36 hours?! You ARE new to it aren't you!
I get fed up if it takes me more than about ten minutes to set up a network, but then I'm impatient!
What do you mean by "our Outlook Express?" Are you thinking that you can access email on your laptop through the desktop? Because that isn't how these things work. Enter your mail accounts into any and all mail clients that you intend to use. The only connection that will ever be established between PCs on your network is that of File and Printer Sharing.