BOOT CAMP 309 (20/01/04)




The novelty of owning a new PC or laptop quickly wears off when it comes to the business of loading programs and transferring across data files but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward, though time-consuming job. However, things often grind to a halt with email accounts and messages and a lot of people just give up and start from scratch.


The trouble is Outlook Express (OE), used by the vast majority of PC owners, lacks any simple means of transferring data. It’s not too bad when the PCs in question are connected to a network or both of them use the Windows XP operating system but it can get a bit messy when it involves different versions of Windows. The problem centres on the way OE manages its files, which are spread around the hard disc drive in a seemingly haphazard manner, and to complicate matters further some of them are encrypted or in proprietary file formats that defy most attempts to copy and paste files and folders. Worse still, important configuration data is deeply embedded inside the Windows Registry and novices tinker with it at their peril.


This week we’re going to take a look at what’s involved and where the various files and folders are stored. In part two we’ll look at a simple step-by-step procedure to safely and securely transfer your basic email settings and messages from one PC to another, in part three we’ll look at the Registry components and tidy up the loose ends. Incidentally, what follows mainly refers to Outlook Express versions 5 and 6, (though there are a few small differences) but if you’re still using OE4 you’re on your own and it’s about time you upgraded.


Outlook Express has three key components that you need to copy to a new PC to transfer or duplicate your current email setup, they are: the Message Store, Address Book, and your Accounts Information. For a full transfer you will also need to copy Message Rules and Customisation data from the Registry.


The Message Store contains all of the emails you have sent, received, deleted or drafted and these are in the form of *.dbx files, a database format that can also be read, albeit awkwardly and with lots of spurious symbols, by text editors like Notepad, WordPad and Word. This is worth knowing if OE curls up its toes and you need to get at your messages in an emergency. Depending on your operating system the Message folder is normally in one of two locations. In Windows 9x (95/98/SE/ME) you’ll find it at:


C:\Windows\Application Data\Outlook Express\{GUID}\Microsoft\Outlook Express


In Windows XP it is in:


C:\Documents and Settings\<User>\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{GUID}\Microsoft\Outlook Express


The ‘{GUID}’ bit is the ‘Global Unique Identifier’, a long string of characters unique to your PC.


Neither location is very convenient if you want to get to them in a hurry so this might be a good time to take advantage of a facility in OE to move the Message Store. You’ll find it by going to the Tools menu, select Options then Maintenance and then click the Store Folder button. From there you can choose a new location, it’s a good idea to create a new folder in the root of the C: drive and call it something simple like OEStore.


Your Address Book is also squirreled away, in Windows 9x it’s usually in: C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Microsoft\.


In XP it should be:

C:\Documents and Settings \<yourname>\Application Data\Microsoft\


It may well have been moved by other applications, in which case you can find it by opening the Address Book and clicking on Help > About Address Book. By the way, if you open the Address Book folder in Windows Explorer you’ll see two files called <yourname>.wab and <yourname>.wa~. The *.wab file is the Windows Address Book, the other one is a backup, created every time you start OE, which you can easily restore – should your Address Book become corrupted -- simply by changing the file extension to ‘wab’.


Accounts information includes all of your dial-up connections, passwords, email username and address plus all the settings OE needs to send and receive email and this, along with things like Message Rules and any customisations you may have applied live deep in the Registry. Fortunately the basic Accounts info is relatively easy to copy across to a new PC but Message Rules can be a problem, though as we shall see in part three there are ways and means.


Next week – Transferring OE, part 2





Personal preferences applied to a program or application that determine how it looks, the layout of menu and toolbars and so on



A facility in Outlook Express that automatically directs emails to nominated message folders, or disposes of them, in response to key words, headings or email addresses



A large, constantly changing system file within Windows containing configuration information for both the PC and the programs stored on the hard disc




Is your Outlook Express slowing down? If it is taking longer to start or folders are slow to open then it’s often because you have too many messages filling up your mailboxes. However, the first thing to try is OE’s Clean Up utility you’ll find it on the Tools menu, select Options then Maintenance. This will remove any wasted space in the message folders but it’ll only bring temporary relief if you have more than 1000 or so messages in any of your mailboxes and the only solution is to delete old messages: if you want to keep them you can back them up using the Message Store copy procedure we’ll be looking at next week. 

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