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Solving Outlook Connectivity Issues

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 5/11/2011

If you're experiencing problems connecting to your email server there are various checks you can run and steps you can take to workaround any issues that might be affecting things.

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    Email: Great When It Works

    Email, like everything else, is great when it just works. However thanks to connectivity issues, bugs, server faults or problems on your computer, there will be occasions when email doesn’t work as intended, leaving you high and dry as you try to work out why the messages you are expecting don’t arrive, and why the ones you are sending are never received.

    As with all faults, however, there are various steps you can take to resolve problems connecting your Microsoft Outlook client to the right email server.

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    Is There a Message in the Status Bar?

    One thing you should notice with Microsoft Outlook is that if there are any problems at all, it will notify you, either via a pop-up message or via the Status Bar across the bottom of the application window.

    If you’re unable to connect to your email server to download or send messages, any connectivity issues should be highlighted in the Status Bar. Pretty often they will provide an idea as to the type of error that you are experiencing.

    For instance the remote mail server might be experiencing problems, or your mail folder might be full. In this case you will receive a pop-up notice or an email message from the server advising you to delete some old messages in order to get your mailbox back under the maximum limit.

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    Checking Connectivity: Try the Web and Send a Ping

    Alternatively, Outlook might be unable to download your email messages because of a more deep-rooted issue, such as a lack of Internet or network connection.

    There are two checks you can make to investigate this. The first is to open Outlook and go to File > Info > Account Settings (in Outlook 2010; older versions will have a slightly different path) and open the details for the email account in question. Confirm all is correct before proceeding with the second check.

    What To Do if You Cannot Connect Microsoft Outlook to Email Service Under Server Information make a note of the two email server names and then open the command prompt, which in Windows 7 is done by opening the Start menu and typing cmd then tapping Enter.

    In the command prompt window, you will need to ping the mail server, such as:

    ping my.mail-server.com

    If all is well with the mail server, you should receive a response; this is a series of four replies from the server.

    No response means no connectivity; in this instance, check that you are connected to the web by typing ipconfig and pressing Enter. If you see the words “media disconnected” then you will need to check your network cable.

    Should all of the above be operating normally, you will need to try a different angle. Opening your web browser and attempting to open a web page should provide a better picture of your current connectivity status. If your employer/email provider offers access to Outlook Web Access this might be a useful alternative.

    Screenshot by author

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    If You Still Cannot Connect Microsoft Outlook to Your Email Server

    Another reason that your emails cannot be collected in Outlook might be changes to your firewall software, or even a new firewall entirely. Most firewall utilities include automatic configuration for common applications such as Outlook, but this isn’t always the case. Check your firewall documentation to check what exceptions have been added, and how to add Outlook to the list of allowed applications.

    In the event that none of the above solutions has helped, the problems that you are experiencing with Outlook could be caused by malicious software such as a virus or worm.

    Your best bet here will be to run your usual anti-virus software, perhaps specifying a “deep search” of the system drive in order to find the cause of the fault and clean this from your PC.

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    References

    Author's own experience.