Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Program Internet Access

Browsers | Email | Other Programs

A barrier with two boards with red and white angled stripes warning of a dead end.

Specific Programs without Internet Access

If your Internet isn't working at all, check out Troubleshooting Your Internet Connection.

However, when a specific program is having access issues, this page has hints on how to resolve those issues.

Minor Issues

Many programs depend upon Internet access for registration, updates or help functions, but otherwise work just fine for the purposes they were designed.

There are potential solutions for some program issues:

  • The Help menu for many programs depends upon Internet access but an off-line version may be available (e.g., LibreOffice).
  • FTP is no longer supported by browsers like Firefox, so you'll need a dedicated FTP client like FileZilla.

Significant Issues

Once only true Internet-based programs like web browsers and email programs were affected.

This has shifted significantly over the last while as programs like Microsoft Office and Photoshop have been replaced with web-based software (software as a service).

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Browser Security & Access Issues

Firefox Recommended

Firefox is strongly recommended as the only major independent browser.

Chrome Issues

Many moved from using Internet Explorer or another browser to Google Chrome, often because it was downloaded by another program. Google's now owns the dominant browser (Chrome), mobile operating system (Android), search engine and advertising. This sort of control is dangerous since Google now has the ability to define truth for many.

Chromium, Chrome's open source base, has been used in many other browsers, including the version of Microsoft Edge that replaced the version first released with Windows 10.

Don't Use Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer (IE) is very tightly tied into the Windows operating system — any vulnerabilities expose your whole Windows system to attack. No other browser does this.

Microsoft has left it in Windows 10 as a compatibility solution for obsolete websites that won't load in modern browsers.

The Internet Explorer 11 will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022. The same Internet Explorer 11 apps and sites you use today can open in Microsoft Edge with Internet Explorer mode.
— Microsoft

Avoid Programs Using IE Components

Browsers and email clients that use IE components to display HTML messages (anything but plain, unenhanced text) inherit IE's vulnerabilities.

Potential Culprit in Connection Issues

In many cases, simply restarting your computer will fix the problem. If not, proceed through the possibilities listed below.

Internet security vulnerabilities, including Windows security weaknesses and web browser weaknesses, may have something to do with failed Internet connections.

Most problems with access for browsers are relatively simple to track and fix. If you are not sure that you have working Internet access, first troubleshoot your Internet connection.

Once you're sure that you have Internet access to your computer, you can try to determine where the problem is with the specific program or function that is having difficulty connecting.

ZoneAlarm Permission Needed

If you've installed ZoneAlarm, it must be configured to allow your programs to have access to the Internet. This can potentially be an issue with any firewall program.

See the ZoneAlarm documentation for more information, particularly the Internet Access Issues section.

Proxies, On-line Status, etc.

There are several other factors that can create a problem with access to the Internet for your web browser.

Browser have proxy settings but it is recommended that you leave these alone unless you know what you're doing.

Firefox Proxy Settings

Click on the Firefox menu then Options. Select the General tab and choose the Network Settings section. Click on Settings to open the Connection Settings window:

Firefox proxy settings options

Use system proxy settings is the default, but selecting No proxy will allow you to determine if proxies are the problem.

Chrome Proxy Settings

Click on the Chrome menu then Settings (opens a new tab) then click on Advanced (bottom) and look under System.

Clicking on Proxies brings up the Internet Properties dialogue box with the Connections tab open. Click on LAN settings to change the proxy server.

This opens the Internet Properties dialogue box with the Connections tab open. Click on LAN settings to change the proxy server.

Edge Proxy Settings

Click on the Edge menu then Settings (opens a new tab) then click on System and performance then Open your computer's proxy settings.

This opens Proxy in Windows Settings. Manual Proxy Settings allows you to modify the default settings.

Internet Explorer Proxy Settings

Click on the cog menu then Internet Options. Click on the Connections tab then LAN settings. Click on LAN settings to change the proxy server.

Other Browsers

Check the documentation for other browser. Look for Proxies or System Preferences.

Browser “Off-line”

Most browsers have removed the ability to go off-line nor is it recommended for most users.

Check your browser's documentation if this issue may be affecting you.

HTTPS-Only Mode

HTTPS is the more secure method of transmitting data between the server and the browser. Modern browsers have this capability, so HTTPS access depends upon availability on the server (hosting site).

