It is possible to configure a Pop account so that emails stay on the ISP's server for several days to allow ample time to download them onto either machine
Q I use Windows Live Mail for email but, having recently bought a new laptop, I have encountered a problem. I am finding that some messages are not arriving on the laptop. However, when I power up my desktop computer those same messages are showing as unread.
For example, I recently downloaded a new application for use on my laptop and was awaiting the confirmation emails required to complete the setup. However, no such emails ever arrived.
In frustration, I requested a password change and again waited for the expected confirmation email, again to no avail. Later, I went to use my desktop PC and there, among other messages, were the two emails I’d been awaiting on my laptop – so I was at last able to complete the installation.
However, it would obviously have been much more convenient if the messages had been delivered to Windows Live Mail on my laptop. In short, what I really need is to ensure that all my emails arrive on both PCs.
There is clearly some kind of synchronisation problem: do you know what it might be and, more importantly, how to fix it?
A Synchronisation is an age-old issue for email users. Configuring a system that works the way you want relates to both the type of email service being used and the way the email software (Windows Live Mail in this case) has been set up to retrieve messages.
This topic is so thick with complications that we could prepare an entire article about it and, prompted by your question, we’ve decided to do just that – so look out for it in a future issue.
However, you explained your particular problem in sufficient detail for us to be able to offer a workable solution, so here goes.
There are essentially two popular email systems (or ‘protocols’) in use today, known as Imap and Pop. The first is by far the most flexible and was pretty much made for the broadband age, where desktop PCs, laptops and smartphones are more or less permanently connected to the internet.
While there are myriad technical differences between Imap and Pop, the biggest advantage of Imap (from the perspective of many users) is that the inbox looks the same no matter where it’s viewed. So, delete a message from the laptop’s inbox and it will disappear from the desktop.
Similarly, send a message from the desktop computer and it will be accessible from the laptop’s Sent Items folder. This is because Imap email systems offer many more server-side management controls, meaning the user has to worry less about managing such things themselves. Probably, then, Imap is exactly what you are after.
However, because of the described behaviour of your current email setup, we can be confident that it has been configured to use the Pop system. With a Pop setup, email messages addressed to you sit on a Pop server (typically owned and run by your internet service provider) until your PC – or rather, its email program – connects to collect (download) them.
At this point, the email program (Windows Live Mail) will usually send an electronic signal to tell the Pop server to delete the messages just downloaded: most ISPs offer only a fixed amount of storage on their email servers, so deleting messages downloaded to your PC makes sense as it frees up space on the server.
While there is logic behind this method, it should now be obvious why Pop presents problems when it comes to synchronisation. When your laptop tries to collect emails, it is able to pick up only the ones that haven’t already been downloaded by the desktop (and vice versa, for that matter).
There are, then, a couple of fixes. The first is to change your email setup to use Imap – but this may not be supported by your mail provider. You didn’t say which mail provider you use, though you did say that your ISP is Virgin Media.
Assuming you also use Virgin Media for email (ie, you have an @virginmedia.com email address), then you will find its instructions for setting up Windows Mail with Imap by clicking here. Otherwise, refer to the mail provider for specific instructions.
Alternatively, it is possible to tweak the way your existing Pop setup works to create an acceptable workaround.
If you set up both the laptop and desktop to leave messages on the Pop server for a few days after downloading them (rather than them being deleted immediately, as is currently the case), then you will create a window during which you’ll be able to synchronise using either computer – so that both will show the same messages in their respective inboxes.
To do this in Windows Live Mail, first open the Tools menu and then choose Accounts. Now click to select the relevant account under Mail (chances are there’ll only be the one) and then click the Properties button.
Choose the Advanced tab and then find the Delivery section at the bottom of the dialogue box. Now click to tick both the ‘Leave a copy of the messages on server’ and ‘Remove from server after’ boxes and then use the up and down arrows to set the number of days messages should remain on the server before deletion: choose ‘7 days’, for instance, and you will have a week in which to synchronise both inboxes before previously downloaded messages are removed.
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