Q: My wife, using a new Dell laptop with Windows 10 on it, was having problems using Outlook, which came with the Microsoft Office 365 2019 version to access her email. The email provider is Cox Communications. We have had several problems using Outlook with Cox, but the most recent problem I was not able to solve without help. Outlook could receive email but not transmit email. My wife could go to the Cox website, use the Cox web email service and using it, send and receive email. I spent several minutes on the phone with a Cox service technician who eventually said it was an Outlook problem, not a Cox problem. OK, I accepted this, then contacted Microsoft support. After spending over an hour on the phone with the Microsoft support technician, the problem was escalated and a call scheduled for the next day. The next day, we received a call from Microsoft support and within just a few minutes, the problem was solved. I watched the technician and what he did was open Task Manager and stop a service called "Diagnostic Service Host." He rebooted the computer and I don't remember if he had to restart the service again or not. After I logged in, the Outlook email began working as it should. He did this so fast that it was hard for me to follow exactly what he was doing. Could you please give me more information about what he was actually doing and how this service was affecting my Outlook email?

– John H., Crestview

A: Wow, John! If you had difficulty following the technician when you could actually see him in action, imagine my difficulty when all I could do is read about it. However, I’ll take a shot at passing along some information, with the hope that it will be of assistance to either you, or some other reader who is having a related problem.

I think that it’s important to start by understanding why Cox denied culpability and passed you off to Microsoft. The fact that your wife was able to access her mail via webmail indicates that the problem is not with the account itself. That points to the email client, but the solution could still fall in Cox’s lane. In order to access a given email account, the client must be properly configured, for both sending and receiving. The configuration information at a minimum includes username and password, and both inbound and outbound server names and port numbers. If any one of these are incorrect, either sending, receiving, or both will fail. I hope that the Cox tech went through all of your configuration information with you and determined that all settings were correct before passing you on to Microsoft.

The experience with Microsoft that you recounted was certainly interesting. I don’t often hear of people contacting the company to try and get a problem resolved, and actually achieving success. Perhaps this will give some hope to people out there who wouldn’t ever bother even trying to call Microsoft with a problem. Now, there are so many services that run in the background in a modern computer that it should be no surprise that I don’t have any experience working with the particular one named “Diagnostic Service Host.” According to Windows, it is “used by the Diagnostic Policy Service to host diagnostics that need to run in a local service context.” So, that clears it right up, eh? No? Drat. Well, more simplified, this service is part of Windows’ Network Diagnostic Framework, which is used to perform troubleshooting of network connectivity problems. If it’s stopped (or not working) these diagnostics don’t work. I looked at three different PCs, and it was running on all three of them, and the startup type was set to “Manual” on each. So, your guy probably didn’t restart the service, but it’s a fair bet that something did. If you check, I’d lay odds that you’ll find it running.

So what happened to cause the problem? Search me. If I had to guess (and it seems that I do) I’d speculate that the technician saw some information in the system logs that told him that either Outlook was reporting some obscure error or, more likely, was trying to report it and failing because of a problem with that service. Using that old stereotype universal computer solution of “Did you try turning it off and back on again?” he shut down the service, rebooted, and was able to clear out the problem. If it recurs, I’d start there if I was you.

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