Outlook Express Compact Messages Problem

Missing emails after compacting folders.

The most often way it happens is like that. You close you Outlook Express and see a pop-up message "To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact messages. This may take up to a few minutes." Everyone would like to free up the disk space, so you click "Yes" and Outlook Express starts compacting folders. If your computer hangs up and is not responding when compacting Outlook Express folders, power failure occurs or the user finishes Outlook Express process via the program manager; then email database (.dbx file) is damaged. And when you start Outlook Express next time you can see the lost Outlook Express inbox and all emails disappear.

So, what has happened and what does "compacting messages" mean?

Outlook Express stores emails in special files with .DBX extension. Every OE folder has a corresponding .DBX file. For example, Inbox folder has a corresponding Inbox.dbx file, Outbox folder has a corresponding Outbox.dbx file and so on. Folders.dbx file stores a folder tree. When you delete a message from an Outlook Express folder or move it to another folder the message is not actually deleted from the folder, it is just marked as deleted and becomes invisible for the user. It is done to make Outlook Express work faster. The reverse side of such approach is that DBX files size grows quickly. To make the folders size smaller Outlook Express suggests that you should compact the folders. Or you can compact your folders by yourself. To do it, select the "File" -> "Folder" -> "Compact All Folders" menu item. Before compacting, select the "File" -> "Work Offline" item of the Outlook Express menu. In such a case, Outlook Express rebuilds dbx files so that they do not contain any deleted messages anymore. If a failure occurs when compacting OE folders then one or even all dbx files are totally corrupted.

What you should do if you lost your Outlook Express inbox and all emails in it.

We have analyzed a great number of corrupt dbx files. As a rule, after "compacting failure" dbx file is filled with zeros and does not contain any useful information at all. That is why to recover data from such a file is next to impossible.

But there is the way out! Our software Email Recovery for Outlook Express uses unique algorithms and techniques allowing to recover messages even in such difficult cases.

To recover compacted Outlook Express messages:

  1. Start Email Recovery for Outlook Express
  2. Click "Scan the entire disk" tab
  3. Click the necessary disk letter (usually C:)
  4. Wait until the disk scan is complete
  5. Click the "Save recovered messages" button on the toolbar
  6. Select output folder and press the "Save" button
  7. Drag&drop saved EML files from Windows folder into OE folder
Detailed description of how to recover compacted messages from hard disk

How to avoid Outlook Express compact messages problems?

The best and the most reliable way to avoid loosing important information is to perform the files backup. You can create Outlook Express folders backup manually just by copying DBX files into a safe place. To find out where Outlook Express stores DBX files, start Outlook Express and click "Tools" -> "Options" -> "Maintenance" -> "Store Folder".