Inside Outlook Express

Frequently Asked Questions

Why ... ?

Why does OE insist on compacting folders when I close it?

OE has a long and troubled history with compacting folders. In the most current version, OE compacts all folders automatically after you open and close the program 100 times. Compacting folders is absolutely essential for maintaining your files in good working order. Therefore,

  • Do not interrupt the process once it has begun.
  • It is best not to use your computer at all until the process is complete, which can take a few minutes.
  • Under no circumstances must you ever use Task Manager to kill the msimn.exe process, or put your computer on Standby, or turn off the power, or use a memory-intensive program while compaction is occurring. Any of those can cause destruction of your files and the loss of your messages.

If you don't like waiting for that 100th closing, you can compact all folders manually at any time. For best results always use this procedure:

  1. On the File menu, click Work Offline so that no new messages will be arriving.
  2. In the Folder list, click on Outlook Express so that no e-mail or news folder is open.
  3. Close the Folder list by clicking the X in the upper right-hand corner of the list panel. Alternatively you can click Layout on the View menu, and then clear the checkbox for "Folder List".
  4. On the File menu, point to Folder, and then click Compact All Folders. Do not use your computer until the process is complete, which might take several minutes.
  5. If an error occurs, close Outlook Express, re-open it, and begin the process again from the top. If the same error occurs again, close Outlook Express, restart your computer (or log off and then log on again), open Outlook Express and then begin the whole process again.

Unfortunately that does not reset the internal counter to zero, so OE will still compact after the 100th closing. You can edit the registry manually to reset the counter, or you can use OE Tool to compact all folders and reset the counter at the same time. To reset it manually:

  1. Close Outlook Express and all message windows.
  2. Click Start, click Run and type without quotes "regedit".
  3. Navigate to this key

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{GUID}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0

    where GUID is the long number used for your Identity.
  4. In the right-hand pane, double-click "Compact Check Count", then change the value to zero.

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Why can't I open attachments in OE6?

OE6 has a new security feature under Tools | Options | Security labeled Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus. You can turn this off long enough to save an attachment, but it is recommend that you then turn it back on for normal use. Beginning with OE6 Service Pack 1, this feature is enabled by default. For a much more detailed explanation, see OLEXP: Using Virus Protection Features in Outlook Express 6 (Q291387) and Cannot Open E-Mail Attachments in Outlook Express After You Install SP1.

For a quick and easy workaround to open an attachment while leaving the block enabled, click Message | Forward (or press Ctrl-F). That will open a new FW: window in which you can access the attachment. When you are finished, close the FW: window and click No when prompted to save.

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Why does OE block downloading of pictures after SP2?

SP2 adds a new feature to OE's Security Options to block automatic downloads of images and external content in HTML mail. This is to foil spammers from using web beacons to verify your email address. The block also helps those OE users who use dial-up connections to connect to the Internet from OE initiating a dial-up session when the user has hung up the modem. Prior to SP2, when a dial-up user opened a HTML email with embedded links to pictures or other content, OE would launch a dial-up connection in order to download the external content.

If OE has blocked images or other content that you wish to view, just click on the InfoBar at the top of the message body. If you wish to disable the block completely, and thus risk spammers verifying your email address, click Tools| Options| Security and clear the check box for Block images and other external content in HTML e-mail.

Note that the block affects some 3rd party utilities which rely upon external content stored on your hard disk, for example, OE-QuoteFix.

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Why is OE not saving copies of Sent Items?

That can happen if the Sent Items folder is damaged. Move all messages you might want to keep out of the Sent Items folder and into another mail folder you create. Close OE, then delete the file Sent Items.dbx in your Identity's store folder. OE will create a new one when you re-open OE.

In order to avoid this problem, it is best to move messages out of Sent Items and into another folder you create whenever the number of messages is over 1,000 or so. Note that a very large Sent Items folder can also make OE sluggish whenever you send mail.

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Why can't I print messages correctly?

