traffic begins to slow down and eventually will come to a crawl. Once this happens the highway is no longer a good way for fast travel from one location to another. As with highways, ports can become bogged down and unusable, which is why there are alternate ports that can be used. Having the current port number handy will allow tech support to know which one is currently being used and allow them to suggest an alternate port, if the issue is stemming from the port.

Outlook 2010:
1.    Go to File > Info > Email > click on the email in question > Internet E-mail Settings
2.    Click on the “More Settings” button and click on the Advanced tab, the ports will be listed

Mac Mail for OS X (10.5 and up)
1.    Go to Mail > Preferences > Accounts > Account Information > click on the current Outgoing server in the drop-down menu and choose “Edit SMTP Server List”
2.    Click “Advanced” and the ports currently available will be listed

Thunderbird
1.    Go to Tools > Account Settings > Server Settings (for Incoming Mail Server) (Ports will be listed on the same screen)
2.    Go to Tools > Accounts Settings > Outgoing Server (SMTP) (for Outgoing Mail Server) (Ports will be listed on the same screen)

Windows Live Mail
1.    In the side menu, right-click on the account in question and select Properties > Servers (Ports will be listed on the same screen)

Knowing this information and providing it right away you are able to give tech support the information they need to diagnose the issue quickly so they can get to the root of the issue.

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  • Kurt Booker

    Nice… I've been planning on writing something similar.  The day someone tells me which web browser they're using when reporting a problem is the day I fall off my chair.

  • Kurt,
     
    There is hope! We actually have users who send us screenshots with little arrows and descriptions when they have a problem. -Michael

  • Webmaster1

    I must say I gained a lot of information. Thanks a lot for enlisting separately for all cases, if the email client is configured wrong.
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  • It really assisted me.Thanks for sharing these steps.

  • great article write up, like a super FAQ if you will.

  • Thanks for the Info Guys, Office 365 users are forever ringing with email issues.

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