Compunetics Computer Consultants Inc.
Computer Services & Solutions
Bell SMTP problem with Mac Lion – How to properly configure email
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With the proper information, it normally takes less than 5 minutes to configure any email account.  I recently resolved a nightmare and decided to document it in the hopes of saving others from going through a similar experience.  I also know that I will see this again so I need a reminder too.

A client recently bought a new 27” iMac with Lion (Mac OS X 10.7) and was attempting to get his computer connected to a Bell 2Wire modem/router.  He took Bell up on their offer for a $30 home installation.  According to him, the ‘first bozo’ spent about 1.50 hrs connecting it.  It didn’t work properly so Bell sent over a more experience technician (aka ‘second bozo’) who spent 2.5 hours more on the setup.

While the internet was connected and the client could browse, he was unable to configure the email.  He asked one of his partners (who I also know and can vouch for as being very knowledgeable) to help him out.  After they spent another 4 hours trying to fix the problem, they called me.

I checked the settings Bell gave him and then I confirmed that they were entered correctly.  While incoming messages worked, it was impossible to send messages.  Sounds simple right?  It must be an SMTP setting problem.  I use Bell myself and know all the settings but nothing worked.  I made my first call to Bell and verified all the settings.

Bell’s SMTP servers require authentication with a valid username and password.  Only problem, Bell never setup the client with a Bell mailbox so he could not authenticate.  The reason they never set him up was that he had no intention of using a @Bell.net mailbox.  He had his own domain name and has no use for a @Bell.net mailbox.  One would think that the Bell rep would have been properly trained and realize there would be SMTP problems.

Once the mailbox was setup, I entered in the proper settings but it still didn’t work.  I called back for the second time.  This time they wanted to remotely access the Mac.  Sounded great, but we learned that LogMeIn doesn’t work with the latest Mac OS X 10.7.  We could get a chat window working but he could not view the Mac’s desktop.

I tried the suggested settings on my Windows laptop and it worked so at least I knew the settings were good, so I hung up on the second call and figured it would be fine now on the Mac.

Guess what?  It didn’t work on the Mac.  The client was losing patience and wanted to cancel Bell.  I told him the Bell settings worked on the PC so you cannot blame Bell (I was to be proven wrong later that evening).

I had the idea to bypass Bell’s SMTP servers completely and use my own hosting provider.  I entered in a third party SMTP along with a username and password into the Mac and it worked first time!  The problem isn’t the Mac and it isn’t a Lion problem.

To summarize the situation:

-          If you use a PC with Bell’s settings, it works.  If you use those settings on a Mac with Lion, you cannot send messages.  This suggests a Mac problem.

-          If you use non-Bell SMTP settings on the Mac, it works.  This suggests a Bell SMTP setting problem.

I made a third call to Bell and explained everything.  They said that was impossible.  I agreed, but said it is most likely a Bell incompatibility with Mac.  I asked them what if I used an alternative port (587) or SSL?  They suggested I tried SSL and guess what?  After hours of frustration, THAT (SSL) fixed the entire problem.

The solution:

-          use Bell settings for a PC

-          user Bell settings WITH SSL for a Mac

Question:

Why doesn’t Bell know this?  We are not the first customer to use Bell with a Mac.

I told my client to yell at Bell’s customer service and insist on a few months free service for all the aggravation they caused him.

The client asked me if he should switch to another ISP.  I told him, “They are all bad.  I have dealt with all of them: Videotron, Rogers, etc and they all suck.  If they were any good, I wouldn’t be this busy”.

Bell usually listens and offers some compensation.  I’ll keep you posted about what they have to offer this time.

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Update - happy ending

Bell actually compensated my client for the full amount of my invoice!

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