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Synchronise Outlook pst files on 2 PCs?

Posted on 2004-11-22
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Last Modified: 2012-08-13
I have what from a distance appears to be an easy problem, but I haven't been able to find a solution!

I have two PCs, both running Windows XP, both running recent versions of MS Office, one at my office, and one at my home. I use both for business purposes and spend a lot of time on the home PC at weekends and evenings.

My office is very small - I work for myself, so there is just the one PC.

I am looking for a way to somehow synchronise my Outlook pst files, so that it is possible to work with and send emails from both locations, and be up-to-date and synchronised when I'm at the office after the weekend, or at home after a day in the office.

I have bought and installed Laplink Gold, the latest version of Laplink, to be able to transfer files from one PC to the other over the DSL link I have at both locations.

Is using Laplink to just transfer the .pst file(s) from one location to the other the best solution for keeping emails synchronised on both PCs? I was hoping there might be a better solution?

My concern is that an email might be sent or received from one PC, while an email is received on the other PC, and synchronising them would take more than just copying the .pst file.

Ideally it would be terrific if there was a way to create some kind of VPN between the office and home, so that the two PCs could actually use the same pst files. But I don't see how I can do this, considering the rudementary set-up - i.e. no network as such, no email server, no file server, etc.

Has anyone got a suggestion for how I might achieve what I'm looking for?

Thanks in advance for any help - and please ask as many questions as you like if anything is not clear.

Shimmie
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Question by:Shimmie
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by:Karen Falandays
ID: 12646814
Hi Shimmie, I have what should be an easy solution. On each of the computer Outlook client, simply set the option to keep a copy of the email on the server until it is deleted. At least you will get copies of everything, but it will not indicate whether you have opened the email or read it.

Will this help?
Karen
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by:rubiconx
ID: 12648657
Simple answer to your question is...yes, copying the PST file is the only option.  

Well, when I say 'only' I mean 'only sensible' of course.  There are always other options, but not necessarily sensible options!

Remote access software such as PcAnywhere, VNC (http://www.realvnc.com/) or the like is an option.  Keep your email in the location that you use it the most and 'remote' access it from the other location.  It does work, but even over a half meg ADSL link, the speed can be frustrating.

Another 'option' is to use a virtual remote drive.  This consists of mapping a remote 'ftp' account as a local drive.  In theory it should work fine.  In practice it is a nightmare!  The connection needs to be as fast as possible and it needs to be totally reliable.  If you lose connection during a write to the file - heaven knows what could happen!

Third option is actually the option I took.  Buy a notebook and keep your email on that!  Take it everywhere and you know you're completely up to date!!  Maybe a little overkill, but hell, it works!

If you continue to use the laplink option, then a little tip!  Archive your email off to the achive folder often to keep your outlook.pst file as small as possible.  Makes syncronising so much easier!

Regards,

Dave
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by:Karen Falandays
ID: 12648687
Hi Dave, but as mentioned, why not skip all the addons and just receive all emails at each site? That's what I do with my home and work laptops. I can always remember which emails I replied to as well
Karen
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by:rubiconx
ID: 12648811
Karen,

Really depends how much email you get through each day and how good your memory is!  I probably receive 50 - 100 email a day from all my clients and friends.  I answer most of these, and with the additional email I send, probably end-up sending similar quantities.  I send about 70% of them during the day and the rest on the evening.

The problem with having two different setups receiving the same emails is that you don't, easily, keep syncronised copies of the sent emails.  The only sent emails are those stored within the folders of the machine that the message was sent from.  For whatever reason, I often refer to my sent emails, and it would be really frustrating to find that I was on the wrong machine!

This is the main reason why your solution wouldn't work for me.  However, if I only sent a few messages a day, then I absolutely agree, that you option makes the most sense!

Regards,

Dave
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by:Karen Falandays
ID: 12649290
OK, I got ya. Let me think of some other options for you
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by:mostym
ID: 12650434
You might also check into setting up an IMAP account with someone.  If you have an IMAP account, essentially all of your email would be stored on a server, you will be still be able to create folders etc.  So, when you open up outlook at home or at work you will see the same email......

mostym
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by:NetteS
ID: 12651197
What about just setting up remote access to your email at work from your PC at home?

On the Office PC, setup Remote Access such as XP's built in Remote Access or via PC Anywhere or Ultr@VNC.   You said you have a DSL connection so this should be pretty fast and reliable.  At the office, you work in Outlook and send and receive email in the PST at the office.  At home, you use Remote Access to connect to your computer at work and its like you are at work, you use the same Email you are using at work.

