| By Fred Langa |
If you use more than one PC, your e-mail may be stored far and wide — and even farther and wider if you use more than one operating system.
These techniques and free tools help minimize the e-mail-management hassle by keeping all your mail files synched, regardless of the systems you use to send and receive messages.
Wanted: an easy way to sync e-mail between PCs
Ed Baxter ran into an e-mail problem many of us share:
- “I run several different OSes: XP, Vista, Windows 7, and several Linux distros. When I use the Thunderbird e-mail client on them, all of them except my main system are set to ‘Leave messages on the server.’ That way, I can still retrieve all of my received e-mails on my ‘main’ PC. The problem is sent e-mails, [which] get saved on the particular OS I was running at the time.
“If I use a run-of-the-mill synching app, all that happens is the files with the latest file-creation date get to be used for synching and I lose all the sent messages. I suppose I could always make sure I sync immediately before I start Thunderbird on each OS, but this is a rather clumsy solution. What I need is some synching app that merges the contents of the ‘Sent’ folders. Are you aware of any such app?”
One approach is simply to switch to Web-based e-mail. Almost all webmail systems allow you to send and receive e-mail from any Internet-connected machine anytime, anywhere. The messages remain on the server, so it doesn’t matter where you are or what machine or OS you’re using. Windows Secrets technical editor Dennis O’Reilly has blogged about using Gmail in this manner. For example, see his Dec. 7, 2007, CNET News piece on centralizing multiple e-mail accounts into a single Gmail inbox as well as a Dec. 10, 2007, follow-up on auto-forwarding from Gmail to any mail system.
And there’s a hybrid approach: leave Thunderbird on your main system and use webmail from the others. When you’re not on your primary machine, either send copies of critical mail back to yourself, marking them as “unread,” or leave them on the server, as you do now. This way, you can download the messages to your local mail client later. For sent mail, simply BCC yourself on any e-mails you send from the webmail account, so you’ll receive a copy on your main system.