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Working with Windows Communication Features (part 1) - Configuring Windows Mail for E-Mail

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7/5/2011 4:03:39 PM

Managing Windows Features

All editions of Windows Vista include a large number of different operating system features and services. By default, the most commonly used programs are enabled and available for use after installation. For example, tools such as Windows Mail and various networking options are automatically available. In some cases, however, you might need to turn specific features on or off. For example, you might disable a feature because you are sure that you do not need it, and you don’t want to make it available.

In other cases, you might need to enable less commonly used features of the operating system. These features are sometimes provided for compatibility reasons, such as compatibility with earlier versions of Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS), or they might be seldom-used options that are required by only some users (for example, the Telnet Server and Telnet Client features).

To make changes to which features are turned on or off, open Control Panel and click Programs. Clicking Turn Windows Features On Or Off launches the Windows Features dialog box (see Figure 1). It is important to note that Windows Features are components of the operating system; they are not programs that you can manage by clicking Uninstall A Program in Control Panel.

Figure 1. The Windows Features dialog box


The complete list of available Windows Features is a very long one. To help organize them, they are grouped together into folders, which can each be expanded to display the available subfeatures. There are three states for the check boxes in each section:

  • Checked Indicates that the feature is enabled and that all associated lower-level items (if any) are also checked.

  • Cleared Indicates that the feature is not enabled, and all lower-level items (if any) are also cleared.

  • Filled Indicates that the feature is partially enabled. That is, at least one lower-level item is selected within the hierarchy.

Users should be advised not to enable or disable features unless they are fairly certain about their purpose. In some cases, modifications can cause system-related problems such as applications and operating system options not working as expected. For example, some applications on the computer are likely to require Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0. Disabling it prevents those applications from running.

To apply the changes, click OK in the Windows Features dialog box. Windows Vista automatically determines which files it should add and remove and which operating system changes it must make. The entire process can take several minutes and depends on how many different types of changes Windows Vista must perform. In some cases, it might be necessary to restart the computer.

Configuring Windows Mail for E-Mail

One of the most important capabilities for most Internet users is the ability to send and receive e-mail. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Windows Vista includes a new e-mail program called Windows Mail. Windows Mail is a replacement for Microsoft Outlook Express, which was included in earlier versions of the Windows platform. It includes a wide variety of new and enhanced features, including the following:

  • Support for accessing multiple e-mail accounts, using a variety of different options

  • Integrated search functionality for quickly finding information stored in even very large mailboxes

  • Built-in support for browsing newsgroups

  • Junk e-mail and phishing filters for added security

Windows Mail is designed to provide a core set of messaging functionality in a program that is easy for users to configure. You can launch Windows Mail by searching for it in the Start menu or by accessing the All Programs group. Windows Mail is configured as the default e-mail program for new installations and is easily accessible using Start menu shortcuts. Figure 2 shows the main user interface.

Figure 2. The Windows Mail main user interface

The default view includes three main sections. The left side of the interface displays a list of folders, including the e-mail Inbox, Outbox, and other commonly used groupings. The right side of the interface includes two main sections. The top section is used to show a list of the messages that are present in the selected folder or group. The bottom section shows the contents of the message itself. This layout allows users to view all of the most important information easily without having to open each message in a separate window (although that is still an option).

Although it does not provide all of the functionality of programs such as Office Outlook, Windows Mail is an excellent product for home and small-business users who just need to perform basic tasks. In this section, you’ll learn how you can configure and use Windows Mail.

More Info: Web-based e-mail vs. Windows Mail

Customers are likely to ask you about the advantages of using a client-based mail program (such as Windows Mail) compared with using a Web-based messaging service. Many Internet users have chosen to obtain free or paid e-mail accounts that they can access through Web browsers. Examples include Windows Live Hotmail, Google’s Gmail, and Yahoo! Mail. The primary benefit of these services is that they are quick and easy to set up. Generally, the only requirement is a standard Web browser. Usually, all information is stored online. The primary drawback of Web-based e-mail is usability and portability. Advanced users will appreciate the many different ways in which they can access e-mail, using Windows Mail. They’ll also have the ability to read downloaded messages and compose responses even when they’re not connected to the Internet. Both options have benefits, and users might choose to use both client-based and Web-based e-mail.


