Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Although the title sums it up nice, I'll repeat and explain.

What would be a good email client for handling large amounts of mail ?

Large portion of mails I receive come with attachments (zip, rar, pdf, dwg, etc.) and within a month I usually have another 1,5-2Gb of new mail. I've noticed that 'standard' Outlook Express (with whose interface I've been very happy) gets awfully slow after a while. Archiving helps but not much. Then I usually take the files, move them onto a dvd, delete all messages I can do without and start anew. The thing is, I would love to have them all in email client since I often go after some old mails (slow projects).

So, what would be good alternatives ?

If it is portable, that would also be nice, but I can also live without it.

post scriptum: I love @gmail, but cannot use it for work. I know I could theoretically forward all of it there, and back, but that approach doesn't make my boss very happy (email handling policies and similar).


locked by Mark Henderson Mar 4 '14 at 0:43

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Another option that might be of use is, of all things, the GroupWise Client. It's archive method involves a few files for small emails databases, and a bunch of files for larger emails and attachments, so should scale rather well for what you're looking at. Some people at my old job had archives north of 1.5GB and worked well for them, which was back with GW6.

Interesting. I'll try to test it out. Thank you for a novel suggestion ! – Rook Jun 2 '09 at 22:44

In case you are forced to use Outlook, there´s several products that move attachments out of the .pst, store them on a filesystem and replace them with a link to the file. (Google outlook attachment)

If not, you may want to check other email clients - Pegasus, Eudora, and others come to mind. Try looking for one that stores attachments as files.

The true solution would be to receive less attachments. If the files are from inside the company, set up a document management system. Send links. For outside stuff, setup a ftp server where people store the stuff.

Email is not a document management system.

Such tools - do you know, perchance, names of any of them ? No, unfortunatelly, attachments come from all sides. And we're not an IT company, but an engineering one - document management system and ftp would probably prove itself to be too technical for a lot of our clients. – Rook Jun 2 '09 at 18:55
for instance: outlook attachment sniffer: (worked for customers) or – Posipiet Jun 2 '09 at 19:13
offbeat idea: take a blog or wiki to which you can post by mail, forward your mail there. – Posipiet Jun 2 '09 at 19:17

I highly recommend Thunderbird is faster than outlook (at least with imap) and doesn't crash that often, and as you receive tons of email just setup with IMAP as pop will require to download everything first. you can add the calendar option and then you can also sync everything with google apps and have it available on the web and that way you can sync everything with other devices (I sync my desktop with my notebook)

Any time someone lists "doesn't crash that often" as a feature, that tells me it crashes more often than it should, seeing as how that is one of the things that came to mind. I've used Thunderbird over IMAP, and it crashed often enough to send me back to using Outlook. I do like Thunderbird better though. If only it were stable in real work environments. – Justin Scott Jun 2 '09 at 19:10

I was almost recommending Gmail or Google App, but if you are only looking at a client solution and Gmail is not an option, well, no much choices left, or simply no choices left.

Outlook 2003 and up can handle much larger storage. .pst before 2003 only handles up to 2G storage. But even it can, the performance usually becomes bad when mail storage gets bigger. I am not a fan of using .pst file and even consider managing an environment w/ full of .pst is just a nightmare to any IT guys.

Maybe, your boss really should look at Google App solution.

I use @gmail privately, but I cannot use it for work. I work in a company which has some specific security issues (call it even maybe a little old fashioned ones) and using something like @gmail is simply out of the question. – Rook Jun 2 '09 at 18:37
I also tried Thunderbird, but that proved to be more slow than OE. – Rook Jun 2 '09 at 18:38

When I was in school I loved using Pegasus mail. Never had to use it with as much as you're talking about, so I don't know if it can handle the load. Also, a quick look at the site doesn't seem to address it.

Currently I use Thunderbird as a portable solution. I haven't used Pegasus in years, because I like Thunderbird a little more. Again, don't know if it can handle your load.

Both are fairly low on resources (especially Pegasus), and work well. Because they are not resource intensive, and don't use IE to render emails, they may work better.

share's my question...why do you NEED all of that email to be around? If it is important enough to be documented in email, its important enough to be on your internal wiki / file server / share point / whatever.

I'd check out inboxzero and I have a feeling that you'll be able to change the way that you look at email and remove the need to have gigabytes of email clogging up your inbox.

