QWhen setting up a new mail program, how am I supposed to find the server information it's asking for?

AIdeally, your Internet provider should tell you this upfront. But I've heard more than once from users who can't get this information anywhere and find themselves painted into a corner by their Internet provider's setup software. They can neither switch to any other software on their PC nor use the mail application on a smartphone or wireless handheld when on the go.

That sort of hostage-taking behavior should be a firing offense -- but if you feel compelled to keep your Internet provider, you can look up your account settings in your current mail program. In most cases, that software will be Microsoft's Outlook Express.

Open OE, go to its Tools menu and select Accounts. Click the Mail tab, select the account labeled "default" and click the Properties button. Then click the Servers tab and copy the two addresses listed there. The first will be the computer that delivers incoming mail, usually a POP3 (post office protocol) server with a name that takes the form of "pop" or "mail," followed by the ".com" or ".net" domain name at the end of your e-mail address. The second will be the SMTP (simple mail transport protocol) server that sends your mail outward to other people -- often "smtp" or "mail," then the same domain name.

Below those two server addresses, you'll see the user name (which may be your full e-mail address, or just the part before "@") and password used to log into that POP3 server. If "My server requires authentication" is checked, click the Settings button at right and jot down those details, too.

Finally, click the Advanced tab and look at the "server port numbers" there. If they're not 25 for the SMTP server and 110 for the POP3 server, jot them down, too.

Then you should be able to enter all that data into the corresponding fields in any other mail program.

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or rob@twp.com.