Firefox has a HTTPS-Only Mode option which is more secure, but will not load HTTP (insecure) pages:

Firefox's HTTPS-Only Mode.

Notice that “Don't enable HTTPS-Only Mode” is selected. While many sites have moved to support HTTPS access, there are many that have not. If you select either of the other two options, websites that are not HTTPS ready won't load in your browser.

When this option first appeared in Firefox, I found that too many sites were not loading in HTTPS-Only Mode.

Much of the web has since moved to secure their sites with HTTPS and soon it will only be the legacy (older, unmaintained) sites that are an issue. You can add insecure sites that are important to you to the exceptions (Manage Exceptions).

Pop-up Blockers

Be sure that pop-up blockers are not stopping access to a site. Most browsers provide some sort of notice that a site is being blocked.

Be Sure the Specific Browser Isn't the Problem

Check to see if you operating system's default browser (e.g., Microsoft Edge or Safari) continues to work. If so, the problem is with the specific browser that is unable to access the Internet.

Are Addons the Problem?

First try running the browser without any extensions (or with them disabled).

When you're sure the browser has access to the Internet you can reinstall (or re-enable) these one-at-a-time, testing access after each one is restored. If access is stopped again, the last extension re-installed or re-enabled is interfering with Internet access.

Check for a newer version to see if it fixes the problem or discontinue using that extension.

Firefox Troubleshooting Mode

You can restart Firefox in Troubleshooting Mode (Settings ⇒ Help ⇒ Troubleshoot Mode…) to temporarily disable extensions, themes and custom settings, but will need to follow the above procedure if it isn't clear what has re-enabled Firefox Internet access.

Restart Firefox in Troubleshooting Mode.

Refresh Firefox

Firefox also offers a “Refresh Firefox” option. Click on Help then More Troubleshooting Information… which will bring up a new page which includes the following:

More Troubleshooting Information….

Refreshing Firefox can fix performance issues by removing extensions and customizations but leaving bookmarks and passwords intact.

Try Reinstalling the Browser

If that doesn't work, you may need to uninstall then reinstall the problematic browser.

Be sure that you are running a current version of every browser installed on your system by checking the download page for your browser.

Remove any browser that is no longer supported (or if you cannot locate a recent updated version).

Be sure to backup your browser's settings including your bookmarks (favorites) first. See Mozbackup and the alternative options for backing up Firefox.

IE Difficult to Repair

Microsoft embedded IE and Edge into Windows. They cannot be uninstalled without third-party utilities that may cripple your Windows Update.

You may be looking at a complete reinstall of your Windows if IE or Edge fails, so you'll want to determine if the problem is unique to either of those programs.

Try installing Firefox, first to verify Internet access then as your primary browser (recommended) if you find that it works for you.

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Email Problems

If you are having difficulty sending or receiving email, there are several things that can be causing this.

In many cases, simply restarting your computer will fix the problem. If not, proceed through the possibilities listed below.

Test Your Connection

First, see if you are able to connect to the Internet with your browser. If this works, the issue is with your email program. Otherwise, you need to check your Internet connection.

Can't Send/Receive?

If the browser has access, there are several reasons that you may not be able to send or receive email messages:

  1. Your ISP may be having difficulties.
  2. Your email program's settings may be incorrectly configured.
  3. Many high-speed ISPs block outgoing messages to other servers (e.g., Shaw may block your access to Telus servers).
  4. Your security software may be blocking access.
  5. Your firewall software may be blocking access.

ISP Issues

The issue may be with your ISP.

All providers have problems from time-to-time (most advertise expected service downtimes on their site so their customers can plan around them).

If there is no general outage, then the problem may be related to your email settings.

Email Settings

Be sure that your email program is configured properly.

You will need to ensure that both the incoming and outgoing servers are correctly entered. Your ISP should have information on their website or you can contact them about the correct settings.

Some ISPs (such as Shaw and Telus) are very limited in the email programs they'll support and continue to use outdated support material. Their support department may have no more knowledge than what's in the script provided by their employer.

Many ISPs now require you to use secure settings (e.g., TLS or STARTTLS), usually with specific port settings.

Since most email programs use the same settings, this shouldn't be a problem except that terminology and the location of these settings may be different. Have a look at your email client's support pages to learn how to configure your program with the information available from your ISP.

Try Your ISP's Webmail to Verify Settings

You can verify your email user name and password by checking them on your ISP's webmail service via your browser. If the combination fails, you can try various combinations to see what is the correct combination. Call your ISP if you continue to have problems.

