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Don't Compress Email In Outlook Express

We have a really great piece of data recovery software called E-Recovery For Outlook Express, that will restore deleted emails. The software is very easy to use, you just select the email folder the emails were deleted from and then we show you what we see for recovery.

NOTE: If you have deleted the actual “Inbox” or any other folder then you will need file undelete software like DART Undelete  for Windows XP and Vista or Fast File Undelete for older systems.

Now the reason I am bringing up this data recovery software is because I had a few customers call and tell me they could not find emails more then a few days old or a month old. So in order to set the background, you have to understand that each one of those folders is a mini database file on your hard drive. As you send and receive emails those folders grow.

Eventually, you will open Outlook Express one day and it will ask you if you want to compress older data. Windows makes this all sound very appealing, like it is going to make everything work better. The truth is that yes the files will be smaller and maybe Outlook Express with run a little faster, but in the event one of the DBX files gets corrupt, data recovery will be next to impossible because the compression is different from DBX to DBX based on the data being compressed. For this same reason E-Recovery can only see emails that have not been compressed.

9 Responses to “Don't Compress Email In Outlook Express”

  1. Srinidhi January 25, 2009 9:31 pm #

    I have done exactly what you have asked people not to do. I compressed outlook upon prompting and have lost all messages in my Inbox. I am unable to do anything since my knowledge on decompression is zero.
    Can you help ?

    • DTI Data Recovery January 26, 2009 11:52 am #

      Srinidhi, you can try our demo of e-Recovery for Outlook Express and see if the program can recover your inbox. It will show you your data before buying it.

      Here is a link to the Outlook Express Data Recovery Software download the demo and see if it can help.

  2. Joseph Whitehead January 27, 2009 3:22 am #

    This is why I never allow more than a thousand emails to be in one folder, and back up my entire ‘Identity’ folder every so often. After opening Outlook Express 100 times, it’ll keep nagging you about compressing. If you have tons of email and it’s not backed up, then don’t do it! Back out and exit OE. Copy the message store, and only then is it safe to allow compression, assuming you copied the correct folder of course. If it breaks it, you can just use your backup. The reason that it breaks seems (at least when I’ve seen it) to be related to having 1000’s of messages in one folder. Usually the Inbox folder.

    C:Documents and Settings\Application DataIdentities contains each of your OE identities – one per subdirectory. You can also use the “Export” option under the File menu but it’s usually not worth it in this type of case; I just copy the entire identity at once instead for safety and convenience. Otherwise you have to delete all the duplicates when you import the backup. There’s actually utilities that do nothing but cleanup dupes in email programs because it’s so hard to do by hand! Using the directory method allows you to get around this issue by renaming the corrupted identity and copying back the backup. An added advantage is that it makes it simple to burn it to a CD later. One gotcha: You must not have OE loaded when doing this folder copy. You’ll see all kinds of access denied errors.

    BTW: Does anyone have any more tips on finding the exact name of the folder in OE’s menus? Or is there a utility that does to the entire identity and not just the messages? That would help lots of people who wouldn’t even know how to get to Windows Explorer, yet alone mess with some deeply buried folder.

    In OE 6, I found this easy one: Just right click on the Inbox folder and select the ‘properties’ option. It says exactly where the current selected identity is stored. In my case it says C:Documents and SettingsAdministratorLocal SettingsApplication DataIdentities{3C…}MicrosoftOutlook ExpressInbox.dbx That means that I’d want to backup the folder starting with the { symbol inside the Identities folder. Note that this is not the “Inbox” of your Hotmail/Gmail/etc. account but the one near the top where it says “local folders” to the left.

    If you already did the compression and you had too many files in one folder, then you’ll have to use a tool that tries to extract as many messages as possible. You’ll still want to make a backup after the corruption in case OE decides to ‘help you’ by overwriting the ‘useless’ message data. Opening OE and especially downloading new emails after this happens=Bad

    • DTI Data Recovery January 27, 2009 4:51 pm #


      You make a good point. It is always important to back up any file that you are trying to recover. This is even more true when it comes to database files, that are inherently fragile. Outlook Express uses a dbx file extension which is a database. The new free email program in Windows Vista, Windows Mail, is a lot more complex to recover from. I recommend that everyone exports their Windows Mail file on a regular basis. You can also copy the directory which is similar to the location of Outlook Express files:
      To Backup your messages, you need to use the Export option. To Restore your messages that you have already backed up, you will have to use the Import option. This will save a copy of your messages to a empty folder outside of Windows Mail that you can use for a backup. Windows Mail email messages have the .eml file extension. You will also see custom folders you have created in there as well.
      The default folder location where Windows Mail store the messages at is:
      NOTE: You will need to have Show hidden files and folders checked in Folder Options. For how, see: How to Hide or Show Hidden Files and Folders in Vista

      C:users(your user name)AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindows MailLocal Folders

  3. cheryl read March 29, 2009 11:34 pm #

    How do I back up all my folders in Outlook Express so I can compress it? Can I back up emails on my desktop or will I loose all the formatting and content since it wouldn’t be in Outlook Express? Can I copy everything in a work file?


  4. Russ Bade June 17, 2009 6:25 am #


    I’ve been reading your comments on Outlook Express and losing emails in the inbox after saying OK to OE compressing it. So essentially, once I said yes and let OE do its magic and then noticed six months of my emails are gone – they are pretty much gone? I did the compression on the June 14th and now there is a loss of all my emails from Dec 11th to the 14th in my inbox. Sent is okay as are my folders I created for specific emails, it is just my inbox. I found the dbx files for all the folders and yes, the inbox is very large over 800 meg. I imagine it was huge before the 14th and the file essentially lopped off the data. I’ll back them all up now that I know where they are. Let me know your thoughts on the lost email due the compression if you have a chance.

    Thank you

  5. sudhakar tribhuwan January 24, 2010 5:17 am #

    How get back emails compressed in outlook express

  6. Emma D February 27, 2011 8:14 am #

    Reading all this, I don’t want to compress/compact but I DO want to get rid of the dialogue box that pops up every day asking me if I want to compress/comptact. Any idea how I can stop this? It’s not causing problems but it’s REALLY annoying me!
    Thanks 🙂

    • Jacqui Best March 2, 2011 10:15 am #

      Emma D,

      From my research this really is not possible. What you could do though is make a back up copy of all your dbx files to a safe place and then let it compress. If it messes up your email then you have the back up. If it doesn’t then you should be fine!

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