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consistent method of archiving outlook messages and data

Is there a sure safe method of saving old emails and contacts data? I have over the years got through many HDDs and always had problems with archived files. I have saved in various formats and never used anything other than Outlook and Express. The number of times I have tried to import saved data from disk - only to be told that the M/Soft program cannot read the data? Strange I always thought,  cos it was saved in either Express or Outlook. I was amazed when a company retrieved my email registration data from many years ago with ease. Is it me or has M/Soft Express and Outlook always been difficult to get to grips with when archiving?

Regards kjc
3 Solutions
Outlook works perfectly with .pst files containing all of your Outlook information.  Find where your .pst files are and they can easily be backed up to any media and imported or opened at will.  To import, go to the file menu and import/export.  Import from .pst into the location you choose.  To open the .pst, go to tools, options, mail setup, data files and select the .pst.  It will now show up in your folder view.  Outlook Express is more complicated than this because it requires importing more than one file.
If you backed up those files to CD or DVD media, it might be the media that is/has gone bad. CD and DVD are, in my opinion not very reliable. They easily get scratched or, they might be readable in one drive and not another, because they aren't adjusted exactly the same. If it is such media you are making your backups to, allways test your data by copying it back to disk and trying it with your original program. Also remember that if you copy a file from a CD, it will be read only, so you will have to change the file attributes to read/write for outlook to be able to access the file succesfully.

If you backup on CD, be sure that you use "ISO Standard" media and not "UDF" (aka "packet writing").  You will be creating ISO standard media if you actually open the main recording application of either Roxio or Nero and explciitly create a data disc layout and burn the media.  You will creating a "UDF" disc if you simply "drag and drop" the file(s) to be backed up onto an icon of the drive.  UDF discs are non-standard and you cannot assume that if you create such discs, that they will be readable on all computers.  If you don't have the full retail version of either Roxio or Nero, you should probably acquire one or the other.

Also some other suggestions for backup:

- do not use "RW" media (media that can be erased and reused)  it is unreliable over time.  Use CD-R, or DVD-R, not "RW"
- don't burn at the fastest possible speed, very high speed burns are less reliable than somewhat slower burns.  For CDs, 16x, 24x and 32x will probalby give you a better quality backup than 48x or 52x burns
-keep at least some (at least 3 or 4) of your most recent old backups.  If the most recent backup fails, for whatever reason, you still have something to go back to.

I've actually had very good luck with optical backups (CD and DVD) after some effort to find quality media, and to verify that I had a "good" drive.  But there are lots of bad optical (CD and DVD) drives out there, and there is a lot of junk blank media.

In your question, you said "Outlook".  Outlook, as originalbiffmalibu noted, is very easy to back up, just save the .PST file (sometimes finding the RIGHT PST file to backup is an issue if there are several on the drive).  However, many people use the term "Outlook" loosely, and mean "Outlook Expresss".  While the names are confusingly similar, Outlook Express (OE) is a totally different program from Outlook, and because OE stores E-Mail messages completely differently, in a whole bunch of different separate files rather than in one single PST file, if you meant outlook express, then the files to be backed up are completely different.  In my view, the format of the message store alone is sufficient reason to use Outlook rather than Outlook Express.

kjcduffyAuthor Commented:
Thank you all for your comments. I hope you don't mind the split.

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