How can I send an email to another computer on the same LAN without using
the ISP – directly from one PC to another? I use Outlook while the other PC
uses Outlook Express. IP’s are dynamic and both PC’s have the same workgroup
name and individual PC names. There is no mail server.
This is a very common question. It would seem like having two computers one
ought to be able to send email between them without some kind of “middle
Sadly, you can’t. All I can do is explain why – and if you’re a geek, point
you at what’s required.
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Email – at least email using standard email programs such as you describe,
assumes and requires that there be a mail server. The very thing you clearly
state you don’t have.
There are several reasons for this, ranging from how email is funneled into
the correct accounts, to the very protocols that are used for transferring
email from machine to machine.
A good example is that your email program knows how to send email using a
protocol called “SMTP” – Simple Mail Transport Protocol. In fact, that’s how
email is sent from server to server as well, until it reaches the final server
that hosts the email account for which the message is destined for. That server
collects the mail destined for that account, and waits until it’s contacted by
your email program.
When downloading email your program uses either POP3 (Post Office Protocol
version 3) or in some, cases IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) to
request that the mail server deliver the messages associated with a specific
SMTP and POP3 (or IMAP) are very different protocols, and while it’s not
obvious on the surface, they actually serve very different needs. SMTP, in a
sense, says “here’s a message, go send it on to its recipient”, while POP3 says
things like “I’d like message numbers 2, 5 and 24 for the account named ‘leo’
with the password ‘password'”.
for the squeamish.”
So to even further grossly oversimplify the problem, a mail program
sends using SMTP, and therefore has no way to transfer a message directly to
a program that, of course, uses POP3 or IMAP to receive.
There simply must be a mail server for what you and I consider normal
Now, it is possible to set up your own mail server on your LAN. You could
even choose to make one of the two machines you mention a mail server. But I
will warn you that setting up and running a mail server is not a job for the
squeamish. Mail servers are complicated beasts, and getting them set up and
connected properly can have you quickly pulling your hair out. I know, because
I’ve done it. Repeatedly.
I used to run a mail server on my LAN – Merak Mail Server for Windows. If you’re at all technically
inclined, that may be a reasonable approach. Under Linux there are many, many
mail server options, which require more detailed technical knowledge.
(I’m sure readers familiar with the issue will also make suggestions in the
comments to this article.)
But the short answer for most “mere mortals” is that in order to send mail
from one machine to another, even on your local network, you will need a mail
server involved somewhere. If that’s not something you want to rely on, then
transferring information with more traditional file sharing might be more
appropriate, depending on what you’re attempting to do.