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Missing Email in Outlook Express and How to Get it Back

Up until recently it had been the general thought that after an archive or compression in Outlook Express that if you had lost email you were just out of luck. I recently found that when Outlook is doing this compression/archiving that it move you original folders/ dbx’s to the recycle bin and rename them  with a . tmp extension or .bak extension. This is a great discovery because then you can in theory get your email back the way it was before the data loss. I have gone in remotely to a few customers and been very successful in getting their mail back. The way you do it is a little tedious but should get you back up and running.

Ok so first, lets open the recycle bin and look to see if there is files in there that look like “inbox.bak” “outbox.bak” and so on.. if you have custom folders you should also be looking for those. (NOTE: if you do not see these files you will not be able to use this recovery method) You want to click on each one and restore them from the recycle bin. After this is done I want you to make a folder on your desktop and call it “Outlook SAFE”. Ok now we need to open up windows explorer. This can be done by right clicking on “My Computer” and going to explore. We need to get into the Outlook Express DBX directory the default location is “C:Documents and Settings{Affected User}Local SettingsApplication DataIdentities{LONG NUMBER}MicrosoftOutlook Express”. In this directory you should see all of your current DBX files as well as the restored files. I want you to select all of them and copy and paste them to the folder we made on the desktop. Now for the tricky part.

There is a file called “folders.dbx” now this file is what tells Outlook Express what folders are supposed to be in your tree, it is not easy to modify this file so we are going to trick this file. I want you to open up Outlook Express and make folders identical to the folders you lost. ( EXAMPLE: if you had a folder called PAYPAL and it is missing you need to make that folder again and leave it empty) At this point I also want you to make a folder called NEW MAIL and copy anything new that has come in since the compression/archive debacle. Now close Outlook Express and reopen it click on the “new” folders you made  and then close outlook express again. Now Look at the directory with your DBX’s in it, you are going to want to delete every DBX you are trying to recover from .. like INBOX / OUTBOX/ (CUSTOM FOLDERS) don’t worry we have this backed up on the desktop in the safe folder. Now I want you to rename the BAK/TMP files and change the extension to .dbx once you finish this I want you to open Outlook Express and all of your email should be there. DO NOT CHANGE THE FOLDERS.DBX FILE AT ALL THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!

If you have any problems doing this please feel free to give me a call and I can always remotely come into your machine and do it for you.

17 Responses to “Missing Email in Outlook Express and How to Get it Back”

  1. Mohamed August 31, 2009 5:19 pm #

    Please help me to import from Gmail’s. Actually I imported all of inbox and all mails. I face some problem in the computer so formatted hard disk without backup. Now when I log in to outlook with Gmail any of old imported emails can’t take beck please help me to solve my issue
    I hope your reply
    Kind Regards

  2. Bill October 20, 2009 4:53 pm #

    Thanks for putting this out there. I know how to recover backed up Outlook Express folders, but I had no idea that it put them to the Recycle Bin when compressing. I thought I had lost some important emails. Thanks again.

  3. Evans October 22, 2009 8:05 am #

    Thank you, for the advise. In my case the emails that got deleted from inbox are from June to October 21 2009 only the least of the mails are still there in their respective folders inbox.

    When I open the store folder where outlook backup emails I can see all the lost mails in blue and some in black with extension dbx.

    How do I transfer these emails back to my inbox.

    Kindly assist.



    • Amit Sachdeva January 3, 2014 6:44 am #

      Hello Sir,
      I have lost my data ( mails ) from outlook express from october to december 2013..

      Please guide for recover all mails..

      Amit Sachdeva

      • Jacqui Best February 6, 2014 5:14 pm #

        Did you try E-Recovery for outlook express to recover?

  4. gail January 3, 2012 4:51 pm #

    It worked, even though I see it was posted in 2009, and this is the start of 2012.
    Whew, this has happened before, I love being able to search the internet for answers!

  5. Klaas February 6, 2012 7:16 am #

    Thx, this was extremely useful info. Many folders were gone after i followed Microsofts advice to compress the mail folders… just one click “OK” and all was gone. Thx. to you I’ve got them back 🙂

    • Jacqui Best February 10, 2012 12:49 pm #


      Great news! I am glad we were able to help!

