The computer helper: Troubleshooting e-mail (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Sep 11, 2009, 2:08 GMT
Washington - When something goes wrong with your e-mail, the situation is usually urgent. That's because e-mail is one of the most essential forms of communication today, either for business or personal use. Knowing how to troubleshoot your own e-mail problems can be your best defense against an ugly snag in your daily routine. Read on for some examples.
Q: I'm trying to send an e-mail message that contains a 33 MB PDF attachment from Outlook. The message is stuck in the Outbox. When I click on it, I get a message that says 'Outlook has already begun transmitting the message,' but it never gets sent. Can you help?
A: Chances are good that the size of your attachment is too large. It's not that Outlook can't handle an attachment of that size, but your Internet service provider probably has set a limit on the size of e-mail attachments that may be sent. It's not a bad idea to find out from your service provider exactly what the e-mail attachment size limitations are.
There are a couple of things you can try to get around this problem. First, determine whether there's any way that you can create several smaller PDF files rather than one large one. Can you break up the document into chapters or sections, for example, and create a smaller PDF file from each?
If that's not practical or convenient, try a file sending service such as YouSendIt (http://www.yousendit.com). With YouSendIt, you can upload the file, and YouSendIt will then e-mail a message to your recipient indicating that there's a file waiting to be downloaded. The e-mail message will contain a link that the recipient can click on to download the file.
Q: When I receive an e-mail message with an unknown attachment, how do I find out which program I need to use to open the attachment?
A: The Web site FILExt (http://filext.com) can probably point you in the right direction. This site is essentially a database of known file types. By entering the file extension - typically the three or four letters that appear after the period in a file name - you can narrow down the origins of the file pretty quickly.
A few words of caution are in order, though. Hopefully you know the person who sent you the file. If so, the quickest way to find out which program created the attachment is to ask the sender. If you don't know the sender, you should be suspicious of any attachment.
Viruses and malware are commonly spread by means of e-mail attachments, especially ones that masquerade as file types generated by specific programs - such as Word or Adobe Acrobat - when in fact they are malware-carrying viruses.
Even if you know the sender of the file, it's a good idea first to save the attachment to a folder on your hard drive and then run a virus scanner on the file. Even people you know can fall prey to viruses, and they may unwittingly spread them by sending infected files.
Q: I would like to copy my Outlook 2007 e-mail and contacts to my new computer. How can I do that?
A: This process can actually be quite complicated, depending upon how your e-mail is stored. Microsoft itself provides detailed instructions for moving contacts and e-mail at the Office Web site (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/HA102427051033.aspx).
There are easier ways to move your data than the manual way described on Microsoft's site, however. For one, you can take advantage of the Easy Transfer wizard built in to Vista or available as a free download for Windows XP (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=2B6F1631-97 3A-45C7-A4EC-4928FA173266&displaylang=en).
With it, you can move e-mail as well as documents by having the wizard copy everything to a single file. Once you have your new computer up and running, simply clicking the file will open the Easy Transfer Wizard and move your e-mail, contacts, and other data to the new computer.
There are also a host of third-party applications that do essentially the same thing. AJ Systems (http://ajsystems.com), for instance, makes a range of products that will transfer your Outlook, Outlook Express, or other e-mail application files to another PC.
Q: I currently have an e-mail address provided by the company through which I get Internet service. I'm planning on switching providers, however, and will therefore lose my e-mail address. Is there a way that I can get an e-mail address that won't change when I switch providers?
A: You could certainly obtain an e-mail address from one of the major free e-mail address providers, such as Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft. Google's Gmail (http://mail.google.com) provides the most options, including the ability to retrieve and send your mail using a standard e-mail program such as Outlook.
If you're concerned about privacy issues or spam connected to the free services, or if you want complete control over your e-mail address and the ability to create as many e-mail addresses as you wish, you should really look into getting your own domain name.
A domain name - such as yourname.com - along with a hosting plan gives you complete control over creating and administering your e- mail account. Services such as GoDaddy, Yahoo Hosting, JustHost, and others can both register your domain name and set you up with a hosting account. Accounts run as little as 3.95 dollars per month.
With your own domain name, you can not only create as many e-mail addresses as you wish, but you can also remove all mailbox space restrictions and eliminate constraints on attachment sizes. A domain is also portable, meaning you can take it with you as long as you own the domain name itself.
You won't be tied to any hosting company or service that may change your e-mail terms at just the wrong time. While it's true that many domain names have now already been registered, with a little creative thinking, you can find one that's both unique and memorable.
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