Preparing to Create E-Mail Accounts

Generally, the first step you must perform when using Windows Mail is to configure e-mail accounts. The process is fairly simple, although certain pieces of information are required. Usually, this information is available from the customer’s Internet service provider (ISP) or from various online services. In general, have the following details before beginning the process of configuring new e-mail accounts:

  • The user’s name (for example, “Denise Smith”).

  • The user’s logon information, which generally includes a logon that is the same as the e-mail address and a password.

  • The user’s e-mail address (for example, Denise Smith@TestISP.com).

  • The user’s e-mail server types and addresses.

  • Any additional security configuration details that might be required. For example, server port numbers might be modified from their default settings.

As a Consumer Support Technician, you might need to assist users who aren’t aware of the technical terms and details of configuring e-mail. Next, you’ll learn how to use this information to create an e-mail account.

Creating E-Mail Accounts

As mentioned earlier, Windows Mail provides support for multiple e-mail and newsgroup accounts. When a user first launches Windows Mail, the New Account Setup Wizard automatically displays. To begin the process of creating and organizing e-mail accounts manually, click Tools, and then select Accounts. Figure 3 shows an example of the Internet Accounts dialog box. By default, the settings for e-mail accounts are blank because no e-mail accounts have been configured.

Figure 3. The Internet Accounts dialog box in Windows Mail


To begin the process of setting up a new e-mail account, click Add. The first step of the process enables you to select the type of account that you want to create. In addition to e-mail accounts, Windows Mail also supports newsgroup and directory service accounts. The process walks you through the steps required to create and configure a new e-mail account.


The first step of the process asks for a display name that Windows Mail should display in the From field in e-mail messages. Users are often confused by this step because they expect to enter their e-mail address. Although this works, the e-mail standard is for users to provide their first and last name (and, optionally, a middle initial). Generally, they should not use their last name first. Figure 4 shows an example.
Figure 4. Providing the display name for a new e-mail account

The next step prompts for the full Internet e-mail address of the user account. This is the address that is used when recipients choose to reply to messages. This and all subsequent information should be available from the customer’s e-mail provider.

To send and receive messages, the e-mail account must include details about server addresses. Windows Mail supports two server types for incoming mail:

  • Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) This is the most common method for accessing e-mail. This protocol allows for receiving messages and for performing other basic functions such as deleting messages from the server.

  • Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) IMAP is a newer messaging protocol than POP3. It provides basic functionality for sending and receiving e-mail, but it also allows users to perform other operations. For example, they can directly access and organize messages on the e-mail server without downloading them.

Both protocols use the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) standard and require the proper configuration of the Windows Vista networking options . Figure 5 shows the server setup options, along with some sample values. POP3 and IMAP server addresses are generally valid Internet Domain Name System (DNS) names, although small-business owners might have their own local mail servers.

Figure 5. Specifying e-mail server settings


More Info: Support for HTTP-based messaging

Windows Mail does not support direct access to Web-based e-mail using the HTTP protocol. Depending on the features provided by their Web-based e-mail provider, users might have the option of sending and receiving messages using the POP3 or IMAP protocols. If those protocols are supported, users can configure the settings just as they would for any other type of supported server.


POP3 and IMAP are the primary protocols for receiving e-mail. In addition to providing the incoming server address, users must provide the address of the outgoing e-mail server. Outgoing e-mail messages are sent using Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). SMTP is the standard by which messages are sent throughout the world. It is also the primary method by which e-mail servers send messages between each other. In some cases, the server address might be the same for the POP3 and SMTP server. Many e-mail server providers allow users to send SMTP messages without requiring authentication. If a customer’s ISP requires SMTP authentication, you must select the Outgoing Server Requires Authentication check box and then configure Windows Mail with the appropriate user name and password for the SMTP server.

The Internet Mail Logon step requires the user to provide the required credentials to log on to the mail server. Often (but not always), the e-mail user name is the same as the user’s e-mail address. The password is usually provided by the e-mail provider or was created when the account was originally set up. For security purposes, users can choose to be prompted for the password each time a send and receive operation is performed. For convenience, the password can be remembered automatically, so it is not required each time.

