General discussion

Disabling compacting in Outlook Express

I now have over 23,000 e-mails between my Deleted and Sent folders in Outlook Express v.6 (XPsp2), and for the last few months, every week or so, I get a message asking if I want to free up disc space with compacting. This compacting function has corrupted my Inbox three times now, and sent the entire Inbox to the fifth dimension, not retrievable in any way. I've found that I have to close every open program (including IE 6) to prevent this file corruption, and even then I get 3 or 4 messages during the compacting process that tells me that OE is being used by another program during the compacting, and I have click OK to continue the compacting. If I try to cancel the compacting function, it asks me to compact every time I try to close OE. I've not found a way to disable this compacting annnoyance. Anyone else figured out how to do this? I have a 160GB internal HD and a 500 GB external HD, and saving space on my discs is not a concern.

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Open OE.


There is an option about compacting.

I don't have it enabled so I don't know what it does.

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no option to complete disable compacting

The toos, options, maintenance sequence doesn't give me any option to completely disable compacting, which is what I want. Thanks anyway.

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Re: Disabling compacting in Outlook Express

daffydog, "I now have over 23,000 e-mails between my Deleted and Sent folders in Outlook Express v.6 (XPsp2)".

Why don't you delete those 23,000 e-mails?

Go thru the info at the links below and whenever OE is compacting never stop it as this is a major cause of file corruption.

The Other E-Mail Threat: File Corruption in Outlook Express

Why does OE insist on compacting folders when I close it?


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still no way to disable compacting

I've seen these pages. Still don't see how to disable completely the compacting function. Probably no way to do this. Good point on the number of e-mails -- I'll have to take a day to delete what I don't need. But that compacting function will still return, and potentially corrupt my Inbox, every 100th time I open OE (and the 3 times it corrupted the Inbox before, I had done nothing in the way of trying to stop the compacting, or use the computer for any other function.)

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Quite simply...

you cannot eliminate compacting because OE messages are stored in a DATABASE and compacting is integral to such. Upon deleting an item in a database file the record (to you that would be a single message item) is marked for deletion and "disappears" from sight, but it is still part of the DB file and recoverable until actually deleted by compacting. Only through compacting is the record actually removed completely from the file.

As two other respondents have pointed out, the compacting option is on the Tools | Options | Maintenance tab where your option is to place a check in the "compact messages in the background" which allows you to set other options such as amount of wasted space.

If a DB file is not compacted regularly but is used regularly you are increasing the chance of file corruption because the file grows to an unruly size the application is not designed to handle.

Personally, I would suggest setting it to compact in the background, delete news messages, and to "compact messages when there is 3% wasted space". That ensures that compacting does not take long. It is even more efficient if you have checked the checkbox on that same tab to "Empty messages from the 'Deleted Items' folder on exit" which prevents deleted items from building up.

Initially I would suggest that you select a SINGLE FOLDER (such as "Inbox") then click File | Folders | then select "Compact". That compacts ONLY that folder and will generally be quick. Then select another folder and do the same one at a time until ALL have been compacted. That will help avoid file corruption too.

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Thank you

Thanks for this detailed and illuminating message.

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Changing Outlook Express Compact Messege Notice

The bad news: You can't stop it from notifying you to compact messeges.

The good news: You can change how often it will notify you....but it involves making changes in the registry. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{......what ever your idenity is.........}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0. And look for the key CompactCheckCount. The default is supposed to 100, but I found mind set to 5 for some reason.

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So maybe if you set that number of 100

to 10000000 it will take a few more days to start compacting. As far as I know, however, it's the count since the last compacting. Then set it to 0 when it approaches 100. Or set it to 0 every day. A simple .reg file in the startup group will do that.

However, compacting has some advantages. If you don't compact a large folder from which you delete regularly will grow and grow until it's so large that it gets corrupted.


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If it is necessary to save such a large number of emails why not just move them to a folder('s),CD's or both for backup for when the evevitable occurs?

I have done this myself and it seems to work well. When I want to access one I just double click on it and it opens in OE.


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Making a safe backup

Simply copy the entire folder/directory in which your Outlook Express (OE) messages are stored, copying it to another location on your boot disk, or to any other disk on your system, before compacting.

Then, if the process of compacting corrupts your OE message files, you will have a backup available that you can use to try again, or to try other options on, or from which you can rescue individual messages.

The message files (called .DBX files) are usually in a sub-directory of your OE directory. My OE directory is at "C:\Program Files\Outlook Express".

You can open OE and right-click on a folder in its 'Folders' column, and select "Properties". A message will be displayed, saying which folder on your disk the messages files are stored in.

Or you can search your hard disk for them, by searching for all files with the extension .DBX

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Delete Windows Destop Search

I think I've found the solution: In addition to setting the registry as described above, delete Windows Desktop Search. With my own machine, once I had deleted it, I got no more compact files messages from OE.

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outlook express compacting corruption

I personally would move off of Outlook Express. I have seen it corrupt many .dbx files during compaction. And there isn't a way to turn it off in OE version 6. Maybe in later or earlier versions but under maint. there is not a box to check to tell it not to compact it.

This probably happens a lot of you look on various bulletin boards. One company has designed a whole product around recovering emails from this poor excuse of a product known as Outlook Express but even they have been able to recover zero'd out .dbx files from a bad compaction.

I personally am going to migrate to Outlook proper or maybe some other tool but I'm done with OE.


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To rgrowley. Post deleted.

Sorry but offensive language gets posts deleted. That's why I deleted your post.