OE uses the Internet Explorer print engine, so you have to configure IE for printing before you print in OE. To do that, open Internet Explorer and click File | Page Setup.

The print font size is also affected by Internet Explorer. If the font is too large or too small, change the text size in Internet Explorer by clicking View | Text Size and then try printing again.

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Why does OE delete news messages after n days?

OE deletes headers when they are removed from the server. If you wish to save news messages longer than they are retained on the server, drag them into a mail folder you create. You can still view threads by clicking View| Current View| Group messages by conversation. This is separate from the same view setting used in newsgroups.

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Why is the file Folders.dbx so big?

Folders.dbx stores the nesting order of mail folders, the synchronization options for all subscribed newsgroups, and the list of newsgroups for all news accounts. It is not unusual for Folders.dbx to be several megabytes in size, especially if you have multiple news accounts that carry a large number of newsgroups. For best results, you should compact your folders regularly. (see also: Maintenance and Improving Slow Newsgroups).

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Why does OE forget to add reply characters to some of my replies?

If the message to which you are replying was sent to you as MIME/Quoted Printable, the text of the message is formatted as paragraphs, not as lines, and therefore no reply characters will be added. This is a design issue, not a bug. It is simply the way Microsoft mail programs have always dealt with MIME/Quoted Printable.

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Why can't OE insert my signature after quoted text in replies?

Before the Internet became "the big thing", most email was found only inside corporate networks, almost all of which used proprietary mail protocols rather than standard Internet protocols. Microsoft Mail and Exchange Server were and are such proprietary systems. Many of these systems, including MS Mail, adopted the convention of placing quoted material at the bottom of a reply, below the signature. 

This makes sense in a corporate environment where email is used not so much to conduct a conversation but rather as a replacement for hand-written notes left on other employees' desks or messages left on an answering machine. Internet news on the other hand developed as a conversational tool, with lots of back-and-forth commenting, point by point arguments and such. In such a conversational environment, it makes much more sense to place quoted material at the top of a reply and the signature at the bottom. 

With OE, and its predecessor Internet Mail and News, Microsoft decided to be consistent with its other mail clients rather than Internet clients, and so quoted material is placed below the signature. If you prefer the signature at the bottom, turn off the auto-insert feature in  replies under Tools| Options|  Signatures by checking Don't add signatures to replies and forwards. Or uncheck Add signatures to all outgoing  messages to disable all auto-insert functions. Now open a new Mail Message and  double-click its toolbar, then add the Signature button. Close the message window and open a new News Message and again add the Signature button. Now you can just click the button and your signature will be inserted wherever you have placed the cursor. You can also press Ctrl-Shift-S for the default signature for that account, or Alt-I-S to select from all signatures.

 After years of ranting and pleading from MVPs and other OE users, MS finally added a hidden option to insert the signature at the end of a message after quoted text. This requires that you edit the registry, so the usual caveats apply.

  1. Close Outlook Express and all message windows.
  2. Click Start, click Run and type without quotes "regedit".
  3. Navigate to this key

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{GUID}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0

    where GUID is the long number used for your Identity.
  4. On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.
  5. Type without quotes but with blank spaces "Reply At End", and then press Enter.
  6. Double-click the new Reply At End value and enter 1, and then click OK.


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Why can't I set OE as the default email client? Why can't I Reply to Author in newsgroups? Why do I see a Choose Profile window when I Reply to Author in newsgroups?

All of these problems indicate that OE is not properly configured as the default email client on your computer. To be sure OE is the default mail client, close OE, click Start| Run and enter this command line, complete with quotes, spaces and the /reg switch:

      "C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\msimn.exe" /reg

Of course change the path if  you installed OE elsewhere.

Now click Start| Settings| Control Panel, double-click Internet Options, then click on the Programs tab, and verify that OE is now the default email client. (You can also get there from the IE Tools| Internet Options menu). Then open OE and click Tools| Options, and at the bottom of the General tab, verify that OE is set as the default. If it is, the "Make Default" button will be grayed out. If not, click the button.

