Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eight things you need to know about your Outlook configuration


By David Gewirtz

One of the more common letters we get from readers is a panicked plea to help find missing email when it all disappears. This letter from reader Jeff is typical:

I just had a mini meltdown. Somehow my user profile was corrupted. The solution was to create a new user profile then import all of the files from the old profile into the new profile. This got my programs and a lot of data back but caused havoc because I had to find all of the passwords and S/N for the applications.
It forced me to create a new account for Outlook. When I did this I was hoping that all of the email would automatically be imported back in. NO LUCK.
The email should still be on my computer somewhere. Where should I look and how do I get it back in my Outlook? I have may PDA back up for contacts but not for actual email.

Jeff is somewhat correct. His email should be on his computer somewhere -- assuming that's how he's got email configured. And that brings us to the subject of this article: stuff you need to know about your Outlook configuration. Specially, you should know:

  • Outlook's version
  • Your email server's address
  • Your mail server provider
  • Your mail server protocol
  • What the different mail server protocols mean
  • How your email store is backed up
  • How and where your email is stored
  • Whether you're doing anything funky

We'll discuss each of these later in the article.

In America today, many people seem to think they're cool if they feign or practice ignorance over technology. In almost all the radio interviews I've done, the host invariably claims that he or she doesn't need to know about how his or her computer works. After all, hosts have "people" who can know that stuff for them.

At some point in a future article, I'll get into this issue of ignorance-as-cool, but for now I want you to accept one simple assertion: it's important for you to understand your computing environment.

Back in the olden days, before malware, identity theft, virus threats, spam, and all that, it might have been viable to practice technical ignorance. But now, you need to know what's happening so you can both take responsibility for your email success and make sure you're protected. After all, if you call that kid down the street to configure your computer, who knows what he's going to put on it -- or take off of it? Have you checked your credit report lately?

So that brings us back to Outlook and the things you need to know. No matter whether you're going to do the fixing or finding, or call up a smart buddy, you're going to have to know certain details. Write these down, commit them to memory, or know how to find them.