One pst file on two computers

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Outlook version
Email Account

I have two computers (one at home, one laptop) with the same version of Outlook (2003, but I'm going to 2010 soon, problems are with 2003 currently, don't know if same problems will be with 2010).

In order to access my mail from both computers, I copy the same pst file from computer 1 to computer 2, and (theoretically) back to computer 1; I could use a usb stick instead (as soon as my system works), or, since even "fast" usb sticks are incredibly slow on my computers, a 1" external usb harddisk.

This switching of an identical pst file between computers is recommended on many outlook help sites, in order to avoid synch problems.

In my computer 1, Outlook and the pst file function as expected: Only new files are downloaded into the inbox, and then I process them manually by storing them into the multiple folders. (I don't use rules.) In my mail accounts (Yahoo and others), downloaded mails are preserved: In both Outlook installations, I set "don't delete downloaded mails", since I want all these mails in my accounts there, too.

In my computer 2, Outlook starts to download thousands of "new" mails, so I stop this and do NOT copy this "corrupted" pst file back to computer 1, but only use the "original" pst file, without all these doubles, but this means I can never use computer 2 for my mail.

Even on computer 2, the "original" pst file (correctly processed in computer 1) contains all the existent mails, within their respective folders, and they are accessible there, but notwithstanding this, computer 2 starts to download them all, again.

Since so many sites recommend to do as I try to do, I do not think that the info "which mails have been downloaded already, and which ones haven't" is stored elsewhere than in the pst file, but it's evident my Outlook installation on computer 2 is not able to access / process this information (presumably) contained in the pst file from computer 1.

So I suppose that some setting in my second Outlook installation is wrong, but I continue to look into the settings (that I hope to be identical), without finding the relevant setting in order to tweak it.

Even more strange, in none of all these sites recommending to do what I do, I have found the slightest hint at my problem.

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
The problem is that outlook stores the 'mailbox manager' that tracks mail left on the server is stored in the pst and it's specific to the account that downloaded the email - and since you leave mail on the server, it gets downloaded again. If you are going to move the pst, don't leave mail on the server. If you need to leave on the server, don't move the pst.

Have you looked at using a sync utility so you don't need to move the pst? See Synchronizing Outlook on Two Machines - Slipstick Systems for utilities - some have free trials and others have free versions for a limited # of folders and computers. That might be better for you.


Outlook version
Email Account
Thank you very much for your answer, Diane. You are without any doubt THE Outlook expert worldwide, so a negative answer from you means it cannot be done, and I have to live with that. In fact, most sites only give very superficial "info", and of course, they don't mention the alternative "leave the mails there or don't" when recommending to switch the pst file around.

My problem here in this forum was, "pst" is not a valid search term, neither is ".pst", so I couldn't search for (perhaps existing) info.

You recommend synch tools. Just today, SynchPST (90$) is half price on bitsdujour, but I read the user comments on on that tool, and thus don't have any motivation to buy / install such a tool (and reviews for its competitors ain't any better) - here again, these tools produce lots of "doubles", and the Wisco owner (= SynchPST) himself recommended to some customer to NOT leave the mails in the web accounts, in order to avoid those doubles his tool otherwise will produce; he also sells another tool for then deleting these doubles (which is a little bit cynical imo since it's profiting from your own tool's bugs).

So it ALL comes down to that basic problem that whenever you want to leave your mail alone, on these servers, you'll get into deep trouble, whatever you try, as soon as you want to access these mails from more than just one device, with Outlook.

So, the only viable solution to my problem would probably be to rent a hosted Exchange account, which would be 10$ a month (or perhaps a little less, depending on the provider), but I don't have any knowledge about Exchange, let alone hosted Exchange, so, before I try to read about Exchange and the way it functions, could you confirm that with such a scenario, I would NOT have such problems?

- Meaning, several mail accounts, from yahoo and others.

- These would be "redirected" (or something like that) to the paid hosted Exchange "thing".

- From there, with several Outlook installations, I would download (and send) my mails, to the respective computer(s).

- These Outlook installations would all be in the way "leave downloaded mails alone instead of deleting them there".

- And on any such (Outlook-"driven") computer, only the mails that have not yet downloaded to the pst file on THAT computer, would be downloaded there (this means there would be needed some "what has been downloaded to device 1/2/3" management within the hosted Exchange "thing").

- And I "understand" that with hosted Exchange, the mails are really, physically downloaded to my computers (whilst with Imap, for example, they cannot be accessed when there is a (EDIT: "when there is NO" (of course, sorry))web connection).

Would such a scenario work, or do I describe wishful thinking here? Of course, my scenario would imply different pst files, so I would have a "main" pst file on computer 1, in which I would arrange my mail into folders/subfolders (as I do now), whilst in computer 2 (and more), I would just access my mail, but don't bother with correctly storing them into an Outlook folder hierarchy there.

And of course, there is the problem of SENT mails, i.e. the hosted Exchange system should be able to "fetch" sent mail, sent from computer 2, and then put it into the "sent mail" folder of computer 1, the next time I access the Exchange system with that computer 1 (and vice versa) - here again, wishful thinking?

(I begin to understand that at the end of the day, the real solution of my problem would lie within me abandoning my wish to preserve the mails on these web servers, since then, I could switch my pst file between my computers, without it malfunctioning (hopefully) - but perhaps, a more elaborate (and not free) hosted Exchange solution, as described above, also would be possible, as soon as I'd be willing to pay for it?)

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
Just a quick note as I review your message: if your account supports IMAP, using it for email will keep both computers in sync for email. That leaves calendar and contacts. CodeTwo has a free Outlook sync tool that does two computers or use the modern version of sneaker net - email appointments and contacts you change to yourself.

