Inside Outlook Express



Tips and Ideas

Improve Performance in Newsgroups


Introduction

Many Outlook Express users, though not all, have found that when a news server has a very large number of newsgroups (roughly 25,000 or more), OE takes a big performance hit when opening a newsgroup or when switching between newsgroups. There may also be an excessive amount of disk thrashing at those times. This is caused by the way OE processes the entire list of newsgroups on that server each time you open a newsgroup. The newsgroup list (NGL) for each news account is stored on disk in the file Folders.dbx. OE for some reason must read the NGL into memory each time you open a new newsgroup. As OE reads the list from disk and swaps it into memory, possibly having to swap out other things to make room, the disk drive starts grinding and performance nosedives. The larger the NGL, the slower the performance. If we could eliminate the NGL from a news account, the bottleneck to performance would be removed. This article describes how to set up subscribed newsgroups on a server without downloading the NGL.

Before beginning, you should know the location of your OE store folder, the Windows folder that holds all your mail and news files. To see the full path to the store, in OE click Tools| Options| Maintenance| Store folder. Open Windows Explorer now and navigate to that folder. Find your Folders.dbx and make note of its size. Don't be alarmed if it is several megabytes, as that is quite normal. This file stores all the NGLs for all news accounts, as well as keeping track of which messages on the server you have already marked as Read but no longer have in your local file. But it also stores the mail hierarchy (how folders are nested under each other) in addition to pointers to mail folders used by message rules.

The Quick and Dirty Way for Light Use

If you have few or no nested mail folders, only a few message rules that move or copy messages to folders, and only a small number of subscribed newsgroups, the easiest way to remove the large NGL is simply to delete Folders.dbx. 

  1. Close OE. 

  2. In Windows Explorer, navigate to your store folder and delete the file Folders.dbx. 

  3. Re-open OE. It will automatically create a new Folders.dbx, and will display all your mail folders (without any nesting), as well as your subscribed newsgroups. 

  4. Click Tools| Message Rules| Mail and edit any rules that have a red x to point to the correct folder. 

If you click on a news account folder, you might very well be prompted that the list of newsgroups is not available, would you like to download it. Be sure to answer NO whenever this prompt appears or you will be back to square one with the large NGL in Folders.dbx.

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The Safer Way for Complex Use

If you have a complicated mail folder hierarchy, or if you use many message rules to move or copy messages to other folders, or if you subscribe to many groups, you would probably prefer a less destructive way of removing the large NGL. This workaround takes a bit more work to set up, but will retain your mail folder hierarchy and message rules. In addition, it works on a single news account without affecting other accounts that may not have a performance problem. In a nutshell, you need to create hyperlinks or shortcuts to your subscribed news groups, remove the news account, re-create the account without downloading the NGL, then use the hyperlinks/shortcuts to open each subscribed group and re-subscribe to them.

  1. Create hyperlinks (in a HTML, Word, or OE Message file) or Windows shortcuts (in any Windows folder or the Desktop) for each of your subscribed newsgroups using this syntax: 
    news://name.of.server/name.of.group 

    (For help with creating hyperlinks, see this).

  2. Click Tools| Accounts| News. Click once on the newsgroup and click Remove.

  3. Close the Accounts dialogue.

  4. Click once on Local Folders in the Folder List, then click File| Work Offline. 

  5. Click File| Folder| Compact All, then wait for the process to finish. This may take several minutes. Do NOT interrupt the process, as the last thing that is compacted is Folders.dbx. If an error occurs, close OE, restart your computer, re-open OE, and repeat steps 4 and 5. 

  6. Click Tools| Accounts, then click Add| News. Enter your name, email address and the name of the server. 

  7. With the newly created account still selected, click the Set as Default button, then click the Properties button and rename the account to something like "<server name> Newsgroups". Close the Properties dialogue. 

  8. Click the Close button in the Internet Accounts dialogue. You will be prompted to download the list of newsgroups for the new account. Answer NO, or you will be back to square one with the large NGL in Folders.dbx. 

  9. Launch each of your newsgroup hyperlinks/shortcuts that you created in Step 1. In the Folder List in OE, right-click on each group as it is added and select Subscribe. 

  10. Close OE and re-open it. You should see all your subscribed newsgroups in the "<server name> Newsgroups" news folder. If any are missing, right-click the news folder and verify that it is Set as Default. Then repeat Step 9 for any missing groups. 

You can stop at this point if you want, but what if you later want to subscribe to different groups and you don't know their exact names? Or you want to browse through the group list? Just continue with the next steps:

  1. Click Tools| Accounts, then click Add| News. Enter your name, email address, and the name for the same server, exactly as you did in Step 6. 

  2. With the newly created account still selected, click the Properties button and rename the account to something like "<server name> Newsgroups List". Verify that the "<server name> Newsgroups" is the default account, NOT the List account. Close the Properties dialogue. 

  3. Click the Close button in the Internet Accounts dialogue. You will be prompted to download the list of newsgroups for the new account. Answer YES.

You will now have 2 news accounts using the same server, 
"<server name> Newsgroups" and  "<server name> Newsgroups List".

Use the List account only if you wish to view the list of newsgroups. When you wish to subscribe to a new newsgroup, just create a new hyperlink/shortcut to the desired group and launch it. It should open in the default news server, "<server name> Newsgroups". If the hyperlink/shortcut opens the group in "<server name> Newsgroups List" instead, you will see the same slow performance as you did before. In that case, you will need to remove the List account, verify that the Newsgroups account is Set as Default, and re-launch the hyperlink/shortcut.

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