Q: I have an HP desktop PC and an Apple iPad. When I send or reply to an email from the desktop, the name “Susan” appears before my email address. It should say “Shirley.” When I send or reply from my iPad the name does say “Shirley.” I have contacted HP and my Cox (service provider) but no one seems to know what the problem is or how to fix it. Thanks for any help you might give me.

– Shirley S., Crestview

A: The problem with getting help for this is that there’s not an error in the classic sense of the word. Everything is working exactly as it’s been set-up to, Susan, um, I mean, Shirley. That is to say, whatever it is that is displaying the wrong name is doing so because that is what it has been told to display. I’m not particularly surprised that HP couldn’t help you. Their after-sale support is for problems with the computer itself. In this case, there’s not a malfunction with the computer that they can help you fix. Now, I can’t say the same thing about Cox. I note in your contact information that you’re using an @cox.com address, and this issue lies squarely within the email account setup information for your Cox account, either on their server, or more likely, in your email client. This is something that – in this Geek’s opinion – the representative at Cox should have at least taken a stab at helping you to fix, or at a bare minimum, pointed you in the right direction. Over time, I’ve handled many questions here in the column from people who use Cox as their internet provider, and have cited several instances where the issue could have, and rightly should have, been dealt with by Cox technical support when their paying customers contacted them for assistance. I’m not sure why this seems to keep happening specifically with Cox customers. It’s as if the people who answer the phone don’t understand the most basic issues regarding their own company’s products and services.

One thing that you neglected to mention in your question is which email client you’re using. That is to say, what software are you using to send and receive email on your PC? Are you using Cox’s Webmail? Windows Mail? Thunderbird? Outlook? Lacking this information, I can give you some generic advice, but it’s going to be up to you to figure out how to put it to use.

First of all, let’s come to an understanding about the name that’s associated with the email address. That name is strictly there for human eyes. It doesn’t affect the sending, routing or reception of the email in any manner. Many email clients, like Outlook and Gmail, hide the email address completely, and display only the associated name unless you explicitly ask for the address to be displayed, usually by clicking on the name. Others display both, using a convention that looks something like “Jeff Werner <geek@ItsGeekToMe.co>" or something similar. The part in carats is, of course the email address, and the other part is the associated name.

I would guess that “Susan” is someone you know, perhaps a daughter, who either set up this account for you, shared it with you, or used to use to own the computer. After all, someone had to have put that name in the account information. Email servers aren’t widely known for dreaming up human names to associate with accounts. Regardless, changing it isn’t a really big deal, you just need to change the associated name. This entails getting into your email client’s account configuration. The method to do that varies from client to client, but you’ll be looking for a menu choice that says something like “Account Settings” or more generically “Options” and then the section that defines the user account information. You should find a field that says “Name” or possibly separate fields for first and last names. Regardless, you’ll know you’ve found it when you come across the name “Susan.” Change it as you see fit, and click “OK” to get out of the setup dialogs and you should be good to go.

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