Quickly check mails without downloading them

Martin Brinkmann
May 19, 2008
Updated • Mar 27, 2014

Retrieving all mail headers from emails that are currently stored on the mail server can be useful for several reasons. The first is that it is possible to delete mails without having to retrieve them completely.

This can come in handy if mails with huge attachments are blocking the retrieval of other emails, or if you are victim of a mail attack and notice that hundreds of thousands of emails arrive in your mailbox per hour.

The option to retrieve all mail headers can be useful to speed up the retrieval of important messages. Very helpful if you use your mobile phone to go online with your notebook and pay by the amount of Kilobytes that have been downloaded.

A second use is to fight spam before it is retrieved and downloaded to the local computer system.

Basically, it gives you control over all emails that have not yet been downloaded to your local system. You can delete mails that you do not want to download to speed up the transfer for mails that you want to download.

Pal Mail is a tiny secure application that can retrieve the mail headers of an unlimited number of accounts. Its main feature is the ability to delete mails right on the mail server. Retrieved are the mail headers and the messages but not the attachments of mails.

Every mail can be marked for deletion which effectively deletes it from the provider's mail server. The consequence is that your primary mail client will not retrieve the messages that have been deleted before.

Pal Mail is a standalone application that does not require any dlls or other files to run. This makes it an idea software for a portable device.

Update: The program has not been updated since 2002. While it may still work on some systems, it is likely not working on newer versions of Windows. What you can use instead is a portable version of Thunderbird if you like to use a portable email client.

Another interesting option is to sign in to the web mail client if available, and either access messages directly using it, or delete messages that you do not want your desktop mail program to download.

There is also an option to configure Thunderbird to only retrieve headers and not full mails. This can be useful as it offers the same advantages as the Pal Mail software: select the mails that you want downloaded, and delete the rest.

Please note that this only works for POP accounts and not IMAP.


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  1. Hardyakka said on June 4, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Been using Palmail for years and works no probs on Vista as well.

    Set it up in it’s own folder which will have a settings.ini created on setup then you can just copy and paste the whole folder to any install and create a shotcut of the exe to desktop.

    Or copy and paste the folder to thumb drive and run it from there.Too easy!

    Doesn’t need to be developed any further as it works just fine as is here.

  2. archer said on May 20, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    wow, i forgot all about eprompter. i used it back before the turn of the century and it worked well for me. must have gotten left behind and forgotten during a computer upgrade. think i’ll re-check it.

  3. Roman ShaRP said on May 20, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    I use for that purpose similar program Magic mail monitor

  4. DoneThat2 said on May 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I use an app called ePrompter for the last 2 years in order to review and delete emails before downloading. I have a dozen accounts spread across Gmail, Yahoo, Comcast, and a corporate webmail service. ePrompter works on all of them. The app itself is not terribly attractive, but I keep it minimized in the tray where it works great as a email inbox notifier.

  5. C.T. said on May 20, 2008 at 3:03 am

    I couldn’t help but notice that the last ‘update’ of this software was July 2002!
    Not that it isn’t a useful program (I’ve added it to my ‘Tools’ Thumb Drive – Thhe ‘Portability’ is Handy!), it’s simply that the ‘Additional Features’ have been a VERY long time in coming!
    Is it possible that ‘MailWasher’ is based on this? MailWasher is my preferred spam-blocker/cleaner – same features as PalMail, but also applies (user-selectable) spam-filters automatically, very configurable, allows ‘Screening’ your email & spam prior to downloading, and even starts your email client! Beats trusting your ISP’s Spam-Filter!

  6. archer said on May 20, 2008 at 12:33 am

    man, i don’t know what it is, martin, but i just can’t get many of the programs recommended and apparently used by others successfully to work. this is another example.

    another big disappointment are the new slick looking air apps. out of 5 that i’ve tried only mooflair works.

  7. Rodney Fiddaman said on May 19, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    That’s what I use MailWasher for.

  8. Transcontinental said on May 19, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    The author writes, on PalMail’s homepage that he names it Beta “because it’s missing many functions I’d like to add to it before the final release version.”. Well, I think this is the good point with function specific programs sometimes, that is that they do one thing and avoid getting bloated. If I weren’t using MailWasher I’d certainly be interested by a software of this sort.

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