Q: I have three computers at home running Windows XP and Outlook Express 6. 0. I have three e-mail accounts set up in Outlook Express. The same three accounts...

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Q: I have three computers at home running Windows XP and Outlook Express 6.0. I have three e-mail accounts set up in Outlook Express. The same three accounts are on each computer. I am able to share among all three computers using a wireless network. My question is: How can I network Outlook Express so that each computer sees the same e-mail that the other two see? For example, if I open my e-mail on computer 1, it downloads the latest e-mail to that computer, which at that time is then not accessible on computer 2.

— Mike McCollum, Bothell

A: Alas, there is no way to achieve your goal using a POP3 e-mail server, which is the standard mode for Internet e-mail. The problem with POP3, as far as you’re concerned, is that when the POP3 client contacts the e-mail server, it automatically downloads all messages stored on the server. If another client using the same account then contacts the server, those messages are no longer there.

The main reason this is the norm for Internet e-mail accounts is that if messages weren’t automatically downloaded, the storage space required for the servers would increase astronomically.

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If you want to be able to access the same Inbox regardless of which computer you are on, you need to have your own e-mail server, such as Microsoft Exchange. Your mail server then downloads any Internet e-mail and makes it accessible to any client on the network. Then, the headache about storage space for all those e-mails is yours, not your ISP’s.

Alternatively, you might find an ISP that uses IMAP, an e-mail protocol that allows you to keep your e-mail messages stored on their server.

Q: When I installed Windows XP, I did a clean installation, including a total reformat of the hard drive and reinstallation of all applications and data files. Now, however, when I shut down, XP shuts down but does not turn off my computer. I must turn off the main power switch. When I ran Windows ME it would turn off my entire system (sometimes). Is there something I must set in XP or my BIOS?

— Rene Van De Sompele

A: There could be quite a few possible causes of this problem. First, it may be that your computer supports the Advanced Power Management (APM) feature, but the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) compliant basic input/output system (BIOS) is not configured correctly to permit the operating system to turn off the power supply.

Second, it may be that during installation of operating system, Windows didn’t recognize that your computer is ACPI-compliant.

Third, a device drive or some other application is preventing the computer from shutting down properly.

Finally, it may be that your computer is not ACPI-compliant. This last option is not very likely, since things seemed to work fine under Windows ME.

Corrective measures are a bit complex, but you can find them at the following URL: support.microsoft.com/defautl.aspx?scid+kb;en-us;810903.

Q: My question has to do with Internet security for my Palm Desktop files, where I keep such data as usernames and access codes. First, can someone access my Palm Desktop files or any other important files — such as my Quicken files that reside on my desktop — if I’m using a wireless router connected to my Comcast cable modem? I have Windows XP firewall activated and Norton Internet Security. However, I have noticed two other unsecured wireless networks in my neighborhood show up when I view available networks.

Secondly, I recently purchased a PalmOne Treo 600 to use as my T-Mobile cellphone. If I sign up for the data (Internet) program, can someone access my Outlook files when I connect to the Internet using the T-Mobile cell program? How about when I’m using my Treo in a T-Mobile HotSpot area? If they can access this information, how do you recommend I make my files more secure?

— Mario Giordano

A: I’m afraid there is no simple answer to your question, except that, yes, your data is at risk. The question is how much risk.

Firewalls, antivirus software, spyware and the like only reduce the chances of your data being compromised; they don’t ensure protection. If you need to be certain your data is safe, the first thing to do is disconnect your computer from the Internet. Next, lock it in a room to which only you have the key. Finally, keep your fingers crossed.

OK, let’s not be paranoid. Given that nothing is absolutely secure, what steps should you take? You should, of course, employ firewalls and antivirus software. Just as important, if you’re going to use wireless, make sure it is isolated from the data you need to protect. Now … keep your fingers crossed.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.