Inside Outlook Express

Backup and Restore

Clone Your Identity (for Advanced Users)

This article describes how to backup and restore all items needed to make a perfect clone of your existing configuration. You can use this process for backup purposes, or when upgrading to a new computer, or to clone your configuration on another computer, or to allow multi-boot systems to have a single shared OE Identity.

Don't let the length of these instructions put you off trying this method. In practice the entire process takes no more than 5 minutes. In all honesty, you can download shareware utilities that will do exactly what this procedure does, but they will cost you money and almost the same amount of time.


Optional, but highly recommended

OE does not store all your data in one place, which makes backing up  a lot harder than it needs to be. Before you backup, I suggest you create a logical  folder structure in Windows Explorer into which you move all your current OE files. This takes only a few minutes to do and only has to be done once. It will make it much easier to maintain regular backups.

  1. Decide on a permanent location for your OE files. This location will be saved as part of the backup files, so if you want to move them to another drive, now is the time to do it. In fact if you have more than one hard drive, it is best to create this structure on a non-system drive. You cannot use a network (shared) drive nor a removable drive. If you plan to dual-boot and share OE, use a drive that is visible to all the OS systems you plan to use.

  2. Suggested folder structure imageIn Windows Explorer create this folder tree on the drive of your choice.

    If you use multiple Identities, each must have its own message store folder, so open the Message Store folder and create one sub-folder for each Identity. Then do the same in the Registry keys folder. All Identities share a single address book, so you don't need sub-folders in Address Book.

  3. Move your message store to the new Message Store folder.
    • Open OE and click Tools| Options| Maintenance| Store folder, then click the Change button and Browse to the new Message Store folder.
    • Close OE, then re-open it. OE will move the store automatically at that time.
    • If you use multiple Identities, logon as each Identity and move the store to its new location. Remember that you must close and re-open as the same Identity for the store to be moved.
  4. Move your address book files to the new Address Book folder.
    • Open the Address Book and click Help | About Address Book to see the current location of the *.wab file in use.
    • Close the Address Book and Outlook Express, then find the *.wab file in Windows Explorer.
    • Copy both the *.wab file and the *.wa~ or *.wab~ file (the automatic backup) to the new Address Book folder.
  5. Change the path to the address book in the registry
    • Open Regedit and navigate to this key:

    |----------------Wab File Name

    • Click Registry | Export Registry File, then save the selected branch to the desktop as Default WAB.reg. That's just a temporary backup file and can be deleted later once this process is complete.
    • In the right-hand pane in Regedit, double-click on Default then carefully enter the path to the new location and the *.wab file name, such as

      <drive>:\My Outlook Express Identity\Address Book\<name>.wab

      Do not use quotes around the path.
    • If editing the registry makes you squeamish, you can use a script to change the address book. Download that to your desktop, then open it in Notepad to read the instructions.

Top of page


  1. Export the 4 OE registry keys.

    From Regedit, export these 4 keys as *.reg files and save them in your Registry keys folder (see Preparation #2):


    |-----------Internet Account Manager

    |-----------Outlook Express


    You may also choose to use my Backup OE Registry program to automate this step, but only if you are using Win9x, not Windows 2000 or Windows XP.
  2. Open Outlook Express and for each Identity, click File |Folder | Compact All Folders. Then close Outlook Express.
  3. Copy the store folder, the address book and the registry files to backup media.

    If you used my suggested folder structure from Preparation #2, this means you only have to copy the top-level My Outlook Express Identity folder since it contains everything you need.

    This folder can be quite large, especially if you use multiple Identities. You can compress the entire folder into a zip file to reduce the size considerably.

Top of page


  1. If needed, restore your OE data files folder (My Outlook Express Identity) to the same location it had when you prepared the backup. If copying from CDROM, make sure the files copied to your hard disk are not set as read-only or OE will not be able to see them.
  2. Open Regedit and delete the 4 OE registry keys (see Backup #1 for their names). Do not omit this step!
  3. Open your Registry keys folder and double-click all 4 of the *.reg files.
  4. Open OE and for each Identity, click Tools | Accounts. Double-click each mail and news account, click the Servers tab, then re-enter the password for the account.

    Top of page


You can clone your Identity on any version of Windows and restore it to any other version, provided both versions are running OE5.01 or later. Do not try to share OE5.0 with another OS unless it also is running OE5.0. It is best if both Windows versions are running the same version number of OE.

If you create your Identity in Windows 2000 or Windows XP, be careful when exporting the 4 registry keys. Both export keys to Unicode text files with the *.reg extension, but those files are not readable by earlier versions of Windows. Therefore when exporting, you must click the Save as Type option and change it to Regedit 4 format.

Top of page

Known Problems


Passwords are stored in the registry in encrypted form, and so they are not included in an exported registry key. You will therefore have to re-enter your mail and news passwords manually. To do so, click Tools| Accounts| <account> Properties| Servers, delete whatever is in the password field, then enter the correct password.

Dial-up Connections 

If you have mail or news accounts that are configured to Always connect using... a specific dial-up connection, you must be certain that your dial-up connections on the restored (or secondary) system have exactly the same names. You can see if any account is so configured in OE by looking under Tools| Accounts. To the right of each account you will see the connection setting. You can change this by clicking on the Properties button for the selected account, then clicking on the Connection tab. Uncheck the box to set the account to Use any available connection. Alternatively, if you are using Win9x (not Win2000 or WinXP) you can also make easy backups of all your dial-up connections.

  1. Open My Computer| Dial-Up Networking or Start| Network Connections.
  2. Select all your connections and drag them to another folder, such as D:\Data Files\Dialup Connections. For each connection, a new *.DUN file will be created.
  3. To restore a connection, simply double-click its *.DUN file. You will have to enter your username and password, as these are not stored in the *.DUN file.
Read-only Backup Files 

If you backup your OE data folder to a CDROM, all the files will be marked as read-only. When you restore those files to your hard disk, you must reset this attribute for all OE files or OE will not be able to use them. Right-click on each file, click Properties and uncheck the Read-only box. You can change all or several at a time by selecting (highlighting) them first by clicking Edit | Select All or by pressing CTRL-A, then right-click on any of the selected files. Alternatively you can open a command prompt at the data folder and simply type
          attrib *.* -r
to change all the files at once.

Top of page

Google logo and link to Google home page

Web  this site

Valid XHTML 1.0!
Valid CSS!