Using Outlook Express with Multiple E-mail Addresses, Multiple Accounts, and Multiple Identities

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More and more Internet users have more than one e-mail address, and many have many more. More and more families have not only more than one user, but also more than one computer.
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Multiple E-mail Addresses

Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) include multiple e-mail addresses with your Internet account. But not all e-mail addresses are created equal in that some represent a real file on a real computer, while others are merely virtual arrows pointing to a real file. When someone sends a message to your e-mail address, the actual physical bytes are stored on your ISP's computer, called the mail server, in your own file. This file is called your mailbox. Every mailbox has a unique name which is its e-mail address. Since an e-mail address is actually then just a pointer to a mailbox, it is very easy for an ISP to make another e-mail address point to the same mailbox. Such an address is called an alias. So every mailbox has at least one unique e-mail address, but not every e-mail address points to a unique mailbox.

Before you decide how best to configure Outlook Express for multiple e-mail addresses, you must first determine whether you have multiple mailboxes, possibly with multiple aliases for each mailbox, or a single mailbox with multiple aliases. For example, my ISP includes five mailboxes with a standard Internet account. Each mailbox may have as many as ten aliases. That means I can have as many as 50 different e-mail addresses.

Multiple Windows User Accounts vs. Multiple Identities

Windows has long had the option to create individual Windows User accounts, allowing multiple persons to share a single computer while maintaining individual settings. In older versions of Windows only one User could be logged on at one time, so switching users meant closing all programs and logging off completely before the second user could log on. This plus limited disk space made this impractical for many who merely wanted each user to have separate e-mail settings but not necessarily separate Windows settings. Since version 5, Outlook Express gave us the option to use multiple Identities within a single Windows User account. Each Identity has its own e-mail and news accounts settings, view settings, message store folder, and message rules. In fact each Identity is its own complete Outlook Express configuration.

Now that we have bigger hard disks and faster processors, Windows User accounts are much more appealing. Windows XP even has a Fast User Switching feature which allows you to switch between users without having to close all your programs and log off. Windows User accounts offer several benefits over Outlook Express Identities:

  • Better privacy
    While an Identity can be protected with a password, that only stops others from opening the Identity in Outlook Express. It does not prevent a sophisticated user from accessing the Identity's store folder or registry settings.
  • Better control
    Since Identities are all within a single User account, damage to the User account might damage all the Identities, making it very difficult to recover all their settings. By using separate User accounts instead, damage to one User account will usually have no impact on other User accounts.
  • Better usability
    To switch to another Identity, you can simply click Switch Identities on the Outlook Express File menu. This means that mail for the first Identity will not be checked until you switch back. If you simply close Outlook Express normally, that Identity is still logged on, and so the next person to open Outlook Express will open to that Identity. Using Fast User Switching, you only need to click Log Off on the Start menu, then click Switch Users and log on to another User account. When you switch back, Outlook Express will still be open and checking for mail just as if you had never left.

Turn on Fast User Switching

The Fast User Switching feature is disabled by default, but you can turn it on with just a few mouse clicks.

  1. Click Control Panel on the Start menu.
  2. In Control Panel, if you see "Pick a category" then click Switch to Classic View in the left side panel.
  3. Double-click the User Accounts icon.
  4. In the User Accounts window, click Change the way users log on or off.
  5. Check the box for Fast User Switching.
  6. Click Apply Options.

Note that the Accessibility feature SerialKeys will not work if Fast User Switching is enabled.

Nonetheless using multiple Identities still offers some possibilities for Windows XP users.

  • Physically separate one e-mail account from other accounts
    It might be important to you to keep your work e-mail physically separated from personal e-mail. This will also make it impossible to send mail by mistake to your boss or client from your personal e-mail address. Just create a new Identity by click Identities on the File menu, then select Add New Identity… (The screen shot for the New Identity dialog box is listed below).

