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Troubleshooting Outlook Connection Problems

written by: •edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 7/12/2010

Trying to figure out why your email won't connect? This guide looks at some errors and makes some suggestions as to how you might fix them.

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    Is Outlook Offline?

    Problems connecting Microsoft Outlook to your email account can usually be resolved relatively easy with a couple of simple checks.

    For instance, you might want to confirm that your PC is connected to the internet or your local network; similarly, you can check the File menu to see if Outlook is running in Offline mode.

    There are many reasons why users cannot connect Microsoft Outlook to email – read on to find some of the common cases, and their resolutions.

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    Troubleshooting the Problem

    The first thing to do is to establish whether or not the problem is generating an error message. Almost all problems in Windows and Microsoft applications have an error message or number.

    For instance, your error might be due to your email account being incorrectly configured. You should read our guide on setting up an email account in Outlook before proceeding.

    Alternatively, you might be getting the message “Cannot connect to server”. This can be a frustrating fault, and tracing it can be difficult.

    Finally, you should consider what sort of email account you have. For instance, is your email account associated with your job? Are you attempting to access email from home, or somewhere within your organisation?

    Problems connecting to Outlook from within an organizational extranet may well be due to downtime on the email server, but can be diagnosed using our article Cannot Connect to Server.

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    Connecting to Webmail Accounts

    Faults where you cannot connect Microsoft Outlook to email can occur using Outlook Connector Although very popular and flexible, webmail email accounts can be the cause of many apparent problems in Microsoft Outlook.

    Whether you are using an add-in to access your Hotmail or Windows Live account (see Outlook Connector) or you’re accessing a standard ISP email account via POP, you will be unable to accurately troubleshoot your problems without visiting the status page of your email host.

    Meanwhile, your problem connecting Microsoft email to Outlook might derive purely from attempts to access Yahoo Mail via your mail client. Unfortunately this isn’t possible using the standard Yahoo Mail – Using Outlook 2010 to Receive Yahoo Email explains how this can be done.

    You should find however that Gmail and Hotmail/Windows Live (see above) can be accessed via your Outlook client. Indeed, Gmail is incredibly flexible and can be accessed from almost any device, from desktop PC to laptop to mobile device. However problems may arise - see Help! Gmail Won't Connect for more information on this.

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    Problems with Exchange

    Finally, migrations of mailboxes between versions of Microsoft Exchange can lead to problems where you cannot connect Microsoft Outlook to email. For instance, the mailbox – the server-based repository where your email account and calendar information is stored – might be migrated between Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003. This can be related to the use of Cached Exchange Mode on the client PC (usually a laptop) and is caused by the new server address failing to correctly update in the client PC, due to differences between Exchange versions of how domain names are handled.

    The problem can be resolved by installing Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Service Pack 2.