HolidayBuyer's Guide

Computer Newbies forum

General discussion


by Vince.Rosati / December 14, 2004 10:10 PM PST

With all the hype lately about Firefox, I am again looking into what is best, overall. I immediately became confused. I am trying to understand what/who is my ISP, what is my browser, what is my e-mail provider, etc.

I gain access to the internet via a cable modem. The company is Optimum Online. Is that my ISP? I pay a monthly fee for the service.

However, I also subscribe to MSN, for e-mail and internet access. For MSN I also pay a monthly fee. If the cable modem goes down, I can use MSN dialup. Would MSN then be my ISP?

Is it foolish to pay two fees (one to Optimum and another to MSN), because the cable is only very rarely unavailable?

I also use IE6. Is IE6 my browser?

It seems that I can get to the entire web via IE6. (Or Optimum, for that matter.) It also seems that I can use Outlook or Outlook Express for e-mail. There seems to be no fee associated with IE6, or with Outlook. So, again, am I being foolish to pay for MSN?

If I use Firefox as a browser, it appears that I can get to the entire Internet. No fee. Does Firefox serve the same purpose as IE6? (Excpet that many say Firefox is better.)

Now suppose I use Thunderbird for e-mail? There seems to be no fee there, either. Again, am I being foolish paying for a service that is free elsewhere?

Now for some technical questions: While trying to set up Thunderbird, I am asked for my e-mail system (or something like that). I think it is supposed to be something like ", or SMTP..." Where on my computer do I find what the e-mail server is? I think I have looked in the obvious places, but I see nothing that looks like it will answer the Thunderbird prompt. I think it used to be in "Accounts," but I don't see it any more.

I know this is a really long question, and I should have learned this stuff ten years ago, but I never did really grasp the concepts.

Now, if anybody has read this far, is there a tutorial somewhere that explains all this stuff???

Thanks for your patience,

Vince Rosati

Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: ISP? BROWSER? IE6? FIREFOX?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: ISP? BROWSER? IE6? FIREFOX?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
by Kees Bakker / December 14, 2004 10:44 PM PST

Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is the company to pay to give you access to the Internet (some here are free, but the principle is the same). In your case indeed Optimum Online.

If you can make a dial-up connection to MSN, then you also use MSN as an ISP. Only you can tell if it's necessary to pay for something you rarely use. As I said, here (in Holland) I would opt for a free alternative, but I don't know if those are available where you live.

IE6 is your browser. It comes with Windows. Firefox is another browser, which you must download and install yourself (Opera and Netscape are still others). Once you are connected to Internet (either by cable or by dial-up) you can (in principle) access all of it with any browser you like.
There might be exceptions such as some pages at Optimum's site specifically meant for its own members. And to prove you're a member must be connected directly through them. But, as I said, that's a BIG exception. Another exception is Windows update, which only works through IE, not through Firefox.

Outlook Express (not to be confused with Outlook, which is part of the MS Office Suite, which is far from free) is a socalled 'mail client'. Firefox isn't, but they have a program called Thunderbird (also free), which is equivalent to (some say: better than) Outlook Express. Other people use Eudora or Pegasus.

So, in fact, you never pay for your e-mail client program, nor do you pay for your browser program (unless you prefer the paid version of Opera or paid version of Eudora, but why should you).

But you might need to pay for the email-service used. That's the part after the @ in your email-address (your email-provider). If you're, for example, that's hotmail. The basic hotmail is free, but you can get extended service (more space) if you have a paid subscription. But an address, to name something, might never be free. If you've got a subscription with an ISP (and you have two), an email-address is practically always included in your subscription fee. So I suppose you have two email-addresses, one at optimum and one at msn. Again, it's your choice to have 1 or 2 or 3 or 4.

All 'independent' (like Verizon or Yahoo or Gmail)email-services can be used from any connection. Most email-services that come with your ISP internet subscription can only be used when connected through that ISP. That doesn't have a technical cause, but it's just their policy.

Your last question: if you are going to use a new email-program you have to tell some data on your mailbox with the email-provider. That are a pop3-server, a smtp-server, your username and your password at least. In Outlook Express you can find them under Options>Accounts, but that's different with each program. And you don't see your password, but just *******. But your email-provider can always tell you what you should fill in.

Hope this help, and post again if things aren't clear. Other people will tell about the same in different words, or tell more.


