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Tooltips: How to back-up Outlook Express
Back-up Outlook Express

Back-up. That is a habit that is definitely worth the time and effort. Let's see how we can do it in Outlook Express.

First, we need to back up our messages, right? OK, go Tools>Options>Maintenance and click on the 'store folder' button you'll find there. A window appears that informs you where your email messages are stored.
Copy that path to your windows clipboard by selecting it all and pressing Ctrl+C.
Open Windows Explorer (Windows button + E), place your pointer in the address bar, click Ctrl+V (paste) and then press the Go button. The folder where your messages are stored should open.

Select all the icons that appear and copy them to a safe back-up location (removable drive, CD-ROM, intranet, anything outside your hard disk). If you just back-up some of them selectively you may not be able to restore them, so better back them all up.

Second, it's our contacts' email addresses. We do need them too, right? That's easy. In your Windows taskbar select Start>Run, type "wab" (without the quotes) and press enter. The Windows Address Book appears.

Go File>Export>Address Book (WAB). A window appears asking you for the desired filename and back-up location.
Type a name, select a location outside your hard disk and click on Save.
Done!

What else would be worth backing up? Our email accounts. No problem: Just Go Tools>Accounts. In the Mail tab, select one by one all the accounts that appear there and click on the Export button. Type a filename and back-up location and click on Save. Done! You can do the same in the other tabs too (eg. "News") if you wish.

The last thing that can be backed up is the mail filters, but this procedure includes tinkering with the Windows Registry and this is certainly NOT recommended to inexperient users. One tiny little mistake and your whole Windows installation may pass away to history. If you're not experienced enough, please skip this step. You have been warned. To begin, open the registry editor of your choice. Navigate to the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\(IDENTITY ID)\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0\Rules\Mail where 'IDENTITY ID' is a long number that looks like this: {82HC0035-1435-4639-9Y76-F90806CR80GE} Select that key and go Registry>Export Registry File. In the window that appears type a descriptive filename (such as 'mail_filters'), select 'Selected Branch' in the 'Export Range' field and click on 'Save'.

Done! (If you select 'All' instead of 'Selected Branch', the whole Registry is exported).

Restore: Outlook Express

The best backup copy though is absolutely useless if you cannot restore it. Okay, suppose you just bought this brand new, super fast PC and you want to move your entire email system there from the old PC archives you just backed up. (If you just need to practice before doing the real thing, you could just create a new identity from within the menu File>Identities>Add New Identity. The rest of the procedure is exactly the same.) This can be done in 4 steps:

A. Email accounts, B. Contacts, C. Messages and D. Mail filters.

A. ACCOUNTS

Launch Outlook Express.
Bypass all the initial setup wizards that pop up by consecutively clicking on NO's and CANCEL's.
Go Tools>Accounts and select the Mail tab.
Click on the Import button.
Locate the .iaf file(s) you saved during the backup procedure and double-click on it.
Click OK to exit.

Your account settings were imported successfully! This means that you won't have to re-configure your server settings, user ID, password, preferences etc. from scratch.

B. CONTACTS

Piece of cake! Just go File>Import>Address Book, then through the window that appears locate and double-click on the .wab file you had saved during the backup procedure. Done! All your contacts are back!

C. MESSAGES

That can be tricky, so do it carefully.
Go Tools>Options, select the Maintenance tab and click on the Store Folder button.

A small window will pop up to inform you where the new email messages will be stored. Let's change this directory to something easier to remember and manage.
Click on the Change button.

From the window that appears, select a directory in your system. In my own PC, this directory is located at /My Documents/My Mail/2002/, but feel free to put yours wherever you see fit.
NOTE: make sure the new directory exists before clicking on the Change button.

Click on OK. You will be notified that changes will take effect after you shut down and restart OE. OK, let's do it now.
After you have restarted OE for the changes to take effect, shut it down again to be able to fiddle with its mail folders.
Locate the new directory you created in the previous step. In there you will see a few files automatically generated by OE. The .dbx ones are actually your mail folders and they're currently completely empty. But you don't really care about them, all you need to do is restore your own mail folders, so locate the bunch of .dbx etc. files you had saved during the back up procedure.
Select them all (including the .log etc. files that were in the original mail directory) and hit CTRL+C (copy).
Switch to the new mail directory and hit CTRL+V (paste).
You will be asked if you want to replace the existing files. Click on YES. (What you're actually replacing is the automatically generated, empty mail folders with your own, full mail folders).
This may take a few moments, depending on how powerful your system is and how large your mail folders were, so be patient.
When this is done, you may launch OE again.
Well, what do you know? All your mail is back, and it appears exactly as it did in your old PC! Tedious but effective procedure, isn't it?

The last part of the restoring process is

D. MAIL FILTERS

WARNING: This step requires fiddling with the Windows Registry and this is certainly NOT recommended to inexperienced users. One tiny little mistake and your whole Windows installation may pass away to history. If you're not experienced enough, please skip this last step and re-configure your mail filters manually. You have been warned.

Launch the Registry Editor of your choice.
Navigate to the key
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\(IDENTITY ID\
where 'IDENTITY ID' is a long number that looks like this:
{82HC0035-1435-4639-9Y76-F90806CR80GE}
You have to copy that number including its {curly brackets} and paste it somewhere safe, supposedly in a new Notepad text file.
Now, locate the .reg file you created during the backup procedure.

Use Notepad to open it.
You will see that the IDENTITY ID that exists all over this file is different than the one you just copied from your Windows Registry. What you need to do now is replace your old ID with the new one. This is a safe way to do it:

Select an instance of the old ID in the .reg file, including the {curly brackets}.
Hit CTRL+C to copy it.
Hit CTRL+H (Find & Replace function), place your cursor in the Find What field and hit CTRL+V to paste your old ID there.
Switch to the new Notepad file where you have kept your new ID, select it and hit CTRL+C to copy it.

Switch back to the Find & Replace box, place your cursor in the Replace With field and hit CTRL+V to paste your new ID there.
Now, visually inspect the integrity of both ID's checking that they're correctly pasted, and then click on the Replace All button.
Save this file and close it.

You're now ready to import your mail filters. Just double-click on the .reg file you just modified, answer YES to the window that pops-up and you're done.

All your precious mail filters are back in place.


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