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Outlook can be configured to access multiple email accounts, but by default throws all email into a single inbox. Outlook rules can help.

How do I configure Outlook 2003 to have a separate set of personal folders for each email account? For example, I want a separate inbox, outbox, etc. for each email provider that I have any account with.

Right now I receive emails from two separate email accounts in the same inbox. I suspect it's because they are both POP3 accounts. I want to direct each account's incoming and outgoing messages to its own set of folders.

There's actually no inherent support for specifically this in Outlook.

But the good news is that for your inbox and sent mail folders, we can simulate it using Outlook's very powerful "Rules" feature.

For this example, I'll create two email accounts: business@ and personal@ my company domain. It's probably not that uncommon a scenario to have separate addresses for business and personal use. Here's what you might see in Outlook's Tools, Email accounts... list of existing accounts:

Business and personal accounts listed in Outlook

I'll also create the two sets of folders. We'll use the default Inbox for the default business account, and create a second "Inbox - Personal" for the personal account. Similarly I'll use the default "Sent Mail" for business, and "Sent Mail - Personal" for the personal account. Here's the folder list with the folders set up:

Outlook folder list with separate inbox and sent mail folders

Now we'll use Rules to direct incoming and outgoing mail into the correct folders.

Click on the Tools menu, Rules and Alerts... item, and then click on New Rule. You should be presented with this dialog:

Outlook New Rule wizard start

We'll Start from a blank rule, and Check messages when they arrive:

Outlook New Rule wizard - check messages when they arrive

Click Next. It's on this dialog that the magic happens:

Outlook New Rule Wizard - through the specified account

On this screen of the wizard, we've selected through the specified account. Having done so, you can now click on the word specified in the Edit the Rule Description lower box, and you'll get this box to choose which account you want this rule to act on:

Outlook New Rule wizard - choose account dialog

Since in this example we're setting up a rule for our personal email, we'll select that account and press OK. You'll see the account updated in the Edit the Rule Description box.

Press Next to move on, and you'll get this next page of the wizard:

Outlook New Rule wizard - move to folder option

Here you can see I've clicked on "move it to the specified folder" as the action to take. Once again, in the lower box we can then click on the underlined word specified to get this:

Outlook New Rule wizard - folder choice

Here we can select which folder we want mail to be moved to. I'll click on Inbox - Personal for my personal mail, click OK and then Next to move on.

The next screen of the wizard allows you to specify exceptions. We don't have any, so press Next to move on.

Finally, we get a summary of the new rule we just created:

Outlook New Rule wizard - final summary

The result is that when new mail is received on the personal account it will automatically be moved to the personal inbox. Email received on other accounts, namely the business account, will remain in the default inbox.

For your sent mail, you can follow a similar set of steps:

  • Check messages after sending

  • through the personal account

  • move a copy to the personal sent items folder

  • no exceptions

As you've seen as we've moved through the process, the rules you can define can be quite complex and based on many conditions other than just the account being used. But this should serve as a start to help you get your email organized.

Article C2977 - March 28, 2007 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

March 30, 2007 8:02 PM

Bill Gates should fire all the a people that write the USELESS HELP crap which has NEVER helped me and let you run the department completely. At a HIGH salary of course.
This has given me more info than F1 or any help before.
George Schneeweiss

Robert Glasco
March 31, 2007 6:40 AM

Very good article. Keep up the good work.

Eli Coten
March 31, 2007 3:50 PM

I have tried this on Outlook and whilst Outlook can usually handle incoming mail through multiple accounts and sort them like this, it gets a bit complicated if you want to use a different PST file for each address. And if the PST files are in different locations, where one of the locations is, for example, a removable drive that might not always be accessible it gets even worse.

And outlook can't prevent all sent messages going to the same sent option, since the option to put them in a separate Sent folder is "move a copy" rather than "move the original".

Thunderbird has none of these problems and that is one of the reasons why I highly recommend it.

Edgar Diaz
April 7, 2007 3:25 PM

Its far more easy to go to view in the menu bar, select the arrange by option and then email account,

May 11, 2007 5:11 AM

Yeah, you make my day. My problem with inboxes and accounts are history.


