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Can two Windows XP accounts share a Mail account?

My husband & I share the same
computer. I haven’t been able to set up Outlook Express so he can
access mail when he is logged on. He has to log on as “me” to
read mail messages. We have just one email address at present. Should he
not be able to access the inbox from the Microsoft Internet Explorer tool
bar when he is logged on?

The short answer is yes we can make that work. But it’s not really
how Windows XP or Outlook for that matter expect things to behave.

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Windows XP is truly a multi-user operating system. That means that each
user who can log in has a completely separate collection of settings. They
have a different desktop, different shortcuts, different menus, a different
“My Documents” folder, and for most applications, a completely
separate set of settings.

Outlook Express is definitely one of those applications. Each user under
Windows XP has their own set of settings in Outlook Express. Log in to
Windows XP as yourself and you’ll see your settings. Log in to Windows
XP as your husband and you’ll see a completely different set.

And therein lies the seeds of our solution.

Step one is simple: for each Windows XP user account you want to use the
same Outlook Express settings you’ll log in and configure Outlook Express the
same way. In your case that means using same email account, names, addresses,
passwords, and what-have-you.

After doing that, you’ll both be able to send and receive email on
the same account, but you’ll still have separate
mailboxes, and each of you will not easily be able to see the mailbox of
the other.

If that’s ok you can stop reading here. You’re done.

To have multiple configurations of Outlook Express share the same
mailboxes we’ll have to configure them to all point to the same
Store Folder. From your question I assume you’ve
already got email working when you log in as yourself, so we’ll find
out where that message store is and use it for your husband as well.

Logged in as yourself in Outlook Express, click on the
Tools menu, Options menu item,
Maintenance tab, and then finally the Store
button. It will tell you that “Your personal
message store is located in the following folder:”. Copy down that
folder name.

Backup the contents of that folder. For now just copying the contents
somewhere else will do.

Log in as your husband and then in Outlook Express go to the same
Store Folder… setting in options. This time press the
Change… button, and use the browse control to locate the
folder you copied down when you were logged in. Once you’ve found it,
click on it,
click OK, and then OK your way back out
of the options dialog.

Along the way Outlook Express will tell you that this setting will not
take effect until you exit and restart Outlook Express. Do that and your
husband should now be able to see the same mail folders you do, as well as
being able to send and receive email on your shared account.

Do this

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45 comments on “Can two Windows XP accounts share a Mail account?”

  1. Actually for Outlook this should also work. Instead of playing with the “Store Folder”, the two accounts could simply open and download into the same .PST file.

  2. I’ve tried doing it over a network, and the ‘OK’ button is greyed out when you select a network folder. Any idea?

    – Itay

  3. I have the same problem…. the “OK” button is greyed out when you select a network folder. Still trying to figure this out…

  4. I have pointed both user profiles in Windows XP to the same .pst in a shared location. Everything works, but now we get two copies of all messages. We leave messages on the server in order to be able to get our email while at work. Any solution to the double email?

  5. Unfortunately none that come to mind. “What mail has been downloaded” is obviously kept per-profile, and I wouldn’t want to hazzard a guess on how to fake that out.

    The other option might be to use IMAP instead of POP3 if you server supports it – IMAP treats the server as the primary store, and might be handled differently.

    But to be honest, I’m not sure.

  6. Dear Leo,

    Just i woulk like to that how many Gb of mail store in Outlook express, if you don’t mind please kindly let me know.

    Best regards


  7. Dear Leo,

    Just now i woulk like to know that, how many Gb of mail storage in Outlook express, if you don’t mind please kindly let me know.

    Best regards


  8. I guess I don’t understand your question. Depending on how you organize things, I would expect you to be limited only by disk space, if that’s what you’re asking.

  9. I have many volunteers with their own xp username on our office pc. They all need access to our club’s email. However, I don’t want to issue the email details as they should only be able to get the mail when onsite. Do I really have to log in 20 times to set up each account?

  10. To the best of my knowledge, yes. I suppose you could grovel around in the registry, but that’s not guaranteed, would be error prone, and would probably take as long to figure out as just logging in 20 times. In either case password changes will be problematic for you. If trusting them with the account info isn’t possible, perhaps setting up 20 individual email accounts they can manage on their own is an option? Email to your “main” account could be fanned out to all, and they could certainly send “as” that main account in addition to their own. May not apply, but a thought.

