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Recovering from Internet and Email Disasters

  1. Introduction
  2. The Importance of Dial Up Network (DUN) Connections.
  3. How Email works
  4. Introduction to Configuring or Reconfiguring the System
  5. Making and changing a Dial Up Network (DUN) connection
  6. Setting up Outlook Express for Email
  7. Setting up a New/Extra Account on Outlook Express
  8. What to do with this page

1. Introduction

This page has been put together for a number of my friends who have complex Internet and Email systems using several service providers that I have helped to set up. Many of them are dependent on their email for the smooth running of their businesses and need to be able to recover from simple mistakes or major disasters quickly. Many providers have also been making changes to their systems, some at very short notice to respond to the upsurge in problems with spam. These changes have impacted on the configuration on individual machines in several cases. To understand these changes and how to rebuild or reconfigure the system one needs to understand the main building blocks on one's PC and I will first go through those.

2. The Importance of Dial Up Network (DUN) Connections.

These are the elements of the system which underpin everything else and need to be put in place first. The DUN connection provides the socket between any software running on your machine and the Internet, via your modem and telephone line. When it is running there will be a tiny icon on the right end of the toolbar and to disconnect from the telephone you double click it and click disconnect. It is not difficult to make and configure a dial up connection and I will come back to that latter.

In the old days most email software did not care what DUN you were using but recently most email providers will only allow you to send email when you are using a connection via their own telephone number and with Caller Line Identification (CLID) enabled on the phone. This enables them to track any Spam (Junk Mail). Most of the providers I use made the change in December 1999 or early 2000 including Freeserve and Freezone which are used on your machines. The few that did not change were quickly identified and became targets for forwarding spam, other ISPs immediately threatened to cut them off all mail from their domains. Fasthosts who host the main web sites and email for those of you with domain names registered carried out emergency changes in mid January 2000 to use their own dial up connection with CLID.

The whole email system world wide seemed to slow down whilst these changes were implemented and there have been periods of several hours when large emails have been impossible to send and systems have hung. If things do not work and you get unexpected errors do not panic - first wait a couple of hours and try again, if again it does not work leave overnight and try in the morning - then go through this and see if you have inadvertantly made any changes.

3. How Email works

There are a number of stages between you writting an email and it being received. It would be easy if everyone was permanently connected via the telephone or some other network but few can afford that! Let us follow a typical email and look at the implications to you. First you write the email and when you are happy you click Send. Because you are not permanently connected by the telephone the email is put into your Outbox. You can write lots more emails and they will all sit waiting. The next stage is to click Send and Receive which connects your machine to the telephone, using your modem, to send all the mail in your Outbox and collect incoming mail - more of the details latter. The outgoing mail goes straight away - whilst you are on the telephone sending mail you are connected to what is called a Server on a computer at your ISP (for example Freeserve, Freezone or Fasthosts).

These days the servers will not talk to you unless you are connected via the matching telephone line and you have Caller Line ID enabled. The protocol used when your machine and the Server are talking is called Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) and no password is required hence the need to be able to identify the telephone number of the sender. The Server immediately sends the email on via the internet, where it travels through many intermediate machines until it arrives at the ISP of the recipient.

We will now look at what happens when an email arrives at an ISP. The ISP now has to hold the email on one its Servers until one connects up to the internet and requests any email to be sent. All the mail is divided up and put into individual mailboxes waiting for collection. The protocol used when you request your email is called the Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) and you will see that in the various set-up screens. The ISPs are currently not worried about people receiving email as you use a password when you collect mail - there are currently no restrictions on the DUN connection you use so one can collect world wide and from several different mailboxes whilst connected once via the telephone. Most of you have several POP3 mailboxes to collect from and a lot of care has to be taken in how the software is configured to allow several collections and a send to take place on one Dial Up Network Connection.

It is not unknown for the Servers to be out of order for short periods or be so busy they can not respond in time. If this is the case or if you try to send or receive using the wrong network connection you will get an error message and ofter get the chance to try again. This is when it is possible to make mistakes and lose connections or access to mailboxes because the retry screens often display the server address and password. Never change them there as you can make permanent changes them and then have to reconfigure the email software options - it is safest to click cancel and try again half an hour latter. The same applies to DUN connection screens - never play with the passwords, telephone number or account name if the connection does not work - just use the Connect Now or Work Offline buttons. This page is all about how to put things back together when you do make that sort of mistake - we all make them!

I believe in anticipating trouble in advance and at least inspecting ones various configurations and practicing make a extra DUN. Overall I think this is a much lower risk than waiting until one makes a mistake or the ISP moves the goalposts. We will now look at what is involved.

4. Introduction to Configuring or Reconfiguring the System

This assumes you are starting with a system which has the Windows 95/98 Dial Up Network software installed and also Internet Explorer 4 or 5 and Outlook Express 4 or 5. It also covers the appropriate information for Outlook 97 and 98 but some of the cofiguration and screens will be different. Outlook 97 and 98 are covered more fully in my page Using Multiple ISPs at www.pcurtis.com/manyisp.htm

5. Making and changing a Dial Up Network (DUN) connection

This is perhaps the easiest yet also the most important section. Without a working DUN you can not access the Internet to look for help - make a spare! Have a look at the ones you have and note down the four important pieces of information on each namely: What it is called; the telephone number; the User Name; and the Password. You will not be able to read the password so find out what it was set to from when the account was set up - all the providers send an email with it on and in the cases where I have set up systems I probably still have a record.

