A common issue that people have today is keeping their email in sync among more than one computer. For example, you may have a computer at your office and another at home. Ideally, you would want all email that is on one of the computers to also be on the other. Or perhaps you have a notebook PC and a desktop and want to be able to send/receive email from either one. How do you do it?

It is a problem with many different approaches to a solution. Let’s look at it and you can decide what is best for you.

One Deletes, The Other Doesn’t

One way to minimize the problem is to have one computer set to download and delete your email from the server, while the other computer only downloads it. Almost all email programs today have the option to leave the email on the server after it downloads it. So, whichever computer you want to be your main computer, you set it to delete the email.

This is only a partial solution. It will get your email on both computers, but it will not bring your history with it. If you send an email from one computer, it will not appear in “Sent Items” on the other. If you add a contact on one, if will not be on the other. So, it isn’t a perfect solution.

Third Party Solutions

Since this is a common issue, there are many third party approaches to a solution. If you want to explore this avenue, be prepare to throw a little money at the problem potentially. It also helps if you use a common email program like Outlook, Outlook Express or Thunderbird. If you use an older email client or one that is rare, you may be out of luck.

Now, I am going to point you in some directions, but I am not endorsing any of these utilities as I have never tried them.

  • SynchPST is a product you can use to sync up two Outlook PST files. The PST file is the master file which contains all of your Outlook email. Now, this utility will sync two PST files, but it doesn’t handle the issue of making both PST files visible to the program. So, you may need to deal with some networking between your machines.
  • BeInSynch is a service which allows you to keep your data, including email, synced among multiple computers.
  • Syncing.net is another way to sync Outlook email on multiple computers. This solution does not require a server and is not a service, but a one-time software purchase.

If you are using Outlook, you can also look into switching to a Microsoft Exchange service. Microsoft Exchange is the solution to this problem that was built by Microsoft specifically for Outlook. Exchange is not cheap to buy, but you can rent Exchange server from a lot of Windows-based hosting companies. This means you will be paying a monthly fee for your email. But, it will work.

If you don’t want to be slave to the Microsoft master, you can give Zimbra a try. Zimbra is an open source (meaning free) alternative to Microsoft Exchange. And you can still use Outlook, as well as a variety of other email clients of your choice (including Thunderbird).

If you are using Thunderbird, there isn’t really anything notable available. However, Jeremy Johnstone posted on his site a unique way of getting the job done without using any special software. His method, in short, involves having one computer download and delete, while the other only downloads. Then, he sets the email program up to automatically BCC all sent emails back to himself. He then sets up filters to put those incoming BCC emails into the “Sent Items” folder and delete any duplicate email already in that folder.

Web-Based is King

The ultimate solution to the problem is moving to web-based email. The third-party solutions are hit and miss. Exchange and Zimbra both work, but require some setup work and servers. The utility options, in my opinion, are a bit of a chore to use. Web-based email is the ultimate in portability.

The most popular web-based email services are Gmail, Yahoo Mail and HotMail. Gmail is my personal favorite and is what I use for my email. Gmail can work as a complete email client. It can bring in mail from external POP3 email accounts which means you do not need to use a GMAIL email address. Web-based email means you can check your email from any computer – anywhere. No matter where I am, my email looks exactly the same. If you ever do need a local copy of your email, you can always tap into Gmail using POP3 access and download all your email into an email program of your choice.

If you want portable email which is synced no matter where you are, web-based is the 100% best way to go.

So, how are you tackling this problem? Post in the comments. Share some solutions I might not have mentioned.