If you use Remote Access the latest version of Remote Access you can also transfer files seamlessly and you can print the emails on your printer at home with no extra settings.

If you use PC Anywhere or Ultr@VNC, you can also transfer files and print to your printer but it takes a little bit of configuration.

NetteS
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Author Comment

by:Shimmie
ID: 12660048
Guys,

Thanks so much for the help so far. Really appreciated. Sorry for the delay in replying - time difference from the States (where I assume you all are) and Ireland (where I am) and so on.

I got excited about the IMAP server suggestion - but then I found that you can't use IMAP email with Outlook to store your Sent Items, Drafts or Deleted Items. Drafts and Deleted Items might not be the end of the world, but Sent Items would be important.

So it looks like, for practical purposes, we're back to the idea of using Laplink to transfer the pst file from one PC to the other before starting Outlook. Its an ADSL line, and Laplink uses clever compression and other algorithmic methods for speeding up file transfers, so I don't think speed of transfer will be a major blocker.

One important question though:

Does anyone know if its important to close Outlook before copying/duplicating the pst file?

And if so, anyone know a clever way of automatically shutting down a particular application (e.g. Outlook) at a particular time? In other words, scheduling an application to be shut down?

Thanks once again guys, you're a great help.

Simon (Shimmie)
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by:rubiconx
ID: 12660125
You don't need to shut outlook.  I presume you'll copy the file from a machine that is not downloading or uploading email anyway!
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by:rubiconx
ID: 12660136
Just a mo...the machine you are copying *too* needs to have outlook closed!
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by:Shimmie
ID: 12660517
Cheers Dave.

There won't be a problem ensuring Outlook is not running on the machine the pst file is being copied *to* - i.e. the PC I'd be sitting at at the time. There is a strong possibility that Outlook will still be running on the machine the pst is being copied *from* - i.e. the remote machine.

As a test I just tried to copy the Outlook.pst file on this machine while Outlook was running, and no joy - get a "Cannot copy Outlook: The process cannot access the file because another process has locked a portion of the file." error message.

I guess what I really need is a simple way to close Outlook on both the local and the remote PCs, and then copy over the pst file(s). I wonder if there's a way of automating that with Laplink - will have to investigate. If anyone has another suggestion, it will be most appreciated!

The main problem won't be when I'm using the PC(s) - I'm technically competent enough to remote desktop into the remote PC using Laplink and shut down Outlook before copying the pst files if necessary. The problems will arise when I ask a not-so-PC-savvy user, such as my father or son, to do this for me when I'm not at the office, which could be quite often. I'm sure you know what I mean. In this circumstance, the old KISS approach is definitely in order.... Keep It Simple....

Appreciate everyone's help. Its terrific that there are so many people out there willing to lend a hand to someone in technical need!

Cheers,

Simon
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rubiconx earned 1200 total points
ID: 12660600
Weird because I just made a copy my outlook.pst while outlook was open and no errors!  The wonders of Windows eh!?


Daft question (my favourite kind) but why do you need the remote version to be running in the first place?  Surely if you aren't there is makes more sense to just shut it on the way out!?
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Author Comment

by:Shimmie
ID: 12660698
Yes indeed, I'm with you on that one. It certainly does make sense to do that, and that's certainly what I'll do - but in trying to find a failsafe solution, I'm thinking very much of other people who might be involved and who might very well not be as vigilant at closing down Outlook!

But low-tech is often better than hi-tech in these situations, and it may simply be that I drill it into everyone's head that Outlook should simply be closed before leaving the office.

I wonder if there's a simple way of scheduling Outlook to be shut down, if running, at, say, 6.30 each evening on the remote office PC. Maybe a small shareware app or something. Not aware of a way to do this within Windows XP itself - are you?

Its funny how when you work with PCs and software all day, you (or I at least) automatically look for PC or software-centric solutions to every PC problem.
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by:rubiconx
ID: 12660778
Nope Simon - I know of dozens of programs that shut windows but none that shut individual programs.  Might need a new question in the Misc or Apps sections.
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Author Comment

by:Shimmie
ID: 12660795
Righteo.

Found an app that might do the trick - Power Shutdown (you can search for it on www.download.com). Will give it a shot.

Thanks for the help. Most appreciated. Ironic that the solution that will probably work is a combination of what I was thinking (transfer pst files with Laplink) and a totally non-tech solution that hadn't really occured to me - just insist that Outlook is closed on the remote office PC before leaving the office.

Cheers Dave.
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by:rubiconx
ID: 12660837
Glad I could help...even if only to help you clarify your thoughts!
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