Monday, December 15, 2014

Technology weirdness: a warning and a tip

Written Words has whined about technological bugs before, but here’s a warning: don’t always believe the network when it tells you it does not recognize your password.

I have gone through this problem periodically: I come down to the computer in the morning, try to check my email, and get a message that either the password is incorrect or that the server does not recognize my outgoing (smtp) password.

This always mystifies me, because the email had been working perfectly the night before. When this has happened in the past, I have logged into the self-service site of the affected ISP and updated my password. Then I have to go to all my devices that can access email and change them, too. Then I have to update my secure, written list of all my passwords, because there are only so many words that combine letters, numbers and special characters, and don’t reference names of family, friends, pets or places I’ve lived, and are easy to remember.

It’s a process bound to create confusion. When the problem occurs again, and I have to enter the old passwords and then a new password.

And it begs the question: why did the server no longer recognize the password? I did not change it. It worked the night before, but stopped the next morning.

The latest time this happened, I tried re-entering the password, which did not solve the problem. I logged into the webmail program, and that worked fine. So I called my service provider. After waiting on hold, listening to lame music and enduring the repeated “We apologize for any inconvenience” recording, I explained the situation to the technician.

I looked at the email client, and an email had come in while I was on hold. But clicking Get Mail still gave me the error message that the server did not recognize my password.

“I don’t see any problem on my end,” the technician said. “Let me check something else.” She put me on hold for another five minutes. When she came back, she suggested I try sending a test email. “But don’t put ‘test’ into the message or subject line. We sometimes get problems with that.”

I did. And guess what? The message went through.

I did not change any settings. I did not reset the passwords.

“We are migrating our servers. Perhaps that caused a glitch,” the technician suggested.

Then, as if by magic, the email clients on all my devices connected with the email server, and messages started coming in.


So here’s my tip: when you get an error message that your email account information is wrong, and you know you didn’t change anything, don’t go through the process of changing all your email passwords on all your devices and remote connections. Call your ISP and just wait for a while. See if an hour’s wait doesn’t solve the problem. Changing all your passwords should be a last resort.

What about you techies? Do you have an explanation for this, or alternative solutions?


  1. As a computer technician, I can safely say, that this is usually due to a connection problem in transmitting the username and password combination, and as you suggest, just waiting for 30-60 minutes or sending an email to yourself tends to resolve the problem. I have this problem regularly say once or twice a week.

  2. I have had this happen to me lately! I'm so glad to know that simply waiting or sending a test email will "reset" the connection. Thank you so much for this post.

  3. I've only had this happen on the rarest of occasions. Usually a reboot of my system will correct it. As to changing passwords everywhere - yeah, wait the 30-60 minutes, it's the easier method and almost as time-consuming.

  4. Anonymous3:03 PM

    This kind of stuff happens to me all the time. I assumed it was user error since I'm not great at the whole "remembering-your-password" thing. LOL

  5. Is there a handbook on this stuff? If not, maybe you should consider writing one!

  6. Anonymous8:56 PM

    Waiting to see if a problem will work itself out is one of my favorite solutions. So glad to see it validated. Now, if only that would work on my bank account!

  7. Thanks for this post Scott - real eye opener!