All ISPs now provide some sort of webmail service to their customers.

Webmail services usually require you use your complete email address (not just your user name). A full email address may also be required for your email program.

Blocked Incoming Messages

Shaw (and other cable providers) may block incoming messages unless you are directly connected to your Shaw cable connection. In such circumstances, webmail service still works remotely.

With the increase of smart phones and tablets, these providers have had to adapt and provide access from anywhere. You may need to make log into your Shaw account from your computer at home and change settings there to allow access to devices when away from home.

Blocked Outgoing Messages

If you may get an error message when you try to send a message or simply are unable to send messages, you may be dealing with port-blocking by your ISP.

Many high-speed providers block outgoing messages that are sent to servers other than their own. You may get an error message when you try to send a message or simply be unable to send messages.

This will affect you if your website is not hosted with your email account provider or are using alternative email accounts on different services than your ISP.

Fixing The Problem

You'll either need to look on your email provider's website or call their support line to determine the correct settings to resolve this issue. These can change from time-to-time and can be different for computers and mobile devices.

Here is how you make the settings change in common email programs using the correct outgoing port number:

  • Thunderbird: Click on Tools then Account Settings. Click on Outgoing Server (SMTP), select the affected account and change the Port number to the correct setting.
  • PocoMail 4/Barca 2: Click on Tools then Account Setup. Select the affected account, then click Edit. Click on the Outgoing tab on the left, ensure that Outgoing server port number is selected, then change the Port number to the correct setting.
  • The Bat!: Right-click on the account you want to change then select Properties. Click on Transport in the left menu. The settings is in the Send mail section to the right. Change the Port number to the correct setting.
  • Mac Mail: Click on Mail and select Preferences. Click on the Accounts tab at the top then select the account you want to change. Select Advanced and change the Port number to the correct setting.

There are also other changes that may need to be made to both the incoming and outgoing servers depending upon the requirements of the email service provider. Most now require STARTTLS or TLS and many have other security requirements. Look in the same location as the outgoing port number for these settings.

You will need to make the changes for all email accounts that are not hosted by your ISP (e.g., Shaw or Telus). Click OK to accept the changes when you are done.

Alternative Fixes

If your ISP doesn't support alternative SMTP ports, you'll have to use your Shaw, Telus or alternative ISP's SMTP settings for sending mail.

However, this is rarely the case anymore. As more folks move to smart phones and multiple portable devices to access their mail on the go, these ISPs were forced to adapt or lose their customers.

Most ISPs will recommend IMAP rather than POP/SMTP so that you'll see all your mail on every device you own. (See Email Protocols in the Email Settings section of the Computer Basics & Terminology page for definitions and the limitations of each protocol.)

Most ISPs now only provide documentation for IMAP because most people have smartphones and want email access everyone (which IMAP was designed for) but POP/SMTP may be preferable for some users.

Be aware that IMAP depends upon the mail available on the server to begin with. When switching from POP to IMAP, be sure to backup your archived mail prior to changes to that you can recover important emails if the switch to IMAP deletes mail not found on the server.

Since POP usually downloads, then deletes, emails, it is likely that only recent incoming mail remains on the server when you make the transition.

POP on One Computer

Alternatively, you can leave POP access alone if you only need recent emails on your smartphone or tablet when you're away from your computer. This only works if you have only a single computer checking for mail.

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Security Programs Can Stop Access

Misconfigured security software (antivirus/antispyware/firewall) can stop Internet access completely or simply break the sending and receiving of emails.

If it couldn't do that, it wouldn't be able to protect your computer.

In many cases, you can restore functionality simply by restarting your computer.

Multifaceted Attacks

Be aware that most of today's attacks are coordinated multifaceted (or blended) threats. Simply having an antivirus or antimalware program is no longer sufficient.

You are vulnerable to drive-by downloads when visiting websites as well as when opening attached files, downloading programs or updates containing malware. There are many other avenues.

Don't Run Multiple Security Programs

Be careful when running more than one security program on your computer at the same time.

This can cause both to fail because the normal activity of a security program (such as blocking access) will look like an attempted infection to another security program.

Running one integrated security suite is better than trying to cobble together your antivirus, antispyware/antimalware and firewall protection from different sources.

