Forwarding University of Sydney student email

Update: Thank you to all who have con­trib­uted to the dis­cus­sion below. For the impa­tient, here is a sum­mary of what you might like to do:
  • If you hate Sydney Mail, fear not: you have options.
  • To redir­ect your Sydney Mail email to anoth­er email account, you can either a) use a “redir­ect” rule in Sydney Mail or b) get your email cli­ent (such as Gmail) to pick it up via POP3 (for this, see the main post below). Both a) and b) do the job.
  • To send email from with­in Gmail as if you were send­ing it from Sydney Mail, add your Sydney Mail address under the Addresses tab in Set­tings in Gmail.
  • How­ever, some recip­i­ents, such as those using Out­look, may see that the sender of your email is “xyz@​gmail.​com on behalf of abcd1​2​3​4​@​uni.​sydney.​edu.​au”. If you don’t like this, you can fix this by get­ting Gmail to send email via SMTP. To find out the address of the SMTP serv­er, see these instruc­tions.

“Sydney Mail is a new and sig­ni­fic­antly improved stu­dent email ser­vice,” announced the email from the uni­ver­sity proudly.

The truth is that the uni­ver­sity has delivered some­thing that’s bet­ter, but is rather defi­cient in its own right: they’ve out­sourced email to Microsoft so it’s all now run off Out­look Web Access. I could go on and on about why I would nev­er use it, but I’ll just show you how to avoid using it.

The exist­ing email sys­tem allows you to for­ward to a per­son­al email address, and the uni­ver­sity provides instruc­tions for how to do it on the new sys­tem. Don’t fol­low those instruc­tions! It is true that email will be for­war­ded from Out­look to your per­son­al email but what hap­pens is that the emails are lit­er­ally for­war­ded! If Bob sends you an email, when it pops up in your per­son­al email, the From field will show your uni­ver­sity email as opposed to Bob, which is incred­ibly incon­veni­ent.

The solu­tion? Get your mail cli­ent to retrieve mail from Out­look via POP3. If you’re using Gmail like me, go to Set­tings > Accounts. Look for the “Get mail from oth­er accounts” sec­tion and click the “Add a mail account you own” link. A win­dow will then pop up; try the fol­low­ing set­tings:


Email sent to your uni­ver­sity email won’t get for­war­ded instantly like it used to, but it’s a much bet­ter solu­tion than the one offered by the uni­ver­sity.

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  1. Tommy Chen’s avatar

    Wow, that’s dumb (the for­ward­ing mech­an­ism). You need to pub­li­cise this more. Pub­lish it in the Gavel?

  2. Dan’s avatar

    Yes, we will dis­trib­ute this pearl of wis­dom. I can’t see why they can’t have out­sourced this to Google instead of Microsoft.

    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

      It might have been partly due to the integ­ra­tion of Sky­Drive, which lets you store and share doc­u­ments. Google has Google Docs, but that doesn’t pre­serve format­ting 100%.

    2. Georgina’s avatar

      I hear that one of the reas­ons the uni­ver­sity didn’t go with gmail (like Macquar­ie Uni did) was that google wouldn’t (or couldn’t) guar­an­tee that stu­dent data wouldn’t be stored in Singa­pore.

      The accounts are hos­ted in the US.

      1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

        That’s inter­est­ing — what’s wrong with Singa­pore?

        1. Georgina’s avatar

          I really don’t know. I’d like to think that whatever com­mit­tee is respons­ible for this change care­fully con­sidered US pri­vacy /​ anti-ter­ror­ism laws and stuff, but con­sid­er­ing ICT really didn’t con­sult any­one from fac­ulties… meh. You’re the law stu­dent. I’m going to maths.

        2. Martin’s avatar

          Not just what’s wrong with Singa­pore but what’s wrong with Singa­pore that’s worse than what’s wrong with the US. (Like­wise for what’s bet­ter, of course.) There’s a lot more about the deal that I would like to know.

          I would have been happy if usyd mail had just added some stor­age space.

          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

            Actu­ally, one addi­tion­al prob­lem is solved. People some­times (stu­pidly) used their uni email as their primary email, which caused all kinds of hassles once they left uni. Since this is for life, it’s argu­ably bet­ter than the uni host­ing the email itself.

            1. Martin’s avatar

              Once you leave uni they’ll chase you the rest of your life for dona­tions. Alumni magazines will turn up every­where you go. A uni-provided life­time email would only help that.