After the necessary details have been provided, users can complete the setup process and click Finish. It is a good idea to check for messages automatically at this time. Windows Mail attempts to perform a send and receive operation and provides the resulting details.

Troubleshooting E-Mail Account Issues

Most users are able to get up and running with e-mail quickly, as long as they have the required account setup details. When problems do occur, an error message displays in the Send And Receive dialog box. Figure 6 provides an example. In this case, the cause of the error is that Windows Mail could not contact the POP3 server. The most likely cause of this is incorrect POP3 server address details.

Figure 6. Viewing an e-mail error message

After you create an e-mail account, you can view, modify, and change additional options by selecting it and clicking Properties in the Internet Accounts Properties dialog box. Figure 7 shows an example of the General tab settings. The steps that were performed to create a new account included only the most commonly required configuration settings.

Figure 7. Viewing general settings for an e-mail account

In some cases, Windows Vista might require additional details. For example, on the General tab, users can choose to provide a reply address that is different from their e-mail address, a helpful feature for people who have more than one e-mail account. Another helpful feature is the ability to provide a name for the connection (the default is to use the POP3 or IMAP4 server address information). The Include This Account When Receiving Mail Or Synchronizing check box determines whether the account is included in standard send and receive operations. Users can temporarily disable the use of an account without losing their settings by clearing this check box.

When troubleshooting issues with sending and receiving e-mail, one of the most common sources of errors is the server settings. Figure 8 shows the options that are available on the Servers tab. On this tab, you can verify that the server addresses are correct and optionally provide additional authentication details for a user’s SMTP server.

Figure 8. Viewing server settings for an e-mail account

The Connection tab provides settings that are useful for customers without a persistent Internet connection. The Security tab includes options for configuring security certificates. For most home and small-business users, this is not necessary.

Configuring Advanced Settings

The Advanced tab contains numerous options that are helpful when troubleshooting connection and other related issues. Figure 9 shows the available options. The POP3, IMAP, and SMTP protocol specifications include standard TCP/IP port numbers for communications. Windows Mail automatically chooses these default values. Some e-mail services might change the default server port numbers for security reasons or based on network considerations. Based on the type of e-mail server chosen for the account, users can manually change their settings. Additionally, they can specify whether they want to enable Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt communications. This setting requires that the server support SSL.

Figure 9. Configuring advanced settings for an e-mail account

The Server Timeouts setting is set to a default of one minute. This tells Windows Mail to stop waiting automatically after this amount of time when sending or receiving messages. In some cases, slow or unreliable Internet connections might cause connections to take longer than this amount of time. In those cases, you can increase the timeout to up to five minutes. You can use the Sending section to break large messages into chunks if required by the outgoing e-mail server. This option is not required for most e-mail servers.

Finally, there is a set of useful options related to delivery. These settings determine how e-mail messages are managed on the server. When using POP3, the default operation is for messages to be deleted automatically from the mail server after they are downloaded. This helps keep the size of the mailbox on the server small. What if the user wants to download the same messages to multiple computers? Or what if the user wants to be able to access messages through a Web-based interface and by using Windows Mail? In these cases, you can choose to leave a copy of the messages on the server. You can then choose to have Windows Mail delete the messages after a specified number of days, permanently delete them from the server when the user removes them from the Deleted Items folder in Windows Mail, or both. Both options instruct Windows Mail to delete messages during a send and receive operation.

Importing and Exporting Accounts

In addition to manually creating and configuring e-mail accounts, users can choose to import and export their settings. The Internet Accounts dialog box provides buttons for this functionality. The settings files are known as Internet Account Files, and they use the default extension of .iaf. These files can be copied to other computers running Windows Vista to simplify the setup and configuration process for Windows Mail.

The Internet Accounts dialog box also provides other useful functions. When you configure multiple e-mail accounts, it is possible to use the Set Order button to change the order in which Windows Mail uses e-mail accounts for send and receive operations. Additionally, you can configure one of the e-mail accounts using the Set Default button. This makes that account the default selection when sending and receiving messages. Finally, it is possible to remove e-mail accounts. When you delete an account, it is no longer included in send and receive operations. However, all messages that have already been downloaded for the account are saved on the local computer until you manually delete them.

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