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Outlook Express - Storage of e-mails on External Hard Drive

by alexgray / May 10, 2011 1:52 AM PDT

My computer is installed with XP and I use Outlook Express for my e-mails, however, I have a hugh number of e-mails relating to my Family History research that I wish to retain. Can I move them from my computer to an external hard drive to free up space on my pc and still be able to access and read the messages on the hard drive, can this be done?


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Clarification Request
I think that is going to be difficult
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 10, 2011 6:23 AM PDT

You can certainly backup emails, and we always recommend that be done. In particular in your case with such a wealth of data and information you have stored in them.

Microsoft explains how to backup emails here;

But if you then delete those emails from within OE, you won't be able to access them from the backup. And I would add that if you do delete them, then those backups cease to be backups, but become your only copy.

However, there may be a way to do this. I found a link in Google when I searched for Outlook Express How to relocate email folders, and I found this Is there any way to get my Outlook Express email to save on the "D" drive?. Now, that talks about moving the stored email folders to another partition, or another internal hard drive, but I wonder if it would also work with an external drive.

I would be very cautious about this though. If a mistake is made you could lose all those emails, so I would ensure you have a backup already, preferably two backups, on two separate storage media, and do not use the external you intend to use for this experiment.

I hope that helps, and good luck.


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Outlook Express - Storage of e-mails on External Hard Drive
by alexgray / May 12, 2011 12:16 AM PDT


I followed the instructions as detailed by David and the e-mails are now stored on my external hard drive, but alas I'm unable to open them as there appears to be no link between their new location and Outlook Express. Any thoughts on the matter?



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It is what I suspected.
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 12, 2011 4:42 AM PDT

If OE will not allow you to 'point' to the external drive, then there is nothing you can do.

Have you thought about allowing OE to Compact its folders? This would reduce the size on the hard disk. There is more about that here;

If that is not possible then all I can suggest is a difficult and long-winded workaround.

The purpose is to free up hard disk space. So, look at each email and extract the information you want and save that elsewhere, eg;

1] Any information in the email itself, copy that and paste into a Word Processor document. Move to the next email and copy paste into the same document. Build up the word processor document in that way, making sure to save the document regularly, and certainly before considering deleting the email you have just copied from. Also, keep backups of the document in case of corruption.

2] Attachments. Depending what type of attachments they are, 'save' each attachment to the hard disk, (I always save to the Desktop as a temporary holding area), then open them to make sure the saved version is what you expect, then move them elsewhere. Making backups along the way.

That's about all I can offer. Email management has never been easy and I had to learn the hard way to do this myself as soon as an email was received. That helped me overcome the bulky email folders I used to have.


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Outlook Express
by alexgray / May 12, 2011 6:45 PM PDT


I had actually started transferring the data from the e-mails to word documents when I began to wonder if there was perhaps an easier way to store it on an external hard drive, oh well, back to where I was. Re the compacting, this is something my pc prompts me to do on a regular basis and I have always done so.

Many thanks for taking to reply to my query.


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Re: not in Outlook Express
by Kees_B Forum moderator / May 12, 2011 4:52 AM PDT

But can be done in MS Outlook.

Two warnings however:
1. The 2GB limit on .pst-file size.
2. Given the inherent inrealibity of external disks be SURE to have a good backup. And a second one.

If you add an internal drive in stead of using an external drive, you can keep using Outlook Express. But the necessity to backup your valuable data stays fully intact.


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Opening OE
by johnscotthager / May 12, 2011 11:13 PM PDT

Hi, Mark

I have the same problem as computer got fried (lightning). I had an external hard drive as a back up and it weathered the surge just fine. I had a lot of genealogical e-mails saved in my inbox of outlook express. I located the inbox on my hard drive but no amount of trying has let me open it. It prompts me to select a program to open it but nothing works. I have windows 7 and I know that outlook is not offered w/ it. I attached the hard drive to a computer w/ XP and OE and still no luck. I thougft the XP computer might give me an option of OE to open the file, but no. Any ides? Thanks, Scott

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Re: opening inbox
by Kees_B Forum moderator / May 12, 2011 11:23 PM PDT
In reply to: Opening OE

You can't open the inbox by doubleclicking on it. The only way to open it is to copy it to the place where it should be (your Outlook Express archive folder) and run Outlook Express. Should work on any PC, as long as the file isn't corrupt. If the file is corrupt, use you backup (you'll lose what isn't in it) or try any of the Outlook Express repair (shareware) programs.


