Outlook Express address book, first names disappeared

I have a client who still uses OE6 for his pop emails.
For some reason SOME of the first names in his address book disappeared. That wouldn't be so bad except when he's looking for a family member he cannot tell which is which because of this problem.
The first names still show up if we double click on a contact and look at the Display field. But the First Name field is now empty.
Any idea how this might have happened?  Or he would be happy if the address list were to show Display field rather than last name, first name, but I couldn't see how to change the columns.
Who is Participating?

[Product update] Infrastructure Analysis Tool is now available with Business Accounts.Learn More

I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

Hi babiape

The Windows Address book is stored for each user as a *.WAB file, typically located in Windows XP in the following folder as <UserName>.wab eg:
C:\Documents and Settings\Bill\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book\Bill.wab
When logged in the user's own *.wab file is found and opened by double-clicking:
C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\wab.exe
or any shortcut to it.
Similarly, locating and double-clicking on any valid *.wab file will open it using Wab.exe.

When various actions are performed on the address book, a backup copy is often made of the user's *.wab file in the same folder, and suffixed by a ~ eg.
C:\Documents and Settings\Bill\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book\Bill.wab~

Renaming a COPY OF that file by removing the trailing ~ (and obviously changing the file name if still in the same folder) will allow the new file to open normally.

You might like to try that before doing any further troubleshooting.  I would copy the *.wab~ file out to another non-system folder before renaming it rather than using the original *.wab~ file or renaming it in that folder.

If it opens with everything displayed as it should and with all the contacts in it, then you can rename the original *.wab file to something like "Bad_Bill.wab" and then move the renamed *.wab~ backup into that folder and name it with the user name.

If there is no *.wab~ file in that folder, or if it displays without the First Names when opened, then I would suggest the following using the Address Book that currently does not display properly:

1. File menu > Export > "Address Book (WAB)..."
2. Choose a place to save it and use a file name suitable for testing purposes.
3. Close the Address Book, locate the exported *.WAB file, and double-click to open.
4. If that displays as it should, then back up the:
C:\Documents and Settings\<User>\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book\<UserName>.wab
as suggested above, move the exported one into that folder, and rename to what that user's address book file should be.

If that doesn't then display as it should, you can try this:

1. File menu > Export > "Other Address Book" >  "Text File (Comma Separated Values)"
2. Click Export > Supply a File Name > Browse to a folder such as the user's Desktop.
3. Click "Next" and tick ALL of the Data Filed Names.  Don't worry if some of them aren't ever completed by the user, it is a database and empty fields will not be populated in the exported *.CSV file.
4. Click "Finish", close the export dialog when finished, and then close the Address Book.
5. Locate the exported *.CSV file and it should open in Microsoft Excel (or other non-Microsoft spreadsheet application) when double-clicked.
6. Take a look and verify that the First Name and Last name columns are both populated.  They should be columns A and B.
7. If happy that the exported file DOES have all the first and last names in it, continue as follows.

Create a new WAB file and import the CSV file into it:

1. From the current address book, export a NEW Wab file to eg. the Desktop.
2. Close the currently open address book.
3. Locate and double-click on the exported one.
4. Delete ALL contacts, folders, and groups from it.
5. Close it then reopen and ensure there are no leftovers.
6. File > Import > Other Address Book > "Text File (Comma Separated Values)"
7. Click "Import" > Browse to and locate the exported *.CSV file
8. Click "Next" and a new dialog shows with the Data Fields. and mappings.
9. They "Text Field" and "Address Book Field" mappings should all match up, which is why I suggested ticking all the boxes when exporting.
10. Click "Finish" > close the import dialog when done > close and reopen the WAB file.

Hopefully all the fields should display as intended, in which case this newly populated WAB file can be moved to the folder containing the user's current WAB file to be renamed to replace the current one.

*** Be aware that importing like this DOES NOT restore Groups or Folders.  It imports all the contacts into one folder and the groups and folders have to be recreated. ***
If none of the above have worked so far, then perhaps the following actions will forcibly refresh something that is messed up:

1. Maximize the open address book to verify that there aren't any other column headers.  Although I believe that the Windows Address Book only displays 4 columns in standard view (Name, E-Mail Address, Home Phone, and Business Phone), you never know - maybe there are First Name and Last Name column headers lurking out of view that can be dragged across and the view then sorted on either.

2. Try and force the Address Book view to be refreshed by changing the View menu options between Details, List, Small Icon, and Large Icon.  Also swap between the View menu > Sort By options.  It probably won't make any difference, but for the couple of seconds it takes it's worth a try.

3. View menu > Folders and Groups to display all content.  File menu > New Folder > name it something like TEST.  Drag and drop copy or Copy and Paste a couple of contacts from the main list into the new folder and see if the layout in that folder shows the First and Last Names.  If so, then copy all the contacts to that folder, delete the contacts from wherever they were copied, and then move them all back there from the Test folder.

If none of this works, then it is possible that "WAB.EXE" is corrupted.  If this is a Windows XP system, then it SHOULD have Windows System File Protection active and ready to restore system files from a backup.

The hidden folder:
contains backup copies of all thwe important files that were installed by Windows, and should contain those files that have subsequently been updated by Windows Updates and HotFixes.  In the event that one of those files is renamed, deleted, or tampered with in its system folder, then after a short delay the backup should be reinstated from the "dllcache" folder.
The user should have the file:

Renaming "C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\wab.exe" to something like "Old_wab.exe" or "Old-Wab-Exe.bak" should trigger the replacement of it from the cache folder.

If that doesn't fix the issue, then perhaps re-registering a couple of DLL files used to supply the dialog resources to the Windows Address Book might fix the issue.  Execute the following separate commands one at a time from the Start menu's "Run" field and await the success or fail dialog.  I believe that only the 2nd command will show a success because it contains registry information to re-write to the registry:

regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\wab32.dll"
regsvr32 "C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\wab32res.dll"
"C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\wab.exe" /regserver

If none of the above steps work, then I really don't know what else to suggest.


Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
Hi babiape

Just curious to know if you have had a chance to look at your client's address book yet.

babiapeAuthor Commented:
Have  not had a chance. My apologies. I expect to have this done this week.
HTML5 and CSS3 Fundamentals

Build a website from the ground up by first learning the fundamentals of HTML5 and CSS3, the two popular programming languages used to present content online. HTML deals with fonts, colors, graphics, and hyperlinks, while CSS describes how HTML elements are to be displayed.

No rush.  Was just just checking to make sure you were aware that your question had attracted a comment.
babiapeAuthor Commented:
Needed to sort by first name to get the first name to reappear.
babiapeAuthor Commented:
Thanks Bill.
Thank you babiape.
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today
Windows Live Mail

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.