Sharing Outlook on One Computer

Last reviewed on August 14, 2012

A common configuration for home users is a single computer, maybe shared by a husband and wife who want to keep certain tasks, contacts and other items in common, yet keep their mail separate. In Outlook Express, you’d use separate “identities,” but wouldn’t be able to have a common family calendar.

Outlook doesn’t have identities, but it does have “profiles”.

If you’re mainly interested in setting up Outlook so that each person keeps their own mail separate, you don’t need to use the third PST file for shared information. Also, you can extend this technique to any number of users, simply by creating additional Outlook profiles or Windows logons.

Configuration | Notes | More Information

Configuration

Here’s the way I envision the configuration. In Outlook 97, Outlook 2002 or later, or Outlook 98/2000 in Corporate/Workgroup mode, Control Panel | Mail and Fax should show two profiles. I’ll call them His and Hers.

The His profile looks like this:

Internet Mail
Microsoft Fax
His Personal Folders (pointing to His.pst) — primary
Our Personal Folders (pointing to Ours.pst)

The Hers profile looks like this:

Internet Mail
Microsoft Fax
Her Personal Folders (pointing to Hers.pst) — primary
Our Personal Folders (pointing to Ours.pst)

Notice the names of the Personal Folders. When you add Personal Folders to your profile, the dialog gives you the change the name of the folders, as displayed in Outlook. This doesn’t affect the file name. I strongly recommend doing this whenever someone plans to use more than one .pst file in a profile. My personal folders, for example, are named Sue’s Personal Folders as I see them in Outlook.

The files His.pst and Hers.pst could be password-protected to keep them private. Just don’t forget the password!

Important: Add the His.pst or Hers.pst file to the profile before you add Ours.pst. This will make His.pst or Hers.pst the primary information store. When you then add Ours.pst, create a new .pst file for the common information, rather than use a previously existing .pst. When you add a new .pst, it contains only a Deleted Items folder.

Once you’ve set up the profiles as described, start Outlook with one of them. Choose File, New, Folder and create folders in Ours.pst for just the item types you want. For example, you might want Our Contacts, Our Tasks, Our Calendar, etc. Once you’ve set up the folders, you can drag them to the Outlook Bar if you like. You might also want to add the Our Contacts folder to the Outlook Address Book.

To switch to the other profile, use the File | Exit and Log Off command to quit Outlook, then restart with the other profile.

Finally, if you have other .psts that already contain data, add them temporarily to your profile with File, Open Special Folder, and drag the information to the folders in the new profile. (You could also use File, Import, but I like dragging so I can be selective in what I move over.) When you’re done, use Tools, Services to remove those older .pst files from the profile.

Notes

How can you tell whether you have the His profile or Hers profile loaded? With the His profile loaded, right-click the Outlook group heading at the top of the Outlook Bar and choose Rename Group. You might give it the name His Outlook. Quit Outlook, restart it with the Hers profile and rename the top group Her Outlook. Thanks to Jared Abrams for the tip.

The reason this works so well is that the Outlook Bar settings are associated with particular profiles through .fav files kept in your Windows folder. These files use the same names as profiles, so, in this case, you’d find Hers.fav and His.fav. It’s a good idea to back up these files, when you back up other Outlook data.

If you have a single mail account with multiple e-mail addresses, Outlook does not provide any easy way to download just the mail for me@domain.dom, but leave the mail for you@domain.dom. In Outlook 97, Outlook 2002, or Outlook 98/2000 in Corporate/Workgroup mode, you can download message headers and select which messages to download and delete from the mail server. But there’s no way to keep each person’s mail private if you’re all sharing one e-mail account. If privacy is important, you should have separate mail accounts.

More Information

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

3 responses to “Sharing Outlook on One Computer”

  1. Kantha Rao

    Hi Diane, thanks for this post. But I would like to clear some doubts. I have configured two different email address in my Microsoft Outlook and it worked fine. The problem is I am going to borrow my laptop to my brother for about two month, and thus I was hoping to find a setting where everytime Outlook is opened, it will prompt the user to enter password for the respective email account before the email content can be accessed.

    As for now, whenever Outlook is opened, all the contents of my emails will be available right away and this annoys me. Please note that deleting the accounts from Outlook is not an option because I will be using my laptop back after I get it back from him. Thank you for your help.

  2. robin

    Diane,

    I have two seperate companies and want to create two seperate inbox, sent, deleted etc., for each. Then i could open up two windows of Outlook and use them indiviually. I set up a new outlook data file for the other email address but the emails drop into th main tab and not the inbox and everything sent is still sitting in the first email set, not the new one I created. How can I get all my emails for the second email address to arrive, hold, send and show sent, deleted, etc. in a seperate area?? Thanks!!

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