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  • Email Glitches (and Fixes)
    By Dinos Lambropoulos

    Email glitches can push even the most patient among us from head-scratching to hair-pulling in a frighteningly short time. After all, we expect email to work flawlessly and reliably when we need it. And we need it so often.

    But it's much easier to handle the frustration of email problems if (a) you have some troubleshooting strategies handy for common pitfalls and (b) you know where to look if you don't have a ready solution.

    In this Tech Tip, we want to give you a little of both. We'll look at a few common email problems and offer pointers on how you can tackle them, then end with some bookmark-worthy links to email help sites.

    Spam and Scams
    No one has figured out how to cut off the flow of junk email and phisher scams just yet. That's the bad news. The good news is that we have more tools than ever to help shield us from the onslaught.
    If you're getting more spam and scams than you can stomach, check the following:
    • Have you set EarthLink spamBlocker to the max? spamBlocker's Suspect Email Blocking feature offers the highest protection against spam. When you turn it on, no email message will reach your inbox unless the sender's email address or domain is in your address book. That gives you ultimate control over whose messages you see, and we highly recommend it if the normal level of protection isn't enough for you. You can access your spamBlocker settings by signing in to Web Mail and clicking the spamBlocker link in the left column. Learn more about spamBlocker.

    • Do you provide your personal email address when filling out registration forms or shopping online? An ounce of prevention here: Don't expose your personal email address to anyone but friends and family. When you need to fill out an online form, use an Anonymous Email Address. You can create Anonymous Email Addresses by signing in to Web Mail and clicking the ProtectionPack link in the left column. Learn more about Anonymous Email Addresses.

    • Have you installed ScamBlocker? ScamBlocker helps you detect phisher scams—emails containing links to legitimate-looking Web sites that are operated by scammers. If you want to know whether an email message is potentially fraudulent before you click any links, EarthLink MailBox has ScamBlocker built in. Otherwise, install the EarthLink Toolbar for Windows (which includes ScamBlocker) or ScamBlocker for Mac OS X. With these programs, you'll know whether a site is potentially fraudulent as soon as the site appears in your browser.

    • Is Virus Blocker active? Virus Blocker is on by default on EarthLink email accounts, but if you've had an unusual amount of virus-infected email lately, it doesn't hurt to make sure. To check your Virus Blocker settings, sign in to Web Mail, click Preferences in the left column, and click Virus Blocker.

    Attachment Issues
    Attachments just seem to invite trouble, but many of us rely on them for sending files to others. So, after you've taken the standard precautions against viruses and spyware (EarthLink's Protection Control Center is a good start), it's good to know how to cope with attachments. Some of the more common complaints:

    I can't download them!
    This usually means the attachment is too big. Email is less than ideal for sending large files, and your email program can easily choke on files like the multi-megabyte vacation or baby photos you've probably received from well-meaning friends and family.

    The solution? Sign in to Web Mail. From there, you can check to see whether the Undeliverable Mail folder has appeared under your Inbox folder. Web Mail automatically creates this folder and moves overly large or otherwise corrupted messages into it. You should receive an email alerting you that Web Mail has done so.

    Once you find the troublesome message, you can try opening it within Web Mail, download and delete it, or move it back into your Inbox folder if you want to try downloading it with your email program again.

    And the next time you need to send a large file to someone, avoid all this attachment business altogether. Instead, upload the file to your free WebLife Disk and let people download it from there.

    I can't open them!
    There are plenty of reasons why you might have trouble opening an attachment. Here's a checklist:
    • Do you have the right program to open the file? If not, you can usually find and download a program online. For clues about what program you need, look at the file's extension—the letters after the final dot in the filename, such as .doc or .jpg (Windows hides extensions by default, so you may need to show them). If you're not sure what program opens that file type, you can look up its extension at FILExt or Whatis.com. Then run a search for the program online.

    • Are the attachments in Microsoft Office format? Office files are common, and usually sport a .doc, .xls, or .ppt extension. But not everyone has Microsoft Office. Fortunately, Microsoft offers free viewers that you can use to open and print (but not edit) these files. If you also need to edit the files, another option is the free OpenOffice.org suite, which has good support for Office files.

    • Does the sender use Microsoft Outlook? A sure sign that a message is from an Outlook user is an attachment with a name like winmail.dat. Only Outlook has built-in support for these files (the file format is called Transport Neutral Encapsulation Format, or TNEF). If you don't use Outlook, save the attachment to a folder on your computer. Then decode it using one of these freeware programs: Winmail Opener (Windows), Winmail.dat Reader (Windows), or TNEF's Enough (Mac OS X).

    For Travelers: Send Errors
    You're traveling with your laptop. When you connect to your hotel's network and try to send a message using your email program, you get errors. "Funny," you say to yourself, "it worked fine back at the office." Even more puzzling is the fact that you can do other tasks online with no problem (browse the Web, receive email, etc.).

    What's going on? Most likely, the answer can be summed up in four letters: ASMTP. That's Authenticated SMTP, a fairly recent change in EarthLink's email system designed to cut down on spam coming from non-EarthLink networks. All it means is that you now have to tell your email software to log in to the mail server to send mail (in the past, a login was required only to receive email, not to send it).

    Check out the Authenticated SMTP page on our Support Center for instructions on how to set this up in your email program. It's a one-time change to your settings; once you do it, you'll be able to send email no matter what network you're connected to.

    More Troubleshooting
    Here's where we give you those great email troubleshooting links. If you have an email problem that we haven't covered, there's plenty of good help available online.

    For starters, browse EarthLink's email troubleshooting and email setup pages.

    For more help, check these Web sites, which focus on popular email programs:


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