Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Downloading Email at Work and Home

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about downloading email to both home and work computers, the differences in Treo models and transferring files between Windows systems.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.


I want to download all my daily emails to both my home and office computers, which are both Dells. I am told that, in order to achieve this, I have to instruct my email program to keep my email on the server. How do I do that?

With most corporate email systems, and with a type of consumer email called “IMAP,” email is synchronized among your computers. But many home users have a type of email called “POP,” which isn’t synchronized.

To get the same email messages on multiple machines, POP users have to instruct the email software on each computer not to delete messages from the remote server when they’re downloaded to one of the PCs. That way, they remain available for downloading onto your other PCs. This is generally accomplished by turning on an option in the settings for your email account, which can be a convoluted process.

In Microsoft Outlook 2003, go to the Tools menu, select Email Accounts, then pick “View or Change Existing E-mail Accounts.” Select the account you want, click Change, then, in the next window, click More Settings. In the next window, select the Advanced tab and click in the checkbox called “Leave a copy of messages on the server.” Then click OK, then Next, and Finish, in the windows that follow. Whew.

In Outlook Express 6, it’s a little easier, but not much. On the Tools menu, select Accounts, then Mail, then the account name you want. Click on Properties, then select the Advanced tab. Check the box next to “Leave a copy of messages on server.” Then click OK, OK and Close.

Both programs allow you to set a number of days for the messages to stay on the server. I recommend setting that to 1 or 2, which is long enough so they’ll be downloaded to all your PCs, but short enough so your mailbox on the server won’t exceed its limits. I also suggest clicking an option that does delete from the server any messages you actually delete on any of your PCs. You’re not likely to want to see those everywhere.

Since the Treo 600 is much cheaper than the newer Treo 650, I am considering getting a 600 instead of a 650. What will I be missing if I do so?

The two models are very similar in their look and feel and their core functionality. The key differences are that the 650 has a much better screen, a removable battery, a slightly better keyboard and a better (but still not great) built-in camera. It also has Bluetooth wireless networking, and it is built much better, because Palm is using a different contractor to assemble the 650 than the one it used for the 600, which was plagued by quality complaints.

I am about to buy a new computer running XP Pro. I want to selectively transfer some, but not all, files from my old Windows 98SE computer over a cable. What is the best program for the job?

I generally recommend IntelliMover by Detto, at www.detto.com. Note, however, that IntelliMover won’t move application programs — only files, like Microsoft Office documents, pictures, songs, etc. If you want to move programs, try Alohabob PC Relocator, at www.alohabob.com.

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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