Recovering archived Outlook Express folders

I recently helped a family member to import some archived Microsoft Outlook Express folders from a CD and was aghast at how difficult it was to do, and how disruptive it was to their existing email folder structure. As a non-regular computer user, they expected that simply double-clicking on the relevant (.dbx) files on the CD would automatically open them in Outlook Express. Of course I knew this would not work but to be fair, it is a perfectly reasonable expectation that most casual Windows users would share, and is in fact how it should work. But then again, this is Microsoft we’re dealing with.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here is how to do it:

  1. Launch Outlook Express and locate the current directory where your mail folders are being stored by selecting Tools, Options, Maintenance tab and clicking on the Store Folder button.
  2. Make a note of the directory listed and exit Outlook Express
  3. Now copy the folders you are trying to import from to this folder (using Windows Explorer or another file manager)
  4. Then delete the file named Folders.dbx from this directory and restart Outlook Express.
  5. Your archived folders should now be available once more but unfortunately, since the file you deleted above was where your folder structure was stored, the structure of your folders will have been lost (flattened) and will have to be re-created by hand.

This is a pretty woeful user experience in my opinion, but if you are really stuck, it does work Thankfully, it is a lot easier in the non-Express versions of Outlook but is such a shame that the lions share of Outlook Express users are those who would benefit more from how Outlook operates.

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