  11. I have the same question as Itay, Sean, Dave and others – how to share the Outlook Express 6 message store over a network. In Tools-Options-Maintenance-Message Store the OK button is greyed out when you try and change to a network folder, even if using a mapped drive. Anyone any suggestions?

  12. for myself .. I wanted my wife to be able to access her email from our desktop pc as well as from our laptop on wireless router, using Outlook express on both PCs.. I tried to set up the ‘store’ folder on a network drive and Outlook Express definitely doesn’t like it .. it will ‘grey out’ the ok button as you’ve all described.. the following article on MS knowledge base tells you that you can’t use a network or removable drive as a ‘store’ folder for Outlook Express..;en-us;199074

    but.. the following URL shows how to tweak the registry to enable the store folder to be assigned to a network drive … I tried this technique on Outlook Express 6 and it works just fine… but of course, there’s the usual warnings about tweaking with the registry … there’s always the chance of causing major calamity with your computer if you mess around with your registry..,aid,15063,00.asp

  13. Leo,

    I copied the location of my Store Folder so my wife and I can share the same mailbox and not have messages get downloaded into her account that I coudl not see. I followed your instructions. However, I could not find the folder/file location in Browse. I found “Documents and Settings\Mike” But, under the “Mike” folder there wasn’t folder called “Local Settings”. Help me!

  14. Have now managed to do it, partly by accident.

    I couldn’t find a way of specifying the pst location in Outlook. I moved the pst to a shared location. When I next started Outlook it prompted me for the location it as the pst no longer existed in the configured path – so I just pointed both at the same pst. Bingo.

  15. I am using outlook express 6 and when I check my default mail account all emails from all my accounts open in the default mailbox This has not always happened Can I please get an answer how to fix it Thanks D.

  16. Hello Leo,
    One day I was not able to Recieve anymore from my mail hosting. I noticed that I could not find Accounts under the Tools menu any longer. I re-installed Office 2000 but, still could not find the accounts selection under tools. Where could it be?

  17. Hello again Leo,

    I tried your tips which at the time looked promising, but I can not see my files from her account I have tried unhiding hidden files and folders in my and her account and have applied them to all folders. I think the caveat is that I am running XP home SP2. In XP Home, I do not have access to the security tab after right clicking on a particular folder, and so I can not add her as a permissible person to see any files in any directory. I can’t even acces my file or folders under administrator in safe mode.

    Any thoughts?

    Aaron Stuck in Virginia

  18. I’d be tempted to move the mail files to a “neutural” location that you can both see. For example c:\mail. Then change both configurations to reference the mail files from there.

  19. Dear Leo-

    Great fix. Just one thing though. Make sure that when one user is trying to fing the others store folder that they go through the “local settings” folder before they get to the “app data” folder

    It worked great!!!

    BTW Jeeves found you from my question!


  20. Leo,

    I have read all the comments on this topic and can’t find an answer to my issue. I am operating Windows XP with Outlook Express 6 on a brand new laptop. I originally had trouble finding the right directory in the Store Folder option, but I tried your instructions on configuring Explorer to show hidden files, etc. and this worked…for MY identity. For a reason I can’t figure out, the file directory under Store Folder that I see when I log on as myself is slightly different than the directory I see when logged on as my wife. Therefore I am not able to select the Exact same location for our message store.

    When logged on as myself I see that my messages are stored under my username in the C:\Documents and Settings directory. When logged on as my wife’s identity, that same location is listed as a different username.
    Me – C:\Documents and Settings\Husband\Local Settings\…..
    My Wife – C:\Documents and Settings\Wife(2)\Local Settings\…..
    Any ideas for me to try? Thank you.

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  22. I found it all a lot more complicated than you seem to suggest.
    It involved tracking down the location of the outlook files. In my version of office I went to File > Data File Management to see the location of the datastore of the fully set-up outlook user.

    Then I had to track this down to copy the full location address “C:\Documents and Settings\User1\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst” [User1 = the user name of course] – or you could just write it down…trust me, it’s easier to do that!

    Then, logging on as the other user (user2), set up the outlook email account (as Leo says).
    THEN go to the Data File Management stuff for this user2 (as above) and click on the ‘Add’ button.

    In the next dialogue box, insert the location of the .pst file found above. You’ve created a new link to the other user’s data store.
    [I think all this only works if the users’ files/directories are shared] It’s also really useful if the file has an easily identifiable name since outlook names them all the same and just puts them in different user’s profiles.

