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outlook express recover accounts, identities, wab, dbx, oh my!

Outlook Express 6, XP

I had a drive where the operating system crashed (would not boot.) I decided to start over, with a new computer. To grab information from the old computer, I installed the old hard drive as a slave drive. I can see the .dbx files and the .wab files on the old drive, but I am unable to import them.

The files on the old drive were not backed up, they are just the old working files for Outlook Express.

The new computer has new identities: new Admin name, new computer name. I tried to simply copy the dbx files over, and I can read old email (if it was downloaded), but there are no email accounts set up in the new Outlook Express. (That's part of the problem - I don't even remember the account details such as passwords. If I completely start over, go back to my ISP and get new passwords, I suppose I could download all the messages again, but hey, why should I have to do that? All the data is here, and I think the problem is identities, and the order that I need to do the operations.

I renamed the computer. Now, it has the same name as the old computer on the network.

Let's pretend my old computer was called Aardvark, and the Admin account was called Administrator. So the old email folder (on the old hard drive) was

D:\Documents and Settings\Administrator.AARDVARK\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{06944A76-F27C-439C-A716-EE65FF8DEC0A}\Microsoft\Outlook Express

I suspect that I need that exact folder structure on the new C drive, but want to ask how to do it correctly, so I get the registry entries correct.

Best case: I make an identity, copy some files, and have all my accounts working again, including the emails, folder structure, address book, message rules...

Worst case, I'd like to get the identity set up correctly, so I at least get the email accounts and their passwords working again.

Can someone help me with this?


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1 Solution
Hello dtleahy,

Data about your mail and news accounts are stored in the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Account Manager. To save this data, start RegEdit and select that key in the left-hand pane. Then from the menu select Registry | Export Registry File. Save the file to a name like "outlook.reg". Restore (if necessary) To restore the account settings, right-click the .REG file and select Merge.

How to Bckup Outlook Express Mail Settings

Hope this helps!
dtleahyAuthor Commented:
thanks, war1

I can read data from the old, dead hard drive, but can't boot it. So, I don't think there is any way to do a regedit on that drive.

I am unable to run the old Outlook Express, so, I can't back it up.


Dennis, then you have to manually recreate the accounts in the new drive.
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If the email accounts have webmail, you can ask for new password if you forget your old one.
dtleahyAuthor Commented:
> then you have to manually recreate the accounts in the new drive.

Are you sure? Don't know if I should hold off and see if someone has a different answer, or if I am really stuck. If I am really stuck: Curse you Microsloth!  

Since you did not save the accounts in OE, and you do not access to registry, then you have to recreate the account settings.
dtleahyAuthor Commented:
Awwwwwwww poop! (Can I say poop?) Ya know, the freakin admin of the computer should be able to do this.

OK, I'll get new passwords from the ISP, start over from scratch, and I might as well download everything the ISP has (so I don't get a second copy of every email when I connect up.)

Thanks, war1


From what you stated in that last comment, it sounds as though you had your Outlook Express account set to leave a copy of emails on the server.

Is your ISP email account a proper POP3 one, or is it one of those like AT&T Yahoo that is really webmail, but offers the Yahoo Plus! (or whatever it's called) additional functionality of being able to download to a pop3 mail client?

I'm not sure that I see your problem with creating a new account in Outlook Express and copying the recovered *.dbx files into that account's "Store Folder", other than perhaps having forgotten your password.

I'm not sure if you are aware, but every new setup of Windows will create a new {long-number} in the key:
\Identities\{long-number-here}\Microsoft\Outlook Express
even if you know all the account configuration details and replicate the account you had on the last setup.

There isn't much sense in trying to create a new registry key with the exact same {long-number} as existed for your Store Folder on another computer.  You should be able to do as follows:

Create the new Outlook Express account, even using partial details.  Just enough to configure it as an account that displays with the normal folders in OE.  At the moment all you want to do is get the old emails from the recovered *.dbx files to show in that account, the downloading of new emails can come afterwards.

Go to Tools > Options > Maintenance tab and click on the "Store Folder" button.  Copy the path to where the store folder is for that account, and open Windows Explorer to that folder.
Alternatively, look for the "Store Root" value in the registry key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{FE38A582-31AF-4AB8-8964-A60FD46FC907}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0

*** Close Outlook Express ***

Rename the *.dbx files in the folder, eg. Inbox.dbx to Inbox.old, etc.