August 29, 2007 7:39 AM

Leo, in your example, I assume that both the inboxes are in the same .pst file? Then how do you re-direct incoming email to different .pst files? In the comments, Eli Coten said that "[using different .pst files for different email addresses] gets a bit complicated" but Eli not say how you can achieve this, or whether it is in fact possible. Leo, can you comment?

August 29, 2007 1:34 PM

great article - on the money. thank you. :)

May 11, 2008 10:27 AM

I can't tell you how useful this little trick is. If i could , i would buy you a cup of coffee. Thanks

June 2, 2008 6:48 AM

Wow! I had just about given up on being able to separate business from personal and other outlook accounts. A problem that has plagued me for sometime is finally solved. Thanks so much!

August 8, 2008 12:20 PM

Fantastic article. Nice job with the screenshots, made it a breeze.

October 20, 2008 8:56 PM

YOU ARE A GOD!!! Such clear and concise instructions that ANYONE could follow!! CHEERS!

November 3, 2008 7:20 AM

Hi Leo,
Very nice explanation.
However, when I try this I don't seem to have the option to just move an item to another folder. It only allows me to move a copy to another folder.
This way I end up with an email in my business folder and another in personal folder. Is there a box I haven't ticked/unticked?

Mr. Kabir
January 19, 2009 6:43 PM

Hi Leo,
Thanks for this post.But, I hope, Many problem solve by you.


January 29, 2009 4:53 PM

Does anybody know how to to do the same thing but with Sent Items. I would like to move it to second Second item folder but whatever I do copy is lways in th main Sent Item folder..

January 30, 2009 7:06 AM

Brilliant - it solved all my outlook emails into the right order.

March 10, 2009 1:42 AM

This is great info... thanks!

Is there a way to configure Outlook to setup a default email "send" address that is specific to a particular folder OR to a particular "Personal Folder". I figured out how to create a seperate "Personal Folder" but it wont let me change the default email "Send" address without it affecting my other address.

I don't want to create another profile because then I would have to close outlook and open it up again to switch accounts. Right?

Ryan Aint Lyin
July 29, 2009 6:21 PM

This was an excellently written instructional piece. Well Done! Super easy for a layperson like me to follow. Thanks for writing it.

September 10, 2009 5:57 PM

Fantastic. But seems not working with Outlook Connector. In the step of "move it to the specified folder", doesn't show 'Personal Folders' :(

Corey Jeppesen
September 15, 2009 11:09 AM

Wow, amazing help! Set it up with ease! Thank you.

November 4, 2009 5:54 AM

Thank you Leo, U saved my lots of minutes reading all the Microsft garbages...


February 18, 2010 7:03 PM

on Outlook 2007 all of a sudedent all of my different accounts starting going back into my inbox (they had been going into their own account folders). Is this another Vista problem?

P KUsh
September 9, 2010 8:29 AM

Awesome article! Just switched from XP to Win7 and "lost" Outlook Express, which I used for my business emails. I figured (hoped!) Outlook could do what you outlined but when I went to MS Help, I saw nothing like what you described. saved me a ton of time & effort.

Ram Kumar
October 18, 2010 7:43 AM

Very Good morning....
I have a question.Plz kindly do the needfull.

Q. How can i recieve importent emails which r in my gmail to my personal Microsoft outlook. Can u plz guide me in brief?

Not sure exactly what you're asking, but perhaps this will help:

J Cru
February 4, 2011 11:26 AM

Thank you for this article. It was well written and easy to follow. Great job!

June 6, 2011 5:30 AM

you can display two inbox folders simultaneously if they are on a microsoft exchange account.

Depends entirely on what email program you use.

February 2, 2012 1:14 AM

Hi I need an answer on Microsoft outlook 2007. My problem is everyone send me email but it isn't stored in my inbox folder, it is stored in sent item folder.Please full fill my query on problem.


March 26, 2012 3:29 PM

Thank you! I've used rules for a long time, but the "through the specified account" feature had always eluded me. It took minutes to solve a problem that has been nagging me for a while.

May 23, 2012 12:52 AM

Thanks for the article, that was very clear. I have more than 2 email accounts and was looking for a way to send/receive in a particular order. How do I do that? I tried the up and down buttons in the Account Settings window but made no difference. Thank you!

I'm not aware of a way to reliably control the order other than manually checking each in turn.
February 9, 2013 2:12 PM

Wow - you rock. I did the blank rule Inbox and Sent Items thing. Perfect thank you. Roy

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