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My mom uses Netscape 7 for her email, and needs to change the POP3 password. How is this done? Only the SMTP password is changeable!

It seems like such a simple question. And we know that managing your password is an important part of security on the internet.

So why is it typically so hard to do something that should be so simple?

First I want to be really, really, extra clear: this article is not about web-based mail services such as HotMail, Yahoo Mail, GMail and the like. They each have clear ways to manage your account, and most importantly, interfaces for changing your password.

This article is for folks who download their email into a mail program such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Eudora and the like, from a POP3 (or possibly IMAP) email account.

I actually ran into this scenario as well, as I was working on a client's email server. After setting up email accounts, one of the users asked me "so how do I change my password?"

I was stumped.

The sad fact is that while there are a bucket of standards around getting email from point A to point B, and even how to include authentication information within that transaction, there's no standard interface widely deployed for actually changing passwords.

I was shocked.

"...there's no standard interface widely deployed for actually changing passwords."

I understand how it came to be this way. Email was, originally, a side effect of having a login account on a specific computer system. By logging into that account through other means - typically the primary use of that account at the time anyway - there were standard tools that allowed you to change the password on that account, and hence the email associated with it.

Email has, of course, become the primary function of those accounts these days, and typically there simply is no alternate way of logging into the server to perform a password change. (And even if it does, it's obscure and geeky enough that most people wouldn't want to try it anyway.)

So how do you change your password?

Well, it's that age old and annoying answer: it depends. It depends on your ISP, or whomever provides your mail account. In almost all cases, that ISP will provide a web interface that you can visit to do it. I couldn't tell you what that is for you, because every ISP is different. While you might find it down a "Customer Support" link on one ISP's web page, you might need to visit a different page and look for "Account Management" on another.

In the case of my client, I ended up installing one of the open source WebMail interfaces, SquirrelMail. In addition to providing web-based access to email, one feature of that package is an interface for changing passwords.

The bottom line is to check with your ISP or mail provider. They should have clear instructions somewhere on exactly where to go and how to go about changing your password.

One last tidbit: it's extremely unusual for a mail provider to have separate passwords for POP3 (incoming mail) and SMTP (outgoing mail). It's possible, but unusual. Again, I'd double check with the mail provider on just what might be going on.

Article C2651 - May 12, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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8 Comments
Jon Horridge
October 9, 2007 4:41 AM

When I try to "Get mail" on Motzilla Thunderbird I get "Sending of password did not succeed. Mail erver pop.freeserve.co.uk reponded: [AUTH] Invalid login/password pair". I'm low on memory and storage. Is that the problem?

Leo A. Notenboom
October 9, 2007 3:52 PM

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

Two possibilities:

The error says that your login account name and password don't match. Perhaps
one or the the other is wrong.

Thunderbird does seem to occasionally have problems connecting. Restarting
Thunderbird typically clears it up for a while.

Leo


-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

iD8DBQFHDAZACMEe9B/8oqERAvmpAKCI9D2hTiWF7hX/LWuAavFSFdzV0QCeLDHw
4ps7Z0o94gQGMIxbOBTp0SI=
=krRx
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Laura Dews
July 12, 2008 7:06 AM

In Thunderbird I am changing my password, is it the master password that I change.

Thank You
Laura Dews

shannon stalker
August 24, 2008 1:47 AM

please change my password to jacob08

shannon stalker
August 24, 2008 1:52 AM

Plealse change my password to jacob08 and i do not what to use the HTML tags thank you

Terry Tanner
July 7, 2010 8:22 AM

Your saying the best way to change password is to contact ISP. Is this what I'm understanding.

Paulo
October 8, 2010 4:37 PM

My 2 partners and I were set up with our company email address using outlook. The ISP provided us with the instructions to set up our accounts. Within those instruction were our already created passwords. I am concerned that 1 of the partners knows my password and will be able to add my account to his Computer (using outlook) Thereby giving him access to my emails. How can I change my password so that my partners do not have access to my company emails?

That depends entirely on how your company's email system works. Check with your company's IT department.
Leo
09-Oct-2010

Annabella Coetzee
October 31, 2010 2:48 AM

My E-mail was : ******@get-going.co.za. I have changed to ******@gmail.com. How do I transfer my facebook to the new e-mail address?

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