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Basic End-User's Guide: Troubleshooting Outlook Web Access

written by: Matt Conlon•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 6/29/2011

Outlook Web Access can be a blessing when you need to send or receive an email and you're away from your desk, but what happens when it's not working? Here are a few things you can try when you cannot send email using Microsoft Outlook Web Access, before contacting your I.T. department.

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    When Might I Need Outlook Web Access?

    19 exchangepatches Business doesn't stop just because it's the weekend and you're at a relative's house celebrating a birthday. Sure, you may be connected to your email via mobile device, but what if if you're job requires you reply to an email, and you've got a lot to say? That little mobile device keyboard is not the most convenient thing.

    Fortunately for you, according to a 2010 survey posted at, around 60% of american homes have internet access. Granted, the survey is a bit old, but the number, I'm sure has only grown since then. Chances are good that there's a computer nearby with internet access, and you can use Outlook Web Access.

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    Disaster Strikes

    You've lucked out, and your hosts have a computer in the family room that has internet access. They fire it up, get you online, and turn the keyboard over to you. You sit, crack your knuckles and start pounding away, and when you're finally done composing your message and checking over the spelling, you hit send.

    ...Nothing happens.

    Your first instinct is to panic. I speak now, on behalf of every Information Technology professional in the world when I say: please don't panic. There could be a dozen different answers to why your email was not sent, but before you start poking around, think. If there's anyway you can copy the text you just created, do so. Paste it into a word document and save it to the local hard drive, so you don't end up having to spend time re-typing everything all over again. (They're waiting for you to come sing "Happy Birthday"!)

    There are a few things you can do to try to fix this yourself before you contact your corporate I.T. department. These are some of the steps they're going to ask you to go through to help troubleshoot anyway, they'll be grateful if you get it all out of the way before you call.

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    The Browser

    Most of the time when there's a problem with a web-based application, such a Microsoft Outlook Web Access, it's got something to do with the browser.

    We internet users love to load software, and software companies love to have their products integrate with web browsers via plugins. If the browser you're using has extra toolbars or a bunch of various buttons along the top that you're not familiar with, it's possible there could be a conflict with one of the plugins or a pop-up blocker.

    Another problem could be the security settings within the browser. Default browser settings should allow the sending of email, and do not include the loading of add-ons.

    Communicate with the owner and ask if it's okay for you to try to reset the browser to default settings. Make sure he or she understands that toolbars, buttons, or cached information, such as remembered password on websites, will be lost. If that's OK, go into the browser's options and look for a "reset to defaults" option.

    For information on troubleshooting and resetting Internet Explorer 8, read this article:

    If resetting the browser doesn't work, ask if you could install a different browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

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    More Troubleshooting

    If you're still unable to send your email, you should consider disabling the local anti-virus software. With today's anti-virus programs, anything and everything that happens on a computer is scanned. It's common for local anti-virus or firewall programs to interfere with web browsing.

    Before taking down the computer's main defenses, speak with the person responsible for the machine, and find out when the last time it was scanned for malware. If it's been a while, you may not want to disable any security software. Minor threats like adware may be present, and when the shields come down, the door is open for all of the adware's more dangerous friends. If you're unsure of the malware status, it's a good idea to do a malware scan before continuing your troubleshooting. If the security affairs appear to be in order, you should have little to fear.

    Typically, if you look in the bottom right of the monitor screen, you'll find the system tray, which is filled with icons. Mouse over each, and try to locate the anti-virus or other security-related program. When you've found it, you can usually right-click on it, and get a menu with an option that includes "disable" or "exit".

    When you're finished, don't forget enable the protection again.

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    Time For Plan B

    If you've tried all these things and still come up empty, consider finding out of there's another machine on the premises you could use. If there is, try logging in and sending a test email to another of your email addresses or a friend just to see if the email goes through. If it does, you can either regenerate your email, or see if you can transfer the word document in which you wisely saved the contents of your email, from the other computer.

    If the other computer doesn't work, at least you haven't wasted your time re-creating the email. You've also eliminated several preliminary troubleshooting steps. At this point, the problem is most likely somewhere between the router serving your host's internet connection and the connection at the Exchange server's end.

    Before calling up your host's internet service provider, contact your corporate I.T. department.

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    Troubleshooting On The Server Side

    Your I.T. administrator is going love you for having taken these steps and ruled out a substantial amount of variables. The admin is going to take some steps to check and make sure things are as they should be on the server's end.

    First, Outlook Web Access should be tested from another remote location. If it works, the ball is back in your court. Try restarting all local hardware, including the internet modem and / or router. If it's still not working, contact the internet service provider.

    However, if the admin finds that he or she cannot send email using Microsoft Outlook Web Access from the other remote location, the problem is most likely on the server's end. Typically troubleshooting from here would include a check of all relevant Microsoft services, followed by a reboot of the server if necessary.

    Further troubleshooting will be handled by the I.T. department. At this point, you've done all you can.

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    CNET survey that was mentioned:

    All other information in this article is from the writer's own experience.

    The web comic "Stick I.T.!" is written and illustrated by Matt Conlon. All views an opinions expressed in this comic are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of If you happen to be a client of mine, I assure you, the actions depicted in the comic are pure fiction and not representational of the service I provide. I never could make a decent paper airplane.

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