Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Apps That Can't Connect

Programs unable to access the Internet

Browsers | Email | Other Programs

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Specific Programs without Internet Access

This page deals with resolving why a specific program is having access issues even though other programs like your web browser or email program are working fine.

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

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

Why Access is Necessary

You might want to consider why the particular program requires Internet access.

Legitimate Reasons

There are legitimate reasons for programs to connect:

More and more programs (including operating systems) are essentially SaaS where Internect is an integral requirement in order for them to function.

Not all uses are in your best interest. Some programs simply want to “phone home” to report on product usage. Where possible, configure the settings to disable this to protect your privacy or configure your firewall to deny access.

There are potential solutions for some program issues:

This Problem is Getting Bigger

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

Programs like Microsoft Office and Photoshop have been replaced with web-based software (software as a service).

Web browsers have become critical components in our everyday use of computers and have replaced office suites as the primary program for many people.

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Security & Access Issues with Browsers

Firefox Recommended

Firefox is strongly recommended as the only major independent browser.

Chrome Issues

Many moved from using their chosen browser or the system default 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. Google now has the ability to define truth for many.

Chromium, Chrome's open source base, has been used in most other browsers, including Microsoft Edge.

Don't Use Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer (IE) has been very tightly tied into the Windows operating system since Windows 95. Vulnerabilities in IE expose your whole Windows system to attack. No other browser does this.

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. Fortunately, most of these have disappeared.

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 is potentially an issue with any firewall program.

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

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.

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 insecure HTTP 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.

While safer, if you select either of the other two options, websites that are not HTTPS ready won't load in your browser.

Much of the web has moved to secure their sites with HTTPS and soon it will only be the legacy (older, unmaintained) sites that are an issue. I am surprised at some high profile sites that have not enabled HTTPS.

Today you can probably manage this by enabling HTTPS-Only Mode then adding the few 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.

While a number of sites complain when they notice my ad blocker, the primary shortcoming is with proprietary embedded video players, particularly on news sites. Since I'm not interested in most of these sorts of videos, I find I only need to disable the blocked privacy beacons occasionally.

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.

Pretty much every developer only verifies website function using Chrome these days (much like they used to use Internet Explorer). Most of the time the differences will not be apparent to users of other browsers. I ran into a problem viewing some content on a Google-based site while using Firefox.

Are Extensions the Problem?

First try disabling your browser's extensions.

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

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

Be certain that you've removed obsolete plugins from your computer.

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 was hampering Firefox's 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 (using browser password managers is not recommended).

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.

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 saving Firefox profiles.

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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. Your security software (firewall) 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).

I've also experienced the ISP having an expired security certificate which caused the security software to question connecting to the site.

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 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 with 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. Telus uses a commercial Gmail account (you log into Google with your Telus email address and password).

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

With the increase of smart phones and tablets, providers have had to adapt and provide access from anywhere. If you feel this is the problem, talks to your ISP's support team.

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.

The move to webmail providers like Gmail and smartphones has forced these restricted ISPs to loosen their grip or lose customers.

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:

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. 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 ISP's SMTP settings for sending mail. However, this is rarely the case anymore.

Most ISPs will recommend IMAP rather than POP so that you'll see all your mail on every device you own. (See Email Protocols 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. POP works best if only a single computer is 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.

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Other Programs

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

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 or 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 NextGen or Kaspersky Security.

While Check Point offers Free Antivirus + Firewall for personal use ZoneAlarm Extreme NextGen 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.

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. You can't install a different version over the existing installation.

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.

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: February 19, 2024