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Accessing Archived Email Messages from Any Computer

Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and other desktop-based email clients are handy for storing email messages and attachments on your hard drive for future reference. Web-based email clients, such as Gmail and Yahoo! mail, on the other hand, are useful because they allow you to access your email from any computer that's connected to the Internet. Both of these methods for accessing archived emails are incredibly useful. But both have their disadvantages.

For desktop-based email clients, there's always the issue of hard drive space. But more critical is the fact that, because your emails are stored locally, you must be sitting in front of your primary machine in order to access them. Web-based email clients address these issues. Services like Gmail give you practically unlimited amounts of storage for email and because all of your messages are hosted on Google's servers, you can get to them from any computer with a web browser. The problem with that: you cannot access your emails when you are offline or do not have an Internet connection.

There is a happy medium between these two options that you may not have considered. Whereas most of us are familiar with desktop applications vs. web apps, portable applications get much less attention. A portable application, in a nutshell, is a program that can be installed on a removable media device, such as a USB hard drive or an SD flash card. Portable apps standalone completely. Whereas desktop apps must be configured with the host machine's operating system with various library files and/or other settings that are dependent on the system, portable apps work equally as well when plugged into one compatible machine as the other.

In the realm of portable email applications, one stand out piece of software is MailStore. MailStore is a free portable email archiving software that backs up and archives email from all of your different email inboxes. This includes Gmail, Yahoo! mail, Microsoft Outlook and any other POP3 or IMAP mailbox. After setting up MailStore, you'll be able to choose which mailboxes to sync to your central location. This feature is handy for the portable version, as it lets you exclude large file attachments or unimportant messages.

Because MailStore can start directly from a USB stick or memory card, there's no need to reinstall the software on a public computer or a secondary machine. Simply take your USB stick wtih you, plug it in, read/reference your emails and then unplug it. When you disconnect your USB drive, all traces of your email are removed from the machine that you were using.

MailStore, and other email applications that run from removable media, are the best of both worlds. You don't have the security risks of entering your web credentials into a public computer, but you still get search able access to your important emails. If you're looking for a way to backup your web-based and desktop-based email folders, try MailStore or another portable email app that lets you save your emails to a thumbdrive for easy archiving and backup.