BOOT CAMP 196 (11/10/01)


Transferring Outlook Express, part 1


Setting up a new desktop PC or laptop used to be easy, an hour or two spent personalising Windows, loading a couple of programs and transferring a few word processor and data files and it was ready to go; then along came the Internet and email…


Nowadays computers accumulate a lot more baggage in the form of email messages, address books and web site Favourites and naturally enough most users want to copy them across to their new desktop and portable machines. It should be easy, and indeed transferring your Internet bookmarks is perfectly straightforward (simply copy the file C:\Windows\Favorites from your old PC to the same location on the new computer, it should fit easily on a floppy), but email is another matter.


Over the next couple of weeks we're going to look at how to move all of your email messages, newsgroups contacts and some settings from one PC to another. I make no apologies for focusing on Microsoft Outlook Express version 5, it is far and away the world's most popular email 'client' program, included with later releases of Windows 95, Windows 98, SE and ME and much of what follows also applies to the most recent version 6.


Before we get our hands dirty it is worth knowing a bit about how and where Outlook Express stores files, and this should also explain why transferring from one PC to another is not as easy as it sounds. The files and data that make OE tick can be broken down into three basic groups: your messages, your address book and your personal settings and these are kept in three locations.


All of your email messages (Inbox, Drafts, Deleted, Sent etc.), Newsgroups and Cleanup Log plus various other housekeeping files are kept in the 'Store Folder', by default this can be found at C:\Windows\Application Data\Identities\{GUID}\Microsoft\Outlook Express.


The {GUID} bit stands for Global Unique IDentifier and will actually be a long string of 30 or more numbers and letters that is unique to your system. It is possible that your store folder may be located elsewhere, in which case go to Options on the Tools menu, select the Maintenance tab, click the Store Folder button and all will be revealed.


If you use Windows Explorer to look inside your Store Folder you will see a list of files with the extension *.dbx (database, multiple use). The master index is a file called Folders.dbx; some of the others you should recognise, as they will have the names of your various inboxes and any newsgroups that you are subscribed to. You can double-click on any of the *.dbx files and they will open in WordPad. The text of messages will be shown but can be very difficult to read as it will be jumbled in with lots of special characters (mostly squares), headers and HTML coding. Nevertheless, it's worth knowing that you can still get to your email messages in an emergency, should OE keel over and die. 


Your Outlook Express address book is normally kept by default at: C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book. If you can't find it there, it may have been moved by other users or applications but you can easily track it down by opening the Address Book in OE and clicking on Help and its current location will be shown. Incidentally, if you still can't find an Address Book folder that usually means that you also have Outlook on you PC and Outlook Express has been set up to share the Contacts file.


If you take a peek inside the Address Book folder in Windows Explorer you will usually see just two files <yourname>.wab and <yourname>.wa~ . The 'wab' file (Windows Address Book) contains the program and the data and clicking on it will open the Address Book. The '.wa~' file is an automatic backup, usually made every time OE is running. Should your address book become corrupted or unusable you can use the backup simply by renaming the extension '.wab'.


The third and last group of Outlook Express files is what makes transferring it to a new PC so difficult. These are your email account settings, personal preferences, mail Rules and so on. These are kept in the Windows Registry, a huge database of files that governs how your PC and all of the software it uses works. As we have said many times before the Registry is strictly off limits to novices and even seasoned Windows users should steer clear, unless they know what they are doing. For those of you that may be interested we'll have details of the relevant 'keys' next week. If you would like to know more about the Registry have a look at Boot Camps 126 and 127 (June 1st & 8th 2000)


The Registry protects a lot of data it contains and Items like passwords are difficult if not impossible to copy because they are encrypted. That means you will still have to enter a few details when you move OE to your PC but shouldn't pose too many problems, provided you take a few simple preparations, and that's where we'll round off this week's session.


Before you begin you need to give some thought to how you are going to transport the files from one PC to another. Some of them may be very large indeed. If you receive a lot of email the contents of your Store Folder can easily run to several hundred megabytes; clearly floppy discs are out of the question. The alternatives (assuming your PC is not connected to a network) are a cable connection, such as Windows Direct Cable Connection (Boot Camps 67 & 68, ) or Laplink, or by transportable media (CD-R, Zip etc.), which will also provide you with a useful backup. Lastly make sure you have all of your Dial Up Connection details (phone number, passwords, mailbox settings etc.) to hand, and you're ready to go.


Next week – Transferring Outlook Express, part 2





Hypertext Mark-up Language – hidden codes in text documents, web pages and emails that define the layout and allow the reader to quickly move about the document, or jump to another, by clicking on underlined, ‘links’



Data held in the Registry containing values, settings and preferences for the various programs stored on a PC



Easy to use program that enables the transfer of large files between desktop PCs and PCs and laptops, via a simple cable link see:



You don't have to put up with the default toolbar in Outlook Express. You can add or remove icons by right-clicking into an empty area of the toolbar and selecting Customise. Scroll down the list in the left hand pane (Available Toolbar Buttons), select one that you want to use and click Add. Two that I find very useful are Mark Read and Preview Pane. The latter toggles the Preview Pane on and off; I have it disabled by default (the option is on the View menu, under Layout) as it clutters the desktop and can activate email viruses like Nimda, but it's useful to have occasionally, when working through long lists of messages.

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