1. Create a new connection.

Follow the instructions in the Wizard - they may vary slightly in the original Windows 95 and Windows 98 from the OSR2 version here but the information you have to give is obvious. You can change everything latter.

Screen 1 - Depending on which connection you are making Call the connection Freeserve, Fasthosts, Freezone (or Trial if you are testing) and select the modem from the list of those you have installed - it should already be configured if you have been using it.

Screen 2 - Add the telephone number

and check the country code is UK

Screen 3 - Check the name is what you want and click Finish

That wasn't difficult was it!

2. Configure the Connection

You now need to set the properties by going back to the Dial-Up Network screen as above and RIGHT CLICKING the new connection and then clicking Properties on the menu. This gives you two or three tabs depending on which version of Windows 95/98 you have.

Scripting Tab - Ignore if you have this option - No Connection script is needed for these connection.

General Tab - This is where you can change the telephone number and modem type and configure the modem specifically for this connection. Chances are that it has been already optimised but you may want to set the maximum speed to 115200 with a 28800 or better modem after the connection is working.

Server types - This is the important one You now have the Freeserve, Freezone, Fasthosts or Trial DUN which will initially be used to log into the registration service then it will become the real link when you have a username and password.

Connecting up and saving the passwords

Now double click the Icon you have just created (Freeserve, Fasthosts, Freezone or Trial) The telephone should now be dialed and you will see a series of messages as it connects then after 30 or so seconds the screen should disappear and the little icon apear on the toolbar. And that is it.

Check the connection is good by starting your browser - it which will use any open connection by default - and accessing your favorite sites.

When you are satisfied close the DUN by double clicking on the icon in the tooltray and clicking close.

I keep several shortcuts to DUNs on the desktop so I can start the one I think is best before browsing the web - usually Freeserve is the fastest. To make a shortcut:

Once you have experience of the connections you can (re)set the default connection which is automatically opened when a connection is required. To do so:

6. Setting up Outlook Express for Email

This is potentially more difficult than creating the DUNs and again it is well worth looking at what you have and noting it down before problems strike. When you are looking at your current set-up I suggest that you always leave any "screen" using Cancel rather than OK - this will avoid saving anything you might have inadvertantly changed

You need to start Outlook Express and you get to the email settings you need by looking on the Tools drop down menu and clicking Accounts. You should look at the Mail Tab where you will probably find you have several accounts set up. An Account is needed for every POP3 mailbox so you may have quite a few. The Account marked (Default) is the most important to get set up as it is the one that is used to send your mail and its Server settings must correspond to ISP for the Connection shown on the display. All the Connections should be the same if your are going to collect from every mailbox at the same time - remember I mentioned above that the Connection for receiving mail matters much less because there is a password set for every POP3 mailbox.

It should look a bit like this example:

To see or change the details of an account click on the account to highlight it then click the button on the right marked properties - you will find there are 5 tabs displayed of which the first three need to be set up. Remember to use Cancel when exploring

  1. General tab

    • Mail Account This is where you name the account - the name does not matter provided you can remember what it is.
    • Name This is the name which is sent with outgoing mail (when this account is the default account) it could be your name eg. Peter Curtis or the business eg. The Craven
    • Organisation Not manditory.
    • Email Adress Your Email address which is sent (when this is the default account) eg admin@theale-fireplace.co.uk
    • Reply Address The Address you want the recipient to reply to (only use if different from the address above)
    • Include this account ..... box Tick

    It should look a bit like this example:

  2. Servers

    • Incoming mail (POP3)
      • Fasthosts - mail.domainname eg mail.theale-fireplace.co.uk
      • Freeserve - pop.freeserve.net
      • Freezone - pop3.freezone.co.uk
      • - If this is displayed you have Norton Anti Virus Installed
        - Read their help files
    • Outgoing Mail (SMTP)
      • Fasthosts - smtp.domainname eg smtp.theale-fireplace.co.uk (After a recent upgrade you may need to use mail.domainname
      • Freeserve - smtp.freeserve.net
      • Freezone - smtp.freezone.co.uk
    • Account name
      • Fasthosts - Full email address of mail box eg mail@theale-fireplace.co.uk
      • Freeserve - email address following the @ eg theale-fireplace.freeserve.co.uk
      • Freezone - accountname of form fz012345
      • If it ends in a / followed by your incoming mail server
        you have Norton Anti Virus Installed - Read their help files
    • Password
      • Find out and keep a note of your passwords for every account!
    • Save password box
      • (only on OE5 where you tick)
    • Other check boxes
      • - leave clear

    It should look a bit like this example:

  3. Connection

    • Connection
      • Click - Connect using my phone Line
    • Modem
      • Select the same DUN Connection as for the default account which should match the settings used for the General and, in particular, the Server settings.

    It should look a bit like this example:

  4. Security

    • (use the defaults)

  5. Advanced

    • (use the defaults)

7. Setting up a New/Extra Email Account in Outlook Express

Use the Add button to the right of the display of accounts - this takes you to a wizard which seeks the information to set up the account. Use the above to fill in the sections then go back in using properties to check. Note that the POP and SMTP servers and Account names are very different for different ISPs. If you use Norton Antivirus the POP mail server and account names have to be modified - Read their help files

You will also need to check that your chosen account is still the default. If you want to change the default use the Set as Default button but remember that all your email will be "stamped" with the corresponding data from its general tab and that the connections will need to be changed.

8. What to do with this page

Print it out and mark it up with the settings you actually have on your machine and find out all the passwords.

Keep it safe in case of problems.

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Content revised:12th January 2004
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