      • Romeo April 2, 2013 2:16 am #

        Hi Jacqui

        I have lost the last 6 months of email in my inbox after a compacting process in outlook express, i did notice just before this that many emails could not been shown in full. it said it could not fully download them eventhough ive read them before . i have tried to restore with the above information but the directory you mention is empty. what can i do now? i also noticed an error with MCI command handling window also. I have an acronis backup, but is a couple of weeks old


  6. Acharya May 19, 2013 4:00 am #

    Could u help me to receive my all mails from Gmail account to my laptop(Outlook Express 2003).
    Becoz unfortunately my hdd got crashed.

    • Jacqui Best November 7, 2013 4:00 pm #


      You should be able to go in and set up a new account in Outlook Express. You can find google email server settings by searching on the internet.


  7. joshua taiwo November 4, 2013 12:50 pm #

    i don’t see my mail again after i read it on my outlook express. please help me out

    • Jacqui Best November 7, 2013 3:57 pm #

      It is more than likely you have it set to show only unread mail. I was able to find this in google.
      To display only unread messages in Outlook Express follow these steps:

      Open outlook express
      Click on the View menu
      Click on “Current View”
      Click on “Hide Read Messages”

      I am sure if you look there you will find why you can not see your messages.


  8. Chris Lohler November 16, 2013 8:03 am #

    Hi Can anyone out there please help me.
    I am 75 years of age but still reasonably computer literate. The word PICNIC (problem in chair not in computer) often applies. I am also forgetful and have to use the word INVALID as my password. My PC often tells me that my password is INVALID when I type in any password – just to remnd me.

    I refer to lost e-mails following a “space-saving”/compaction exercise on or about 4 November 2013. I have just discovered that all incoming e-mails between 15 July 2012 and 6 November 2013 are missing. I did notice that there is a 1.25Gb folder dated 4 November 2013 sitting in my recycle bin called Inbox bak as well as a 12.8gb folder called Outbox bak.
    What is the simplest way to restore these e-mails? Many thanks

    • Jacqui Best February 24, 2014 2:06 pm #

      Easiest way is to restore those files and change the extension from .bak to .dbx

  9. grogo59 February 5, 2014 9:21 am #

    This happened to me. I shut my computer down last night and this morning when I open Outlook Express (6), my entire Inbox is empty except for the e-mail I received after I shut it down. All of my other Inbox sub-folders are intact and contain all of the e-mail that I put in them. The only thing affected is my Inbox.

    I followed your instructions but I DON’T GET IT. There’s something I’m missing…

    I don’t have a folder on my C drive called “/Local Settings” under X User. My .dbx files are NOT in my recycle bin. Fortunately, I guess, I had a backup drive connected (which I disconnected last month because it seemed to really slow my computer down) and I have a backup with all of my e-mail folders with .dbx extensions from a backup done last month.

    I created a folder on my desktop as you instructed and copied all of the .dbx folders into it that were on my backup drive.

    What I don’t understand from your instructions is where the “BAK/TMP” files you mention come from. I don’t have any. All I have are .dbx files and the only thing missing is my INBOX.

    When I go into Outlook Express to create a new Inbox (under Local Folders), I get a message that that folder already exists. If I delete my empty Inbox , all of the sub-folders will also be deleted, won’t they?

    I just don’t get your instructions. Plus, what the heck are we doing with the “Folders.dbx” file? You didn’t say anything about that except that it’s “tricky to fool”.

    Please help. I lost a couple of hundred e-mails that I must recover.

  10. grogo59 February 5, 2014 1:45 pm #

    I was able to figure it out. Only me e-mail messages were missing from my Inbox.

    Seems OE created another Inbox called Inbox (1).dbx After I finally found the “hidden” folders for the e-mail .dbx files, I created the copies in a new folder as instructed, deleted the new Inbox (1). dbx file that was created AFTER OE determined it needed to create a new Inbox folder and renamed the Inbox.dbx file to Inbox (1).dbx and all of my e-mail reappeared in my Inbox. No other OE folders / Inbox sub-folders were compromised.

    Hopefully the “renaming” of the Inbox.dbx file to Inbox (1).dbx may provide someone else with some additional insight.

    Thanks for your listing the fix. It was a challenge but got it done.

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