              Hmm. Actu­ally not much of an argu­ment since wheth­er it is extern­al or intern­al they’ll know the email address.

            2. Nate’s avatar

              Thank god for this or I’d nev­er have found how to get con­nec­ted! Way to go one step for­ward two steps back­wards. I would have been just happy if USyd mail had added maybe a couple of mega­bytes of stor­age space… I just use my per­son­al email for attach­ments and such.

            3. Nate’s avatar

              So how do I access USyd email via POP3 on cam­pus? I’m using the SIT cache if that’s of any help.

              1. Enoch Lau’s avatar


                I’m not sure if it’s pos­sible to access it dir­ectly if you’re on the IT net­work (or even if you’re on the main uni net­work), because none of those ports would be access­ible via the proxy.

                If you have a com­puter out­side the uni that you can SSH into (e.g. one at home) and that com­puter has unfettered access to the inter­net, then you could use:

                ssh -L username@​example.​com

                That will cre­ate a tun­nel where out​look​.com:995 is access­ible via localhost:995

                That should work, but I can’t test it.

                1. Nate’s avatar

                  That’s anoth­er thing, don’t they block ssh out at the uni?

                  1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                    If you are on the School of IT net­work, you have unfettered SSH access out. If you’re just on the uni wire­less, unless you’re con­nec­ted via VPN using the !10 option (for an extern­al IP address) then you can’t SSH out; but with this option, you have to pay for the data used…

                  2. Anon’s avatar

                    This isn’t a solu­tion, it’s a hack. Pulling from gmail via pop just to for­ward it to anoth­er account? Bah!

                    And the solu­tion they provide doesn’t actu­ally work, at least not in Fire­fox.

                    God­dam sel­lout. Someone needs to be shot for this debacle.

                    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                      Yes, imple­ment­ing such a big change in the middle of semester — what were they think­ing?

                    2. lewis’s avatar

                      Agreed with middle of semester, this is caus­ing hav­ok!

                      Also, can any­one else con­firm that the uni’s (new) solu­tion link doesn’t work in fire­fox? Takes me to a broken page.

                    3. Jake’s avatar

                      I went to the set­tings and redir­ec­ted all mail sent to my Sydney Mail account to my usyd​.edu​.au account. 8 Hours later, 7000 emails in my Sydney Mail account and rising!

                      So yeah. don’t try that one.

                      Also I think this was a ter­rible decision by who­ever decided it, and ter­rible tim­ing.

                      1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                        Oh wow, so they… redir­ect to each oth­er, and there’s noth­ing to stop that?

                        1. Matthew’s avatar

                          A redir­ect loop hap­pens ’cause Microsoft stu­pidly remove/​rewrite all the head­ers in the email when it’s for­war­ded, so loop detec­tion doesn’t work. The oth­er serv­er doesn’t see it’s own trail in the mes­sage head­ers so thinks it’s a new mes­sage and duti­fully for­wards it again.


                          Have they fixed ‘for­ward’ now ?. Last time I tried ‘Please con­tact your sys­tem admin­is­trat­or’.

                          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                            Wow, this is com­pletely unre­li­able. I just tried adding the rule again, and the pop up win­dow nev­er man­aged to fin­ish load…

                          2. Ben’s avatar

                            This is awe­some. Want to hear more.

                          3. Danny’s avatar

                            For­ward­ing from out​look​.com sort of works, but doesn’t pre­serve To: head­er (it rewrites it to be the for­ward address) nor any Received: head­ers before arrival at out​look​.com.

                            This could make track­ing down prob­lems — e.g. with mail­ing lists — rather dif­fi­cult.

                            1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                              I’m sure Microsoft has lots of bright people. Where are they?

                              1. Matthew’s avatar

                                Work­ing on the Exchange serv­er back end. It’s a large clustered data­base with mul­tiple ‘data stores’ on each node and some how it all has to stay in sync, but with quite short response time as there are 1000s of users click­ing on but­tons and expect­ing ‘instant’ response.
                                The fact that such a com­plex sys­tem can work as well as it does means some one has a group of clev­er systems/​database people work­ing on it.

                                I sus­pect the OWA UI is rather low down the list of pri­or­it­ies — espe­cially since the sys­tem is basic­ally designed around Office Out­look as the cli­ent.

                                1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                  So the Exchange serv­er where the mail is kept is actu­ally at the Uni­ver­sity and not man­aged by Microsoft?