    Then close the dialogue box.

    The next bit is tricky since you have to make the newly linked file the default.

    Go to Tools > Email Accounts select the radio button ‘View or change existing e-mail accounts’, then click ‘Next’.

    At the bottom of the next dialogue box you’ll see a little drop-down box saying ‘Deliver new email to the following location’ – you should be able to select the right file…click OK, close etc etc etc

    Then you have to close Outlook for the changes to take effect.

    Another point; with POP email accounts is that you should make sure messages are NOT left on the server (tools > email accounts > change > more settings > advanced then look at delivery) otherwise the two users will constantly download duplicates.

    It’s also interesting to look at the help Microsoft give on this issue…none.

    As a friend often says:in space, you wouldn’t want Bill Gates in charge of your air supply…

  23. Leo,

    I’m trying to setup two e-mail accounts on the same machine using identical settings except for the first name. One of the accounts works, however the other keeps coming up with the dreaded “Enter Network Password” box and no matter how many times I click on it, it never goes away and subsequently I can’t send or receive messages on that second account. Any ideas?

    BTW I’m using OE 6.



  24. I have the same comment as Leo. I have 2 accounts. Everything is the same, including the username. The username, pop3 and smtp are all the same. The email and passwords are different. i can configure this, but my computer keeps giving me the “save password” message. It seems to link the username to one specific password. Is there a way to link to multiple passwords?

  25. According to Phil (Post: Phil at June 27, 2006 04:03 PM). You want to remove mail from the POP server so you don’t download multiple emails. This happens on my machine – annoying. So, for a POP server, can you leave copies of the mail on the server and still not download duplicates on the machine? (I still access my mail remotely through the host server web app.) Perhaps a VB script could do this?

  26. Ok, this is rather complicated. My parents and I share a family e-mail account and we both have our personal e-mail accounts. I have set up outlook 2003 to access both my private and family e-mails addresses on my windows account. Now my parents can also set up outlook 2003 to access both their private and family e-mails addresses on their windows account, just like i did. This form shows who we both can view our family e-mail account with outlook 2003 in our different windows accounts. However, is there a way we can do this while keeping our private e-mail accounts separate. The first solution to come to mind would be to have a shared .pst file both our outlooks could access, and each have our own .pst files for personal use. To do this, outlook would have to deliver e-mails from separate e-mail accounts to separate .pst files. Is it possible for outlook to do this? If not, is there another way to share one e-mail account between different windows accounts while keeping other e-mail accounts private?

  27. That’s going to be difficult. I think your muiltiple PST solution could work – you should try using message rules (tools, rules and alerts) to deliver incoming messages to the appropriate inbox. By default Outlook delivers to the single, primary inbox, but you can then use rules to move things around automatically. Good luck!

  28. I am using Mozilla Thunderbird . I have tried what you have suggested but I cannot seem to be able to browse for the store location. The problem is this. When I’m in my XP screen I can see into all the other users application and data files but when I’m in one of the other users screens I cannot see into mine or any of the other users. I tried making all users administrators but it does not work. It doesn’t matter if I’m in windows explorer or just trying to use the browse function of the store location in Thunderbird. Because I can’t see into their application and data files I cannot change the store location. Can you help?

  29. I have a variation on this problem: my wife has a POP3 account and uses Outlook Express and I want to share the POP3 account on my computer as a separate mailbox. Can this be done? Could I use Outlook on my machine while she uses Outlook Express on hers?

  30. After reading these posts my problem is still not fixed. How can you set up outlook xpress for two users?
    If you create two accounts using all the same info then how does outlook differentiate between the two user inboxes.??????? Is it possible to have two separate users who cannot see the others inbox?

  31. I am trying to set up an existing email account through outlook, i get onto the setting and make it the default but the enter network password keeps coming up when its testing…how do i sort this? Thanks


  32. I have configured Outlook XP for two email accounts. I have setup everything with the necessary login and passwords. My test messages worked. But, after I log off and log back on, it asks me for password every time it tried to send and receive. Why?

  33. I tried this approach outlined for sharing an email account on XP but in my case for Vista. Everything worked fine up to the last item which is to browse to locate the folder. The problem is the folder is in the other users name and Vista won’t let me go there. Suggestions?


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