With that being said, I unfortunately can't recommend a great email client. I have yet to see one that is going to handle that amount of email overly well.

In short: project which takes about 2 months, documentation and drawings which need to be available and still the concents of the mail message itself is important in regart to attachment. All of that is forwarded here and there, and ... voila, lots of mail with lots of attachments. I'm actually pretty good, some of the people here top me by mailbox size by 2 or 3 times. They just don't even turn off their outlook anymore. And also, I don't really have time to maintain an internal wiki or file server. – Rook Jun 2 '09 at 21:21

I am familiar with Outlook (in all versions now including 2010). It can be used for large email if you are diligent about keeping multiple PST files and managing their size. The archive feature that creates a new PST with the exact folder structure of the original and moves all messages not touched since a specified date is useful for managing this.

I have clients using Outlook Express with obscene amounts of mail - pushing 8GB - mostly due to emailed pictures and videos. As long as they use folders, this gets factored into a file per OE mailbox. And as long as those are kept below 2GB it seems to be OK.

HOWEVER... The heaviest lifting email client that I have is Eudora paid-version but it is no longer sold. [We originally bought a Eudora 2 user license for version 2.2 and kept updated until the end. I found I can keep a skeleton version of my data tree with almost everything removed and use that to setup a new copy if necessary.]

As of a few days ago this is running on Windows 7 Ultimate in a 2006 era Lenovo 3000 N100 "value notebook" with a Core-Duo (not Core2) @ 1.6GHz, 3GB RAM, and a new 500GB 7200rpm disk.

I have mail going back to 1994 currently at 3,880,090,729 bytes in 18,845 Files, 70 Folders.

Eudora still has by far the most capable filtering I've found. I have almost 2000 rules, most to automatically filter into mailboxes. One killer feature is text search through the filters for either terms in the filter or any target folder name.

Each mailbox is a pair of files .mbx and .toc. Mailbox folders are file system directories.

Attachments are decoded and put into a separate directory. This has advantages (files are already there) and disadvantages (files with the same name get numbers appended and this folder can get very big over time).

The paid version has X1 indexing and search and can do multiple term searches typically in less than a second in spite of the volume of material.

The biggest problem with Eudora (other than it no longer being sold) is terrible handling of HTML email. It manages to display (using IE components) OK but forwarding HTML email mangles it horribly.

I think all email clients currently handle about 10x less capacity than many people expect.

Then there are the EMAIL SERVERS...

Neither the classic mail servers like sendmail and postfix nor Microsoft's Exchange Server ever expected to have users who get and keep Gigabytes of mail.

You certainly don't want to leave much over 1GB on any of these servers. POP3 with "leave mail on server" gets really ugly after a few hundred Megabytes.

The Gmail system of a giant flat store with multiple labels is probably the way of the future but I don't know if any desktop client with that structure. I do know that Gmail offline is not really ready yet, causing various browser breakage in IE, FF, and even Chrome.

The "cloud" will never be acceptable to a lot of people. Therefore for (in)security and privacy concerns I'd prefer a Gmail style server for in-house use along with a somewhat better client than Gmail. Maybe that could begin to keep up with peoples expectations.

Oh... and I was too abused by Netscape mail (at Motorola) over 10 years ago to consider any spawn of it worth trying. So Thunderbird is not a candidate around here. – lcbrevard May 10 '10 at 22:37

For large amounts of email, my experience with Thunderbird has been bad, so I converted my datafiles from Thunderbird to Outlook.

I had 30 gigabytes of data in Thunderbird, the program ran very slowly, taking 30-40 seconds to delete one email.

I split the data into 2 'profiles' and that had no effect at all on speed. I also deleted all of the msf files and rebuilt the indices, which had no effect either.

So, last week, I relented and converted the data from Thunderbird to Outlook.

Speed in Outlook is about 300 times faster, but the Rules in Outlook are tremendously inferior to Thunderbird, so now I am searching for an Outlook add-on that will process substrings in text matching.

A little history: I converted from Outlook to Thunderbird around 2002 because back then Outlook had a 2 gigabyte limitation. but Outlook now has a 50 GB limit,

Another problem with Outlook is that if the program crashes while files are open, the entire outlook .pst file has to be rebuilt, and chances are, you will lose some data. Thunderbird uses a multitude of files and I never lost an email when Thunderbird crashed.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.