Discussion locked.


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Making a Safe Backup & "Safer" Compacting...

Making a backup first before you compact as otr_man suggested in his post from 6/21/09 12:45 PM is the safest way to deal with compaction. Should you error out during the compacting process, then you just replace the backup you created just before compaction with the file that was just corrupted.

Mind you, just because OE errors out does not mean you have lost some or all of your emails. Nevertheless, there is a good chance something was corrupted and, with the backup, you simply shut down OE and replace the corrupted OE file with the backup version (make sure you re-name the backup to the original).

I also keep my OE files on a separate drive, but that does not stop the errors. Just makes it easier for me to access and make backups.

Lastly, if you are going to compact, ignore at all costs the prompt by hitting cancel. When you log back into OE, you can go into "tools/options/maintenance" then click on the "Clean Up Now" button, then click on the "Compact" button. I have found, thus far, no errors affecting me or my files using this method rather than doing it when OE prompts me. At this point, the countdown will reset.

I have also been told to go to "File/Work Offline" before compaction. OE has errored out using this method too when OE prompts me to compact, but doing so is probably not a bad safe guard before you do any of the above. Thus far, the method deliberately using the "Compact" button has not given me grief. Nonetheless, I still make a backup just before I do anything, just in case.

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Compacting Outlook Express

Actually, you *can* stop it prompting you to compact messages.

You just turn off the option to compact messages in the background, that's described above. Then you'll get no more notifications.

Thereafter, you'll be compacting manually. This is much safer, because it gives you the option to compact just one single folder at a time, rather than all of them. Also, you get to choose *when* to compact, i.e. you can do it when you have no other programs running (which is much the safest way).

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More info...

I have OE 6.00.2900.5512. I see no option like that under the 'Maintenance' tab. You are talking about Outlook express, not Outlook, right?

Nevertheless, I have compacted manually in the past one at a time, and have received corrupted files. The best way that has worked for me is the reply I posted previously.

Unless you are referring to a different version, I don't see anywhere I can check or uncheck, under the Maintenance tab, the option to compact messages in the background. But I agree, manually is much safer, just not 100% perfect, either.

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blocking outlook express from displaying compacting messages
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Compaction and returning missing emails

What I have learnt about outlook express is that it doesn?t actually loose any emails, during the compaction, it renames the file inbox.dbx to inbox.bak

Outlook express may put the inbox.bak in the same folder as the inbox.dbx, or it might put it in the recycle bin.

How to retrieve missing emails after compaction.
(this requires you to be able to see hidden files and file extensions)

1. Open outlook express
2. Create a new mailbox eg. Damagedinbox (right click on Local folders, choose New Folder)
3. Go to the folder location for the Inbox, somewhere in the hidden folder. For me the folder is here C:\Documents and Settings\Matt\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{4585D85C-62DB-482E-93D4-DFE0635E6935}\Microsoft\Outlook Express
4. Close Outlook Express
5. Delete the file Damagedinbox.dbx
6. Rename the file Inbox.bak to DamagedInbox.dbx
7. Open Outlook express, and look in the folder Damagedinbox and you should see all your missing emails.

Notes about Outlook Express compaction

When the Outlook Express reaches a 2GB file size with any of the folders, inbox, sent items, etc. it can?t deal with it properly. So compaction is designed to make the file/mailbox smaller, so to keep it working properly.

I have seen a Sent Items.dbx file get to 2GB in size, and Outlook Express wouldn?t put the email from the Outbox to the Sent Items because it would not fit, and so it kept re-sending the email, I think the recipient got the same email over 25 times before I sorted it.

When you delete a email from a mail box, eg, the inbox, the inbox.dbx file doesn?t get any smaller, which is probably why Microsoft made the compaction process, to keep down the size of the inbox.dbx file.

Hope this helps


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thanks u very much

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Re: setting count to zero

It's a quite clear instruction on how to do it.

What I did after I did that:
1. Export the containing 'folder' to a .reg file
2. Edit out all lines except this one with Notepad.
3. Save it.

Now all I've got to do to set the counter to zero is click that regfile. This is how it looks. The identity might be personal.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{2453CF07-ADB0-4FAD-B1AC-7A725E4F8B80}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0]
"Compact Check Count"=dword:00000000


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Is there a tool that can do that for me?

Sorry but I don't know anything about this stuff and I was told by Microsoft that I should not edit the registry. Is there a tool that can do for me what you described? This Outlook Express problem is very annoying.

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OK, problem solved
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reset compacting

Whenever I don't want OE to compact, I go to START, hit run, type in regedit and it takes me to HKEY_CURRENT_USER - the tree should open up so that you can see everything under identities down to outlook express 5.0 at which point, on the right you can find the compactcheckcount. Open it up and set the counter to 0 with the dot in hexadecimal. Click OK, and close. Lets you run for another 60 or so before notifying you again. At one point, I was being notified every 10 minutes or so, and when I went in, found that the accumulation number was 7b. How the b got in there is anyones guess. Changed it to 0 and everything was back to normal. JMT

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I don't even use Outlook and I get asked!

I use Thunderbird for all e-mail, yet every time I boot my laptop, I get a message from Outlook Express offering to compact my mail files, and telling me it might take a few minutes!

What's the matter with Microsoft that they keep pestering me when I don't ever use their product? I'm not about to let Microsoft mess with my Thunderbird mail files! How do I get rid of these annoying pop-up boxes?

I'm using a Dell Latitude D620 with 1 GB RAM and XP Pro w/SP3.

Barrie, W6DX

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