    Adding a new Identity is an easy 3 mouse clicks followed by a name.
  • Starting clean
    Computers are not perfect, and accidents and mistakes do happen. Sometimes when problems occur, it is best simply to make a clean start. In the not-so-good old days, this meant completely uninstalling the troubled program from your system, then re-installing it from its setup disk. To start clean in Outlook Express, simply create a new Identity. You will then have all new store folders and all default settings.
  • Easily import mail from other Identities
    To access the Import wizard, click Import on the File menu, then select Messages. Then select Microsoft Outlook Express 6 and click Next. You can then pick the source Identity from the list and follow the wizard to completion. You can import messages from another Windows User account by selecting Import mail from an OE6 store directory instead of from an Identity. However you must have full permissions for the source User account files.
  • Access the Shared Contacts folder in the Address Book
    Identities all share a single address book. Each Identity's contacts are hidden from other Identities, but all Identities can access the Shared Contacts folder. However each Windows User account has its own address book that is not shared by other User accounts. There is therefore no simple way for User accounts to share contacts. But fear not, there is a way.

Create a Shared Address Book

  1. On the Start menu, click Run.
  2. Type in the Open box the following:
    wab /new
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click the down arrow in the Look in: box and select Shared Documents.
  5. Type the File name of your choice and click Open.
  6. You can now import your contacts by selecting Import in the File menu, followed by Address Book (wab).
All User accounts will now be able to open the new address book just by double-clicking its icon in the Shared Documents folder. However Outlook Express will not include this address book when it checks names unless you also edit the registry for every User account so that the default Outlook Express address book is the one in the Shared Documents folder.

Delivering E-mail to the Correct User

If each user has a unique mailbox on the mail server, there is no problem. But if multiple users are accessing a single mailbox with multiple aliases, you will have to use message rules to ensure that each user downloads only the mail sent to their alias. This is because the first user (or the first Outlook Express mail account) that downloads mail will automatically download all mail in the mailbox. This is simply the way POP3 mail works.

For example, Frank Lee signed up with a local ISP, A. Datum Corporation, for an Internet account with one POP3 mailbox with three aliases, thus four e-mail addresses in total. Frank's e-mail address is His wife Andrea will be using the alias, while son Mark will use and daughter Cristina will use

Let's begin with ensuring that Cristina receives only e-mail sent to her. Frank, who is the computer administrator, logs on as Cristina and opens her Outlook Express. He then creates a message rule:
  1. Click Message Rules on the Tools menu, then click Mail.
  2. Click New.
  3. In the Conditions box, check the box labeled where the TO or CC line contains specific words.
  4. In the Action box, check Do not Download it from the server.
  5. In the Description box, click the blue underlined specific words.
  6. Type the e-mail address, e.g.
  7. Click the Add button.
  8. Click the Options button.
  9. Select where it does not contain.
  10. Click OK.
  11. In the Name box, type a meaningful name for the rule.
  12. Click OK to close the Message Rule dialog. (The screen shot for this step is listed below).
The Rule Condition Options lets you make a rule inclusive or exclusive.

The final rule should look like this screen shot:
Mail that is not addressed to Cristina will not be downloaded.
Frank will now have to log on as Mark and create a similar rule to exclude mail not addressed to him, and then as Andrea to exclude mail not addressed to her. The final step is for Frank to create his own rule in his own User account. Frank's rule however must use a different Condition to ensure that no mail is left on the server. His condition must be:

Where the TO or CC line contains, or, or
Do not Download it from the server

Cristina, Mark and Andrea will now receive only mail that has their respective e-mail address in TO or CC. Frank will receive all other e-mail sent to the mailbox. It should be noted that any message sent to Cristina, Mark or Andrea with their e-mail address in the BCC (blind carbon copy) line will not be delivered correctly. It will then be up to Frank to forward such messages to the correct e-mail address.

The Shared Need of Multiple Users

No matter how many Windows Users and Identities are in use on your computer or network, and no matter how many individuals are involved, they all share one thing in common: the need for a secure computing environment, especially in the area of e-mail. We cannot expect small children and other beginners to understand all the security issues surrounding e-mail, so we must do all we can to make Outlook Express secure. The first step is to ensure your computer system and your anti-virus software is kept up to date. In the case of Windows XP, that means you should install Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) today, if you have not already done so. SP2 brings important changes to Outlook Express. SP2 will make Outlook Express safer for all your computer users, all your Outlook Express Identities, and all your Windows User accounts.


Article ID: 2419568 - Last Review: 12/12/2015 09:54:17 - Revision: 3.0

Microsoft Outlook Express 5.5, Microsoft Outlook Express 6.0

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