Thursday, January 1, 2004

How to share your .PST files


By David Gewirtz

Every three or four months, we get a question that goes something like this: "I have a PC and my laptop. I'd like to be able to share my .PST file so that I can read my email in both places. How can I set up sharing to make this work?"

First of all, the .PST file is the main file that Outlook uses to store your email locally. It's the mail database, and if you're not storing your mail on a server, you're using a .PST file. It would make sense, then, in theory that since the .PST file is your mail database if you could just access it from multiple machines, you'd be golden.

Do. Not. Try. This.

The title of this article is misleading, because YOU SHOULD NEVER SHARE YOUR .PST FILE! Doing so is very bad for you, society, the planet, and may change the course of the presidential elections in the United States. The reason we're currently stuck with the lousy field of Democrats now running is because someone shared her .PST file. I mean, there's got to be some explanation for why these guys are so unimpressive, right?

OK, wonk time is over. Let's get back to the topic at hand...

Attempting to have two computers accessing the same .PST file at the same time is very, very bad. It will permanently damage your mail file. Some people will tell you that if you're only accessing the .PST file from one machine at a time, even if it's across the network, it'll be ok. This is not true. Microsoft tells us that they don't recommend doing so, and you'll get a lot of problems (sometimes that show up later) if you do a network access.

So how can you get your mail from two places? The key is to keep the mail on your server. We do this here at ZATZ, although we run Exchange to do it. If your organization is running Exchange, then your mail never makes it to a .PST file and you never have to worry about sharing the file.

If you're not running Exchange, you might be able to set up IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol), which will allow you to access your server-based messages. That's something you'll need to discuss with your ISP or whoever runs your mail server.

So, in summary, the answer to how to share your .PST files is...don't.