Programs with Access Problems
Internet Access Missing for Specific Programs
This page doesn't deal with general problems in accessing the Internet (i.e. you have no Internet access at all). If that is your problem, check out the hints in Troubleshooting Your Internet Connection.
However, when a specific program is having access issues while other programs don't, this page has hints on how to resolve those issues.
Note that programs and their functions change over time. Some of the examples on this page may not apply to your particular program or to the version you're using.
The most common issues are with web browsers and email programs but there are other Internet-based programs like FTP clients. The Help menu for many programs depends upon Internet access (you can sometime download an off-line version such as for LibreOffice).
Browser Security & Access Issues
IE Especially Vulnerable
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.
Spyware and Toolbars
Those that run IE for all their surfing will gradually find their system is running slower and slower since IE's design flaws allow it to install spyware, toolbars and other malicious software merely by visiting a website.
More recent IE versions are safer, but Internet Explorer places you at greater risk than any other browser out there. See choosing a browser.
Programs Using IE Components
Alternative browsers and email clients that use IE components to display HTML messages (anything but plain, unenhanced text) inherit IE's vulnerabilities.
Firefox is strongly recommended as the only major independent browser.
Potential Culprit in Connection Issues
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
As with other programs seeking Internet access, ZoneAlarm must be told to allow your web browser(s) to have access to the Internet. 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.
Each browser has proxy settings but most browsers make the changes in the System settings.
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:
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.
Opera Proxy Settings
Click on the Opera menu then Settings (opens a new tab). Click on Advanced then Browser from the sub-menu. Scroll down until you see System and choose Open proxy settings.
This opens the Internet Properties dialogue box with the Connections tab open. Click on LAN settings to change the proxy server.
Safari Proxy Settings
Click on Safari then Preferences then select Advanced. Look for Proxies then click on Change Settings. System Preferences opens in the Proxies tab.
Alternatively, the system proxy settings are found in the System Preferences. Click on Network then Advanced and choose the Proxies tab.
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.
Browser Off-line Settings
Most browsers have removed the menu by default and users don't have the ability to quickly go off-line nor is it recommended for most users.
Firefox users can click on the Firefox menu and choose More then Work Offline. If the browser is in offline mode, there will be a checkmark next to this option.
If you try to load a page on the Internet while Firefox is in offline mode, a warning that you are in offline mode will appear. Firefox automatically restores online access when you click the “Try Again” button.
Other browsers with the capability to go off-line will have a similar mechanism to notify the user and to restore on-line status.
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. Internet Explorer, 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 addons (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/re-enabled is interfering with Internet access.
Check for a newer version to see if it fixes the problem or discontinue using that extension.
Try Reinstalling the Browser
If that doesn't work, you may need to uninstall and 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.
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 into Windows and it cannot be uninstalled.
You may be looking at a complete reinstall of your Windows if IE fails, so you'll want to determine if the problem is unique to IE.
Try installing Firefox if your only browser is Internet Explorer.
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.
If the browser has access, there are several reasons that you may not be able to send or receive email messages:
- Your ISP may be having difficulties.
- Your email program's settings may be incorrectly configured.
- Many cable ISPs deny access unless you are connected to their modem (this is less of a problem since smartphones and tablets became common).
- Many high-speed ISPs block outgoing messages to other servers (e.g. Shaw may block your access to Telus servers).
- Your security software may be blocking access.
- Your firewall software may be blocking access.
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.
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 some continue to use outdated support material.
Many ISPs now require you to use secure settings (e.g. TLS or STARTTLS). This often has its own 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 email settings by checking them on your ISP's webmail service using your browser. If you don't succeed you can try various combinations to see what is the correct combination.
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 from devices elsewhere.
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.
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 are being 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.)
I strongly recommend hosting with Islandhosting.com. They specialize in website hosting and can provide personal support when you need it. Their friendly, knowledgeable staff can deal with most email programs and services. Unlike some major ISPs, you're dealing with a real person, not someone overseas with a script in front of them.
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.
Be aware that most of today's attacks are coordinated multifaceted (or blended) threats. Simply having an antivirus program is no longer sufficient.
You are vulnerable to drive-by downloads when visiting websites, when opening attached files, when downloading programs and updates containing malware and through 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.
You're better running an integrated security suite 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.
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.