I Lost All My Email!

Important Note: If you are still using Outlook Express, I urge you to migrate to another safer email program. There are several email programs that are free and will not cause as many problems as Outlook Express.  A popular replacement for Outlook Express is Thunderbird.

Sometimes we realize too late the importance of a good backup for email. There are any number of reasons why we might lose our email messages, folders and Address Book. Unless you have had a total system crash and everything is gone, you may be able to recover your lost email. This process does not guarantee you can recover everything, but it is certainly worth trying and I have had success recovering email for friends using this process. This method is for Outlook Express.

First, enable viewing hidden files and folders.

After you have enabled viewing hidden files and folders, go to Documents and Settings on your C drive. Click Documents and Settings. ( This is for Windows XP. If you are using a version of Windows 9x, you will go to C:/Windows/Application Data/Identities)

Locate your name or whatever you boot into and click the file. Then click Local Settings. Click Application Data. There should be a listing for Identities. Outlook Express stores each email account as an Identity. (If the Identities are not there, then click Microsoft. Click Outlook Express and Identities should be there.) As an example, the path to my Outlook Express Identity before I changed the location was:

C:\Documents and Settings\Owner\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{F24BA81B-66ED-469E-BF60-51E078FFF968}\Microsoft\Outlook Express

Some computers have only one or two Identity folders, while others may have several. (Mine has ten.) If you had a lot of folders it will be easier to identity the right Identity. Open each Identity file and look for the folders. If the folders are not listed, it is the wrong identity. When you locate the folder with all the folders, write down the numbers for that Identity. Then close all of this and open Outlook Express. From the File menu, chose 'Import'. Highlight Messages. Select the same program that had your lost messages.

(If you were using Outlook Express 6, you need to select Outlook Express 6.) Click Next. Now you have to browse to the Identity folder where you found your lost folders. Once you have clicked on the right folder, Outlook Express should import all of the folders and messages and you will be able to access them.

The key word here is 'should' import all of the folders and messages. If it doesn't work, there is another way to try. Go to 'My Documents' and create a new folder. Name it something you can remember, like OE folders.

Now go back to the location where you found your missing email folders. Select all the files, then copy and paste the folders into the newly created folder in My Documents. Now try the File/Import/Messages again, but this time be sure to select 'Import Mail from an OE6 store Directory'. This step is very important. Unless you do this your import will fail

Recovering your Address book should be easier. Bring up the Search option for your computer. Click the 'All files and folders’ option and in the first field of the next dialog, type ‘*.wab’, without the quote marks. Then click search. If you have more than one .wab, chances are the one with the earliest date (and the biggest file) is the one you want to import. If the .wab files are both in the same location you need to be sure when you go to the Import Address book in Outlook Express that you import the right file. Because you will not be able to see the date or size when you are in the actual Import, you may want to move the newer wab file to a separate location. (A separate folder would be my suggestion.) Sometimes using the Windows Search feature will not locate your missing wab file. If this happens to you, try a manual search. Use this as your guide, C:\Documents and settings\Owner\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book.

Whether or not this works for you depends a lot on how you lost it in the first place. If you installed some software that caused it all to be lost, this may and probably will work. If you did an upgrade of Windows or reinstalled Windows on top of Windows it may work. If your computer froze and you had to do a hard reboot it may work. But if you had to do a new install of Windows that wiped everything off your computer & started over, then don't waste your time with trying this recovery.

There are data recovery services that you can try that may recover some if not all of your lost data, but they are not cheap.  Unless you have financial and/or business related mail that you absolutely must recover, the services probably won't be worth it. There are some free programs for recovering data, but I have not tried any of them.

Before you have a computer crash and lose your email, back it all up now. The best way to recover your data (email) is to have a good backup!