Saturday, May 12, 2007

Yikes! Why can't I get my MSN email anymore in Outlook Express???!!!

I'm a hard-core Luddite in some ways. For example, I still use dial-up for Internet access. I use MSN as my Internet Service Provider (ISP) and have been using them for almost eight years now (in July). For the most part, the service is fine and only occasionally do I run into some kind of problem. Last night and today were one of those times, although to make a long story short, the customer service to fix the problem, via online chat, was great.

Okay, so here's the problem...

I use Outlook Express (OE) to compose, read, and send email. I don't really use my MSN account, and nobody even knows my MSN email account, but rather I use the POP3 email server for four web sites that I run. There is a low volume of administrative and marketing email directly from MSN to my MSN email account, but mostly the only reason I even have to have the MSN account in Outlook Express is due to the "joy" known as "Port 25 Blocking" which means that your friendly neighborhood ISP (MSN in my case) blocks attempts to send (email) to port 25 for anything other than their own SMTP server. So, all of my outbound email, even though it is "from" my four web sites is shuttled through port 25 of the MSN SMTP server. That was all working fine, until last night, when I started getting a timeout and this error message when attempting to fetch email for my MSN email account:

Your server has unexpectedly terminated the connection. Possible causes for this include server problems, network problems, or a long period of inactivity. Account: 'MSN Mail', Server: 'pop3.email.msn.com', Protocol: POP3, Port: 110, Secure(SSL): No, Error Number: 0x800CCC0F

I do occasionally see this type of message, which usually means that there is some sort of transient network or server "outage". Usually, if you try again or wait a few minutes or a few hours, it goes away without any action required on your part. But this time, I got the same error even this morning.

Luckily, there was no problem with outbound email, so I was able to send and receive all of my usual non-MSN email. Still, it bothered me that something was amiss. Finally, this afternoon I had a spare moment to bite the bullet and dig into the problem.

My initial suspicion proved correct: The folks at MSN had shuffled their email servers and a change in email configuration settings would be required. I tried to poke around the MSN web site, but didn't find any email help within a couple of minutes, so I bit another bullet and decided to contact MSN "support." Among the support options offered by the MSN web site is "chat" based support, and I have used this type of support before successfully, so I gave it a try. It all worked out. The biggest problem I had was that they asked for a phone number for verification and I rarely update the phone number for my MSN account and have moved so many times in the past eight years so that I had no clue what number to give her. Luckily, they were willing to take the last four digits of my credit card, and off we went.

I gave her a brief synopsis of the problem and she said they were having a lot of that and some new Outlook email settings were needed. Specifically, she said:

John, we have received numerous calls regarding this same issue. You see, the MSN POP3 servers have finally updated their servers and we will need to reset your Outlook Express settings.

Here in fact are the instructions she (Cecille) gave me, plus one key instruction that she left out:

1.) Open Outlook Express
2.) Choose Tools and then Accounts
3.) Highlight your MSN mail account
4.) Choose Properties.
5.) Choose the Servers tab.
6.) Change the Incoming mail server to 'pop3.live.com'
7.) Change the Outgoing mail server to 'smtp.live.com'
7a.) UN-check the box for 'Log on using Secure Password Authentication' in the 'Incoming Mail Server' section in the middle of the dialog box.

8.) Check the box for 'My server requires authentication' in the 'Outgoing Mail Server' section at the bottom of the dialog box.
9.) Choose the Advanced tab
10.) Change the POP3 port to 995 while SMTP remains at port 25.
11.) Check the 2 check boxes next to 'This server requires a secure connection (SSL)' under both the Outgoing & Incoming server sections.

The original instructions did not include step 7a, and resulted in this error message when I tried to retrieve or send email:

Unable to logon to the server using Secure Password Authentication. Account: 'MSN Mail', Server: 'pop3.live.com', Protocol: POP3, Server Response: '-ERR command not implemented', Port: 995, Secure(SSL): Yes, Server Error: 0x800CCC90, Error Number: 0x800CCC18

Performing step 7a, by itself, without redoing the rest of the changes, caused that error to go away and both sending and receiving email via MSN were once again working.

All told, that was about 30 minutes in the chat session. Granted, I myself had to deduce the missing step, but the rest of the instructions gave me enough context so that there weren't many choices to choose from. If I hadn't found the missing step myself, here's what would have happened:

I will need to transfer you now to an E-mail Resolution Specialist. You might need to remove and then reconfigure the account all over again in OE.

That wouldn't have been the end of the world, and I have been there in the past, but luckily we didn't need to "go there", this time.

In truth, I think the forced change in email server names is ridiculous. They really could have maintained a redirection so that the change would have been transparent, and they could have had a grace period and "spammed" us with notices telling us to change our settings. In truth, maybe they did "spam" us, but the change was buried somewhere in some of the monthly newsletters, but it should have been a more prominent notice.

Note: This change in configuration does not change your email address. MSN email addresses continue to end in "@msn.com."

For future reference, my main email address is Jack@Opixia.com. Opixia.com is one of my web sites. Incoming email is stored by the POP3 server run by my web site hosting service (Fatcow.) OE directly fetches my email from that POP3 server, not the MSN (or Live) POP3 server. But my outbound email is routed by OE through the MSN (Live) SMTP server. OE and SMTP allow you to specify an email address for the account so that my email looks like it came from Jack@Opixia.com even though it was actually sent using MSN. Replies to my email get routed to the POP3 server for Opixia.com rather than to the MSN (Live) POP3 server.

-- Jack Krupansky

1 Comments:

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