Sharing email accounts in Outlook

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One readers solution to sharing email accounts across several copies of Outlook.

Office Watch reader, Ray T tells us how he manages to run Outlook on several computers working from the same email account plus some problems in doing that.

This is the first part, in a follow up article we have some suggestions on how to improve the email setup.


We use single Internet provider as our television, internet, and VOIP provider, the single account with them which allows us to create multiple email accounts.

My wife Fenella and I have our own personal email accounts as well as a joint email account which we share.

I have all three accounts set in Outlook/Outlook Express, on both machines, to leave the email on our ISP server for 10 days after downloading. I’ve done this so that if one or other of us is away, we can still read the email via webmail during that time, even if the email has downloaded. It’s worked well for us to date but there are some problems.

Problem: when I’m away for too long

One thing that has to be watched for is when one of us is away for longer than 10 days while the other is at home. If, for example, I’m away for a month while my partner remained home), all the joint account emails would download to her computer each time she uses email. I will be able to read emails for 10 days after they are downloaded to her computer, but if I need to keep any of them for future reference, they will be deleted from the ISP before I get home, and won’t be available to download to my computer.

To get around that problem, I use the free version of Logmein ( Every few days, I take control of my home computer from wherever I am, and go into Outlook, thereby downloading any emails that I haven’t already deleted. (I delete as many as possible via webmail, thereby reducing to a dull roar the number of emails that will be downloaded when Outlook runs.)

Now that we are both on holidays, we use almost exclusively webmail to access our accounts. That works well, however occasionally one or other of us needs to access an old email on her or my email account on our home computer. That isn’t hard to do, using Logmein, but it does present a little ‘problem’. The moment I open Outlook on my computer, it downloads all emails from my account and the joint account. If Outlook on my wife’s computer isn’t opened within 10 days, all joint emails older than that will be lost and won’t download to hers. So, if we have to access email on either of our home computers, I make sure to then take control of the other computer, open Outlook, and download there as well. That has worked well to date, and has ensured that all needed emails are present when we return home.

Problem: Sent emails

The one thing I haven’t been able to resolve is centralization of ‘Sent’ emails. They remain only on the computer on which they were written. Fortunately, that hasn’t proved a problem, though I can imagine that for some people it could be.

I ran into a problem when I upgraded from Outlook Express to Outlook. Having installed it, and creating the email addresses I would download, I found that every single time I opened Outlook, it would download all existing emails for that account, whether or not they had been downloaded before. (A doubly interesting thing: the first time, it would download all joint emails. The next time I opened Outlook, it would download all personal emails. It would continue like that, back and forth, each time I opened Outlook. The only workaround appeared to be to leave Outlook open at all times.) Outlook on my partner’s computer, meanwhile, continued to function flawlessly, downloading only unread emails each time she opened Outlook. I compared settings between the two computers, and they are identical.

I did a fair bit of surfing the net researching the situation. I found it’s a well-known problem, around for several years. It happens on some computers / accounts, not on others. It’s a problem Microsoft either hasn’t yet taken seriously, or has not yet been able to fix. But I was definitely not alone in having it!


In my own case, I tried a number of things, all with no success. Finally, I deleted all email accounts, then recreated them. From there on the problem was gone and everything worked flawlessly, and continues to do so to this day. I have absolutely no explanation for it, though I am very grateful the problem is gone.

Office Watch writes:

Ray has found a system that works for him and it’s typical of ‘make do’ systems people have cobbled together for sharing emails. It’s tempting to ‘leave well enough alone’ but there are better ways available these days.

Having two or more email programs grabbing the same email messages via POP will work if, as Ray has done, you set the email clients to retain the messages on the server for some days. However, such a system is liable to problems if one of the computers doesn’t check for mail within the online storage period or the email programs reset the counters on the messages stored online (the latter is the cause of the redownloading of messages).

The POP protocol wasn’t really designed to handle multiple computers accessing the same account. You can make it work, but it’s not very stable.

We suggest a total renovation of the email system, like any renovations there will be some fuss and hassle during the changeover, but once done a modern email setup would be more stable, flexible and able to cope with future changes in technology.



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