Ensure Your Security Software is Correctly Configured

You should also be sure that the security software is configured properly. Setting everything to the program's defaults should work for most people.

If your program has become corrupted or indicates that there is a problem with the installation, you should consult the support site for your security program vendor.

Be sure you're running the most recent version of the program and that all available updates are installed.

Security updates like antivirus signatures will be automatically installed, but a program update generally has to be downloaded then installed manually.

Reinstalling Your Security Software

The next step is to completely uninstall your security software (including the settings and items in your virus vault), reboot, then reinstall the program. You'll want to be sure that you have the most recent downloaded version of the program before you uninstall because you're not safe online without protection.


Other Programs

There are programs besides browsers and email clients that can have issues connecting with the Internet.

  • FTP clients are designed to upload files to websites (sometimes integrated into web design software).
  • Many modern programs no longer have built-in help. You need to be able to access the Internet to see any help information.
  • Windows Update and dedicated program updaters need access.
  • iTunes, Spotify and similar software is dependent upon databases accessible only on the Internet.
  • Programs like Google Docs and Microsoft 365 store their data in the cloud by default which requires Internet access.
  • Social media programs like Facebook and Twitter are exclusively available on the Internet.
  • Windows 10, Windows 11 and Chromebook are cloud-based operating systems that depend on Internet access to work.

Check Your Firewall

If other programs (particularly your browser) is able to access the Internet, then the first place to check is the settings on your firewall security software.

Running more than one firewall program (it may be part of your security program) on your computer at the same time can cause both to fail.

ZoneAlarm or Kaspersky Recommended

I strongly recommend a current version of ZoneAlarm Extreme Security or Kaspersky Total Security.

While Check Point offers Free Antivirus + Firewall for personal use ZoneAlarm Extreme Security will provide better protection against a multifaceted attack.

I'll use ZoneAlarm in the examples below. The testing process should be similar with other firewall products. Your product manual or the company's website should give you more information.

Configuring ZoneAlarm Incorrectly Can Stop Internet Access

Programs like ZoneAlarm are designed to protect you from unwanted and dangerous traffic to and from the Internet.

ZoneAlarm denies access to the Internet for everything by default.

If you have not configured ZoneAlarm properly, your Internet service might not work or a single program may not have access.

To rectify an incorrect installation of ZoneAlarm, you may need to uninstall and reinstall it. The same may be true if ZoneAlarm is not running at all.

In extreme cases you may have to reinstall ZoneAlarm before you're able to uninstall it. (See Uninstalling ZoneAlarm for instructions.)

Test your Internet access after uninstalling ZoneAlarm once you've rebooted, being aware that you're much more vulnerable to threats while unprotected.

ZoneAlarm has a clean install option that removes all settings and this may be required to restore Internet access if simply uninstalling ZoneAlarm doesn't fix the problem.

Many program listings are added to the list ZoneAlarm tracks as programs are updated since ZoneAlarm adds the new listing without removing the old one. This is why a clean install can resolve some issues better than simply reinstalling ZoneAlarm.

Testing ZoneAlarm's Firewall Settings

There are many programs tracked by ZoneAlarm and incorrectly choosing to deny access could be the source of your problem.

  • Click the ZoneAlarm icon beside the clock to restore the ZoneAlarm monitor.
  • Click on the Antivirus & Firewall box on the left then click on the Settings next to Application Control.
  • You should see two slider controls labelled Network firewall and Your DefenseNet. Normally, these should both be set to Auto (Max provides more security but also more alerts).
  • Try moving the Network firewall to Off then see if your browser has access to the Internet.

If you are able to access the Internet with ZoneAlarm off, then the problem is with your ZoneAlarm settings and you should probably do a clean install (to remove any incorrect settings).

You'll need to uninstall your Zone Alarm product, reboot, then reinstall using the most current version of the ZoneAlarm product you're using. Be sure to download and install the same version. The licence for one product won't work on any other.

Testing Without ZoneAlarm

If the previous test didn't give you access, ZoneAlarm may be corrupted and should be uninstalled.

Once ZoneAlarm has been uninstalled, try your program to see if it has access.

  • If access is restored, then your problem was with ZoneAlarm and you should reinstall it.
  • Otherwise you need to look elsewhere for the source of the blockage of your Internet access.

Do not reinstall ZoneAlarm until you've resolved all problems with access (then do a clean install to remove any settings).

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Updated: August 3, 2023