Recover lost emails after Compacting Outlook Express

Many people have contacted me saying that after they have Compacted folders in Outlook Express they have found that they have lost several of the original emails.

One of the reasons for this is most likely a corrupted Folders.dbx file, this file holds all your inbox folder details and records of all emails inside these folders, if for some reason this becomes damaged then OE will not function properly. Thankfully there is a quite easy way to repair this file and if you follow the tutorial step by step below it is more than likely your missing emails will be restored. If this method fails then there may be other reasons for the missing emails.

This tutorial is for Windows XP but should also be compatible with Windows Vista.

First Step to Recover your Emails

The first thing you must do is to make sure you have your Folder Options set to View Hidden Files, this is important otherwise you will not be able to find the Folders.dbx file that we will be working with.

 

Double Click the "My Computer" icon located on your desktop.
Click on "Tools" in the menu bar at the top of the window.
Click on "Folder Options" this is at the bottom of the drop down menu.
Click the "View" tab at the top of the window.
On the Advanced settings window, make sure that the radio button is selected for "Show hidden files and folders". This radio button is located under the sub folder called "Hidden files and Folders". Click the 'Apply Button' and then click the 'OK' button.

 

You are now ready to go onto the next step.

 

 


Step 2 - Finding Email Store Folder

The next thing you have to do is find exactly where your Outlook Express Email *.dbx files are stored

 

Right click on the 'Start Button' select 'Open all Users', Widows Explorer will open.
In left hand column double click the folder which has your 'User Name', it will display another list of folders.

Still in left hand column double click the 'Local Settings' folder.
In right hand column you will now see a list of Folders, open the 'Application Data' Folder.
You will now see a folder called 'Identities', Open this folder.
You will now see a folder name containing numbers and characters, open this folder.
Open the Microsoft folder that appears, next open the Outlook Express folder that appears.
You will now see a list of .dbx files.

 

 

You should finish up with a path similar to below, the value between the { } brackets will be different:-

 

C:\Documents and Settings\Your name\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{C81EB24B-8657-4F26-9421-A6215E8E07EE}\Microsoft\Outlook Express

 

 


Step 3: Starting Windows in Safe Mode

There are 2 ways you can get your system to start in 'Safe Mode', I am going to show you how to do it by running 'MSCONFIG' because it is much easier and doesn't require you to press the F8 key when booting your machine.

Remember, when your run in Safe Mode you are only loading the very basic drivers for running Windows, it will only will only load a standard video driver so your screen resolution will change, once you restart into normal mode everything will be back to normal.

 

Close all open programmes.
Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG in the box and click OK.
The System Configuration Utility appears, On the BOOT.INI tab, Check the "SAFEBOOT" option.

 

MSCONFIG Safe boot INI

 

Click OK and Restart your computer when prompted.
Your computer will restart in Safe mode.

 

 


Step 4: Rename Folders.dbx file

Your computer should now be running in 'Safe Mode', so now we have to navigate to where your *.dbx files are stored, you should have found the path to these files after reading Step 2 of this tutorial, just in case you have forgot you can start Windows Explorer and navigate to this path:-

C:\Documents and Settings\Your name\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{C81EB24B-8657-4F26-9421-A6215E8E07EE}\Microsoft\Outlook Express

Remember, the value between the { } will be different on your system.

 

 

When you are in the above folder, look for the file Folders.dbx.
Right click on the file and select "Rename".
Rename it to "Folders.old"
When you have done that close Windows Explorer.

 

 

When you have closed Windows Explorer you need to follow the Step 3: Starting Windows in Safe Mode again.

 

 

Close all open programmes.
Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG in the box and click OK.
The System Configuration Utility appears, On the BOOT.INI tab, Uncheck the "SAFEBOOT" option.
Click OK and Restart your computer when prompted.
Your computer will restart in Normal mode.