Collapse -
Your choice
by Willy / December 15, 2004 12:11 AM PST

ISP = internet service provider

If in fact you are paying MSN and the cable co. for access, you only need one. Probably stick to the cable if your using some "broadband access" which is going to be much faster over any dailing access. I suspect the MSN was dail-up access and now isn't needed. However, YOU must know how you're getting onto the internet, you didn't mention that. But no, you don't need two access unless you "require it" for business/personal reasons, etc.. You can still access your MSN email via a cable connection, just link over to it, unless that's a paid for service, not just the ISP service alone. I don't use MSN so that's unknown to me anything other than free email.

As for IE6, IE in general has proven itself to be lacking in security issues. While corrections/updates, etc. have been made, hackers continue to focus their attention on IE as its the most dominant browser out there and will get the most spreading of any malware. Firefox, by it being less used doesn't share the weakness of all that hacker attention, but it still will be attacked. However, Firefox provides some build-in protection from common attacks. Its vulnerbable once its weakness are found, but for now its more robust than IE. However, leave IE installed to get any OS updates from MS and just use Firefox is good advise.

good luck Happy -----Willy

Collapse -
I too use Optimum online
by gearup / December 15, 2004 12:57 AM PST
In reply to: Your choice

a service provided by Cablevision. You actually are wasting your time and money with MSN or any other additional ISP. As far as email is concerned Optimum Online provides you with up to 5 email addresses which you can use ...each one with a slightly different name as assigned by you.
I personally use Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird and leave IE and Outlook just lay there. I have no problems with spyware or viruses...Weekly scans with Adaware and Spybot never turn up any spyware and daily scans with the free version of AVG show I am virus free. Since it is cable I also use the free version of Zonealarm as a firewall mainly to warn me if something other than my browser is trying to address the internet. Incoming protection is mainly from the router as I run a small network.

All of the above are personal choices which have allowed me to run clean computers for years. All of the protective software I use is free for the downloading and creates no problems for me. I am old fashioned though and since I have had no problems with it still run W98 SE.

Collapse -
Addenda: your email service
by gearup / December 15, 2004 1:15 AM PST
Collapse -
Vince, Yep....There's Really No Need For MSN....
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / December 15, 2004 3:10 AM PST

....There are "free" dial-up ISP's that will work if the cable goes down.

Everyone above has provided good information. I happen to run two browsers although I use them at separate times. "Firefox" and "Internet Explorer 6". On a cable service you should be able to simply click on the desktop icon of the browser and it will open to your designated homepage therefore you are "online". The cable provider makes that happen. Both work in much the same way...they display the "code" which is on a webpage so you and I can see it...They DO display that code slightly differently for a lot of reasons. That's where the safety of browsers comes into discussion. Some sites don't display well with Firefox because it doesn't use various techniques which may deemed as unsafe. It becomes your choice as to which one you prefer.

Hope this helps, too.


Collapse -
ISP, etc.
by Vince.Rosati / December 15, 2004 7:48 AM PST

Thanks all for the quick replies and the accompanying education. I think I finally get it!

One remaining problem is that I can't find an "accounts" folder. If it is only in Outlook Express, I'm in trouble, because in a frenzy of streamlining last year I think I dumped it!

But shouldn't that info be SOMEWHERE?

Smarter, but still not graduating,


Collapse -
by glb613 / December 15, 2004 8:01 AM PST
In reply to: ISP, etc.

"One remaining problem is that I can't find an "accounts" folder."

If you want to use Outlook Express with your cable connection, you will need the program installed. If you uninstalled it, go to and download another copy.

You have one main account with your ISP. It will also be the name of the main e-mail account. You can add additional e-mail accounts by creating them with your ISP. I have Insight Broadband cable and I must go to the website then member services to create a new account or e-mail address. Your cable company may do it differently. I'd suggest you contact them and find out what to do. When you want to access the different e-mail accounts, you go through Outlook Express. Open the program, go to file then identities.

And to add what the other have written, I had cable and AOL for years. One reason was to have a dialup connection if the cable went out or when I traveled. I finally closed the AOL account back in October. Some cable companies are now offering a dialup connection for traveling. It can be expensive. My vote would be keep the cable, loose MSN and find an e-mail program you like that works with your ISP.

Collapse -
by Kees Bakker / December 16, 2004 2:38 AM PST
In reply to: ISP, etc.