                                  1. Matthew’s avatar

                                    No, the exchange serv­ers and OWA front end appear to be in Seattle. It’s not related in any­way to the Exchange ser­vice Usyd runs for it staff.
                                    It just ‘hap­pens’ that the stu­dent ser­vice was out­sourced to Microsoft who nat­ur­ally run it on their own products.

                                    Stu­dent Email has been one of the largest and most vis­ible out­sourcings at Usyd to date.

                                  2. Donna’s avatar

                                    Thanks Enoch! why can’t that just be lis­ted on the sydney mail site and save every­one tons of grief — until I found your site I nev­er came accross the pdf for using oth­er mail serv­ers:


                                    Anoth­er prob­lem with out­look redir­ec­tion is that mail appears as being sent to gmail rather than the uni​.sydney, so when you press reply in gmail it sends it from gmail — not a good look if you are doing a phd and have a bit of extern­al email­ing — our email address is our ‘busi­ness card’.

                                    1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                      What you do is set up Gmail to send from your uni​.sydney address.

                                      Go to Set­tings > Accounts, and under “Send mail as”, add your uni​.sydney address. Fol­low the instruc­tions to get it veri­fied, and you’ll be able to send mes­sages from Gmail as if you sent it from uni​.sydney.

                                      Also, under “When receiv­ing a mes­sage”, select “Reply from the same address to which the mes­sage was sent” — that way, when you click Reply on a mes­sage sent to uni​.sydney, your reply will by default appear as though sent from uni​.sydney.

                                      Yes, that PDF took a lot of search­ing to find; I have no idea why they hid it away.

                                      1. Matthew’s avatar

                                        My test­ing showed that ‘Reply from the same address to which the mes­sage was sent’ won’t actu­ally work if you use the ‘for­ward’ fil­ter on uni​.sydney​.edu​.au as Exchange rewrites the mes­sage head­er to the address you are for­ward­ing to, so there is no imme­di­ate way to tell that any par­tic­u­lar mes­sage was for­war­ded.
                                        If you use the POP down­load approach, it will of course work as above.

                                        1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                          Good point (although really, Exchange shouldn’t be rewrit­ing head­ers)

                                          Looks like the POP approach is the pre­ferred option.

                                        2. Bell’s avatar

                                          Thanks soo much dude. I’ve been pulling my hair out for the last half hour try­ing to work out how to do this. In the end I figured that with a uni the size of USYD, there must be at least ONE per­son who was in the same boat as me, but with much much more tech know-how. I thank you for being that per­son 😀

                                          Note no short­age of info on how to redir­ect mail TO out­look eh…

                                          1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                            You’re wel­come

                                          2. John Jiang’s avatar

                                            Hey Enoch,

                                            Any idea on what the smtp serv­er for out​look​.com is? Try­ing to get rid of “on behalf of” in gmail.

                                            1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                              See my com­ment on 12 May at 1:27 PM. I really should go and refact­or this post.

                                              When I send an email using Gmail pre­tend­ing to be my uni email, a recip­i­ent on Out­look sees “on behalf of”… is this what you mean? If so, I know of no way to fix it.

                                                1. Enoch Lau’s avatar

                                                  Aha. Although the instruc­tions to find out the SMTP serv­er seem rather both­er­some… and although it doesn’t dis­play prop­erly, I’ve nev­er had a prob­lem, say, email­ing a lec­turer from Gmail…

                                                2. John Jiang’s avatar

                                                  Neither, but it’s just com­fort­ing to know that the emails are being delivered the way you want it to

                                                3. Jimmy’s avatar

                                                  Just wanted to say:
                                                  Thanks mate!

                                                4. Daniel Yeo’s avatar

                                                  This was all the help I needed. Thanks!

                                                5. Michelle’s avatar

                                                  I have tried either ways: a) for­ward­ing emails from uni mail to gmail and b) import­ing emails from the gmail end, boths ways didn’t work!!!

                                                  For a), I tried send­ing myself an email to my uni mail, my uni mail received it but didn’t for­ward it to gmail!

                                                  For b), it says ‘Could not val­id­ate this com­bin­a­tion of email address and pass­word’

                                                  Any idea?

                                                6. Michelle’s avatar

                                                  Sorry, please ignore my last mes­sen­ge, I’ve solved the prob­lem!

                                                  Thanks so much!! Great post!

                                                  1. Razza’s avatar

                                                    How did you solve it? I have the same prob­lem…

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