Copy all the *.dbx files from the slaved hard drive into that folder.
Note: Make sure that they are not "Read Only".

Open Outlook Express and see if the emails now show.

If that has worked, then you can look up your ISP's support pages for the correct Outlook Express account configuration to get it working and downloading new messages.

As far as your Address Book is concerned, you can do one of two things after you locate your *.WAB file on the slave drive.  It will most likely be named after your profile name on the last computer, but you can easily check it's contents by double-clicking on it.  The *.wab file is just a database.  Windows uses the program WAB.EXE to open any *.wab file.

1. Open the new address book from Outlook Express toolbar button and choose File > Import > Address Book (*.wab)...
Browse to the *.wab file you identified as your previous one.


2. Locate your Address Book on your new computer by opening Regedit and navigating to the key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Wab\WAB4\Wab File Name
The (Default) value in the right pane will specify the path to it.  You can copy your old address book in there and rename it to what the registry says (obviously deleting the empty one already in there) OR modify the registry to reflect the existing name of your Address Book *.wab file copied into that folder.

As far as your Outlook Express Mail Rules, etc go, then if you are desperate to reinstate these there are utilities that allow you to load registry files and view them as though you were using Regedit.  Some allow you to export specific keys out to *.reg files.  All you would need to do with such an exported *.reg file would be to open it in Notepad for editing, and do a Find and Replace. You find the old User Profile Name and {long-identity-number}, and replace all instances with the ones present in your new registry.  That would then give you a *.reg file to merge with the existing registry and recreate your Mail Rules.

Michael Mutl has some very useful freeware and shareware utilities here:

Windows Registry Recovery - Open Registry Hive Files (eg. the USER.DAT in the Documents and Settings\UserName folder of a slave drive) and view much the same as Regedit.  Allows you to export to Regedit4 *.reg files (Note: may not support some of the registry data types found in XP and later):

Mail Viewer - allows you to open *.dbx files from any folder and save the messages out to *.eml files.

I'm sure you could find your old mail rules from the User.dat file on your slave hard drive and export to a compatible *.reg file format for merging back to your current identity after doing a search and replace in Notepad to make the sub-keys match the current identity keys.

Let us know what you think.  There are other similar utilities that can help.
Speaking personally, what I would probably do is:

1. Use the MailView utility above to load *.dbx files one at a time from the Slave Drive
2. Do a multiple select on all messages listed, then use the "Save" function to save them out as *.eml files to a suitably named folder that reflects the dbx file name
3. Open Outlook Express and create some new folders that don't conflict with the existing default folder names, eg. "Recovered_Inbox"
4. Open the new folder in OE
5. Resize the OE window so I can see the open folder containing the recovered *.eml files
6. Select all the *.eml files and drag and drop them into the space where the message list would be for that folder in OE.
7. Repeat ad nauseum for all recovered *.eml files.

The only caveat is that the older "OEView.exe" program (same site as above) doesn't recognise : ' and other characters, and it numbers the recovered *.eml files, so the actual message title when viewed in OE interface will differ from what it was before.  That could be taken care of by renaming the *.eml files before dragging and dropping into OE, but you would have to watch for duplicate file names where several messages received or sent at different times shared the same title.
*** Ignore the "caveat" statement above.  I just tested MailView 1.20 and, when dragged and dropped into a new folder in the OE interface, the *.eml files that have names minus the usual : ' type characters are recreated with the correct display titles.

Problem solved?
dtleahyAuthor Commented:
I was out of town, and just got back. I'll try this tomorrow. Thanks BillDL for the time you have taken to help me!

dtleahyAuthor Commented:
Sorry it took so long to give you the points that you earned.
Thank you Dennis.

You were "out of town" for quite a while there ;-)

If you are interested, I also posted another method that I now find a lot easier, and it doesn't require messing with the registry.  As long as you have a good *.dbx file and are willing to install the free "Universal Extractor" program, then the method is much more hands-on.

Copy my instructions from Comment ID No 25034424 here:
and save for next time.

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