If you own the domains, Hotmail can host them ( - this will give you calendar, contacts, and email with the Outlook connector. (You can have Hotmail pop other accounts but Outlook only replies from the account's email address.)

Office365 hosted exchange is $4US per month. It works best if you own a domain name. You can connect to up to 5 pop/imap accounts to give you one mailbox (and you can reply from Outlook using the connected accounts). This syncs everything - tasks, notes, journal - and works well with smartphones that support activesync.


Outlook version
Email Account
Thank you very much for these hints.

Considerations other people in my situation might find useful, too:

- Office 365 is Microsoft replacing MS Office on the respective computers, and many people would not like to switch from their MS Office 2003 or 2010 to a web service

- MS has a tendency for not allowing the use of their "previous" software with their most recent software. Examples: I have MS XP and could not buy a "modern" MS mouse since its driver would not work with my operating system; I alway used Internet Explorer, but MS will not allow me to use a "better" IE than IE8 with my operating system, and these last months, more and more sites do not function (correctly) anymore with IE8, so I will have to switch to another browser, and once I'll have all my macros transferred to that, even when buying a new computer with Windows 7 or something (in order to avoid the horrible Win8), I will probably never go back to any MS browser for the rest of my lifetime, meaning MS is both arrogant AND dumb

- This means I will probably be forced to use the web version of Outlook, with MS Exchange 365 for 4$ per month, and won't be able to use Outlook 2003 and / or Outlook 2010 with it

- Using Outlook and Imap together, or trying to do so, is asking for deep trouble, according to dozens of web sites

- As said, many web sites tell you that with Imap, the mails stay on the server (here: with the MS 365 Exchange), hence their inavailability / inaccessibility whenever you do NOT have web access (which in Europe is a frequent thing for many people, let alone third world countries)

- I'm not after any free synch solution; if a good synch solution costs 90$ or more, I'm willing to buy it; problem is, these solutions, for 90$ or less, seem all to be totally unreliable if you believe user reviews on them

- It's totally incredible but NOBODY EVER explains some basics how these things work; I've bought and read some thick books on Outlook, to no avail; I've searched the web on Outlook (not on Exchange, admittedly) for DAYS: to no avail

- I think access to mail from MORE than just one device is a COMMON problem (even if you're willing then to have your mails deleted on the servers), so there SHOULD be a "market" (even a paid one) for explaining to people, in detail, how these things work

- By just some lines, NOTHING's got explained. Sorry for being blunt, but it really seems ALL the experts are systematically withholding their expert knowledge, by design


Outlook version
Email Account
- And one more (can't edit the above, sorry): Comparisons are inexistent:

- I searched the whole web, thoroughly, for a comparison between X1 and Lookeen, re Outlook (Copernic doesn't seem to be that good, which leaves these two): nada, but hundreds of pieces "Lookeen is sooooo good", without any hint at why it should be better than X1, for Outlook, and let alone some info on the real value of Lookeen for other file formats than Outlook.

- There is QuickFile (80$), SimplyFile (50$), and SpeedFiler (40$) and ClearContext (90$) - SpeedFiler doesn't seem to be as good as QuickFile and SimplyFile both seem to be, whilst ClearContext, while being similar to both, is quite another concept. So I would have been highly interested in a comparison between QuickFile and SimplyFile... nada, except for a "Technology for Lawyers" site where you'll pay 20$ for reading just ONE article.

- So-called "comparisons", e.g. on, bring out "winners" in software categories where I have much better knowledge than with Outlook and Outlook add-ins, and where I KNOW FOR SURE that these "winners" are crap, which makes me wonder if these "winners" won the contest by offering the highest amount of money to the website in question "or what"...

- Whenever I publish detailed info on matters I have thorough knowledge about, I don't get any "thank you" or such, but people try to convince potential readers that all this is irrelevant.

- This being said, it more and more seems to me that the internet is a BIG SCAM only, and that you are well advised to use it as a source for info about "what is there", i.e. as some "better yellow pages", but whenever you imagine you could get MORE than that from it, you'll end up empty-handed, or even worse, you'll end up with false "info" that makes you pay for the wrong things, hiding better alternatives from you at the same time.

- By the way, the commercial staff at 10$-a-month-per-mailbox are incredibly incompetent. First, they ask you for your mail address, in order for sending mountains of spam to you, and then, when you ask them what are the criteria how many "mailboxes" you'll need, they say, "it depends on what you want to do", without being able to give any further explanation.

- GOOD HEAVENS. Total incompetence should become a matter of shame, anew, but no, it's become the new normality nobody's ever ashamed of. And yes, in the Eighties' and early Nineties' computer magazines, you could find reliable comparative reviews... (But, oops, we can't speak frankly about some sh** here the developer of which could post an ad in our magazine, next month, so let's do some blah-blah instead of really comparing - and this killed that for good...)

- Ok, I'll be leaving you alone now.


Outlook version
Email Account
But there is always the question why your first negative answer would be necessarily correct. Which means, in theory, it should technically be possible to fetch that identification and copy it to the second installation, together with the pst file, together with any other file, together with necessary registry entries, and to overwrite then, meaning why not make Outlook installation 2 believe it's just another instance of Outlook installation 1: It's all a question of knowing Outlook well enough, instead of repeating blah-blah. (And then, some Autohotkey macros running on each switch, if really / even necessary, once the upfront tweaking will have been done.)

But sharing knowledge about such possibilities would perhaps kill that perverted "Synch Outlook" market, with numerous expensive AND NOT RELIABLE tools...

Why should we trust anybody, in these perverted times?
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