If you've got a working email-program your account information should be somewhere in its Settings or Options or Tools, or whatever it is called. See the help. Email programs don't work if they don't know where to logon with what userid and password.

Things are different if you use web-based mail, like yahoo and hotmail normally are used. Then you use your browser and type in username and password yourself. Email programs like Outlook Express (and Outlook, and Thunderbird) aren't web-based, but pop3-based, and that's quite something else.

So better contact your email-provider about what options they offer to read and write email (pop3 and/or webmail) and they will certainly be able to tell you how to do it. It's a quite normal question for their helpdesk.


Collapse -
Just to add my little bit,
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / December 15, 2004 8:49 AM PST

Everyone's advice is very good, especially Kees.

I have 3 ISP accounts, and one main email account with each.

My main ISP is a cable broadband, and you may not have realised with your cable broadband but, "it is always on and connected to the internet", as soon as you switch on your computer.

So, when you open up a browser to surf the internet, you do not have to make any particular connection, it is already on. This means of course that when you have finished surfing, or you haven't even begun yet, you are still connected to the internet by the cable broadband connection.

My other two ISP's are free ones. I just pay for the telephone call I have to make if I decide to use them to surf the internet. With broadband always on, I only have to do this if the broadband connection goes down, which isn't too often.

Both these other two ISP's I found on the internet. I googled "free ISP's" for the country where I live, (UK), and searched around and when I decided which ones, I looked at their installation instructions and joined up.

Why two other ISP's?

ISP number 2 is back-up for the broadband.
ISP number 3 I use the email address they gave me for anytime that I need to enter an email address but I'm not too sure about it. Doesn't happen very often as I am more careful than I use to be. Any emails I get through this account my email client trashes them immediately.

With my broadband ISP and email account, I can receive emails for the other two accounts, although I can only send emails on the broadband account. If I wanted to send emails on the other two accounts, (and I don't), I would have to log onto their ISP's.

I have two DUN (Dial-up-network) shortcuts on my desktop for the other two ISP's. If I need to, I just open the DUN's and click connect.

I use Firefox as my browser, and Netscape Messenger for emails. I only use IE for windows updates.


Collapse -
by Aaron / December 17, 2004 4:17 AM PST

ISP = Internet Service Provider
You sound like you have 2 ISPs. I'd get rid of MSN and save some money. If you absolutely have to have your MSN address, they may have an internet option where you can access them from the internet and not thru your dialup.
Think of your ISP and the internet as the Freeway. IE6, Firefox, Outlook, etc are cars that drive on that freeway. It's all a matter on personal preferences which 'car' you use to get to the internet. I like Firefox b/c it's not Microsoft and it blocks a lot of pop-ups and again, it's not Microsoft :

Collapse -
by rawle / December 17, 2004 4:56 AM PST

I just read your article and I have a reply for you,You should call MSN and if you have Verizon phone service you can get MSN internet access DSL for $29.99 monthly approximately and you do not need anything else,All you need is Verizon DSL.At the moment MSN is your Internet Service Provider.Optimum only offers a service that sppeds up your internet access. If you use MSN DSL it offers you a service if you are approved for the service in your area it give you fast download of up to T1 line (T1 is one of the most powerful & fastest downloads that the have)
If you want more info. and if I can help you email me

Collapse -
Rawle, Why Would There By A Need For DSL?
by Grif Thomas Forum moderator / December 17, 2004 12:05 PM PST

Since Optimum is already the cable provider, (And it's working just fine according to the first post) NOTHING else is needed for the internet connection. The cable provider is already being paid for and normally provides faster access than dial-up or DSL...The MSN is ONLY being used for backup dial-up access and costs money for a service that's not needed.

IF this were a discussion about the "pros and cons" of DSL vs CAble, then I would understand your suggestion. In this case, the cable access is working fine so why pay an extra $29.99 for DSL too?.

Just curious.


Popular Forums
Computer Newbies 10,686 discussions
Computer Help 54,365 discussions
Laptops 21,181 discussions
Networking & Wireless 16,313 discussions
Phones 17,137 discussions
Security 31,287 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 22,101 discussions
Windows 7 8,164 discussions
Windows 10 2,657 discussions

The Samsung RF23M8090SG

One of the best French door fridges we've tested

A good-looking fridge with useful features like an auto-filling water pitcher and a temperature-adjustable "FlexZone" drawer. It was a near-flawless performer in our cooling tests.