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by johnscotthager / May 13, 2011 3:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Re: opening inbox

Kees, Not sure if I follow you. Unless all of the old e-mails I left in my inbox are automatically put in an archives folder, I'm thinking I don't have one...can I create a folder from the Outlook Express inbox in the external hard drive and transfer that folder to an Outlook Express archives folder that I will create in the computer that has XP....and Outlook express?

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Re: folder
by Kees_B Forum moderator / May 13, 2011 4:41 AM PDT
In reply to: Reply

An Outlook Express folder is a Windows file. It has the extension .dbx. So if you search your harddisk you'll find a file called 'inbox.dbx' and 'sent items.dbx' and so on. All those Windows files are in a Windows folder. That's called the 'store folder'. In the options of Outlook Express you can see where it's located and you can change the location (but, as far as I know, only to an internal hard disk).
My calling it "archive folder" was wrong indeed.


So now let me rephrase my answer above.

You can't open the inbox.dbx file by doubleclicking it in Windows Explorer. The only way to open
it is to have it located in the place where it should be (the Outlook Express
store folder on the computer you're running Outlook Express on) and run the program. If the file is corrupt, use the backup the inbox.dbx file (you'll lose what isn't in it) or try any of the Outlook Express repair
(shareware) programs.
If there's no inbox.dbf in the store folder and you run Outlook Express it creates an empty one.

That's more clear now, I hope?



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A question for you
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 13, 2011 5:10 AM PDT
In reply to: Reply

You mentioned you have an external disk as a backup.

Do you know, or can you search that disk for, any Inbox.dbx file? If so, then it is possible that this could be used to replace the Inbox.dbx file in the XP system and then open Outlook Express in that system and get access to those backed up emails.

I say possible only because I am not sure how you created your backup onto this external drive. If you simply copied/pasted to the external then that Inbox.dbx file, (if it exists), may still work. But some Back Up Software creates backups in certain ways that only that software itself can restore them.

So I would try this;

1] Search that external disk for any Inbox.dbx files

(Note, if you are using Windows Explorer to manage files and search for files, then be sure that it's Tools > Folder Options, View tab has the setting to show file extensions for known file types).

2] Make a copy of that file and place the copy onto the Desktop of the XP computer.

3] Search for the Inbox.dbx file on that Xp computer. When you find it, rename it InboxOld.dbx. This prevents losing it.

4] Copy the Inbox.dbx file on your Desktop into the location where you found the file in 3 above.

5] Open Outlook Express and see if it correctly sees and accesses the backed up Inbox.dbx file.

Good luck.


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by johnscotthager / May 13, 2011 8:48 AM PDT
In reply to: A question for you

Mark (or Kees) I found the Inbox.dbx file in the external hard drive. When you say 2] make a copy onto the desk top, do just mean send it to the desk top? You also use the term copy in 4]...not sure what you mean....drag and drop? The inbox file from the external hard drive has an Irfanview icon next to it(one of the programs I tried to use to open the file....unsuccessfully, of course). Hate to be a bother. On the external hard drive I located all 40 old e-mails....too bad there's not some program that would open each one up.


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by johnscotthager / May 13, 2011 11:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Reply

Never mind, Mark. I know now what you meant by Copy.

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Good. :-)
by MarkFlax Forum moderator / May 13, 2011 9:01 PM PDT
In reply to: Copy

Any method works. But different methods work differently.

It's confusing, but it is like this...

Copy file from internal hard disk to external, or external to internal. Drag and drop 'should' leave the original where it is and place a copy in the new location.

Copy file from internal to internal, eg from one location on the main hard disk to another, drag and drop does just that. It 'removes' the file from the old location and moves it to the new.

I suggested copy just to ensure that you always had a backup available, in case anything went wrong with moving files and you lost it.


All Answers

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Outlook Express - Storage of e-mails on external hard drive
by alexgray / May 12, 2011 6:49 PM PDT


Not sure if my pc will take another hard drive, something I will have to take advice on. My e-mail files are far to large for the 2GB limited on Ms Outlook.

Kind regards


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Having such big email folders ...
by Kees_B Forum moderator / May 14, 2011 4:49 AM PDT

is risky. Much better to have it all in Windows. That would mean:
(1) save all attachments to a well-structured folders + subfolders in Windows
(2) copy and paste the text of all emails to Word documents, while makings links to the attachments you saved
That's a lot of work. But with Outlook Express no longer supported on Windows Vista and 7 it surely is a good way to keep your archive accessible.


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Backing up Outlook emails
by Colin4949 / June 12, 2012 9:00 PM PDT

An alternative to all this is to open a web mail account, eg Gmail, Yahoo, and copy and paste all emails in the in box and sent box etc. Select add as attachment to e-mail and send to your (new) web mail account. You may soon decide computer based e-mail storage is not worth having.

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