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Why can't I move my OE5/6 files and address book to a folder on my network like I did with OE4?

Unlike OE4, OE5 and OE6 support the use of multiple Identities for each Windows User Profile. Because the Identities feature is dependent on registry values in the Current_User keys, it is almost impossible to share OE across a network. While it can be done by duplicating registry keys on all computers that you might use, this makes the store very unstable. That results in a very real chance of losing some email messages and an almost guaranteed chance of losing all your subscribed newsgroups. The OE Address Book is also tied to the Identities registry keys, and so can create problems when placed on a non-local fixed drive. Standalone WABs might be an alternative to consider. But if you need a network-aware email client, you really should use a client designed specifically for that environment, such as Outlook2000.

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Why do I receive the error message "No Sender Specified" even though my name looks right under Tools| Accounts| <account> Properties?

The account information is stored in the registry. If the entry there is corrupt and contains an unprintable character, your name will appear normal on your screen, but will be rejected by the news server. To fix it, click Tools| Accounts| <account> Properties, delete your name and email address, and then re-type them. If you still receive the error, remove the account, close OE, re-open OE and create the account again.

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Why don't my message rules work?

The most common cause of rules not working properly is due to a misunderstanding of how rules work. When a message first arrives, it is checked against the first rule in the list, then the second, then the third, etc. until it encounters the end of the list or the Action "stop processing more rules". This means that a message may be a hit for more than one rule! Not only that, a rule may specify more than one action (except those actions which stop the message from being downloaded at all). OE4 stopped processing rules automatically as soon as a message was a hit. If you install OE as an upgrade and select to import rules, many of your rules will stop working until you add "stop processing more rules"  to the list of Actions in that rule.

If you use a rule that moves a message to another folder, that rule must include "stop processing more rules" in order for the move to occur. Without the stop action, the message is checked against the rule, found to be a hit, but then is checked against all following rules. In order to be tested against rules, the message must remain in the Inbox, and so the desired move never occurs.

Another consideration is the order in which rules appear in the list. If a rule does not work, it is often a simple matter of moving the rule higher so that it is processed before other rules.

Using AND conditions instead of OR conditions is another common mistake. For example, suppose you want to prevent mail from friends from being processed by anti-spam rules (using rules to filter IN valid mail instead of trying to filter OUT junk mail). If your rule reads

Where the From line contains 'friend1' and 'friend2'
Stop processing more rules.

then your rule will never do anything at all because it is not possible for a mail message to have BOTH 'friend1' AND 'friend2' in the From line. The rule should read

Where the From line contains 'friend1' or 'friend2'
Stop processing more rules.

To switch between AND and OR in a condition, click on the blue underlined string to open the Add dialogue. After you have entered at least one item, the Options button will be available. Click that to select whether the conditions uses AND or OR. This is also where you can specify whether the rules applies when the string IS or IS NOT.

For examples of rules that you can actually use, see the Message Rules article in the Tips section.

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Why does OE try to install another language when I click on certain messages?

This occurs if the message was sent using a character set different from yours and you have enabled Install on Demand. To prevent this, either install the language requested, or click Tools| Options| Read| International Settings, and check Always use default encoding for all incoming messages. That will disable Install on Demand inside OE, but will leave it active in Internet Explorer. If you wish to disable it in IE also, do so under IE's Tools| Internet Options| Advanced.

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Why can't I import a *.wab file from another computer?

Starting with version 5.01, the Windows Address Book (WAB) changed significantly to provide support for Unicode, an international standard character set, despite the fact that this broke backwards compatibility with earlier versions of the WAB. If you open a *.wab file under OE5.01 or later, the file is automatically converted to support Unicode and so can no longer be read by OE5.0, the version that shipped with the original Windows98. If you uninstall OE5.01 or OE5.5 and then reinstall Win98, your WAB will be inaccessible. Upgrading to at least version 5.01 will allow you to access the WAB again. If that is not possible or desirable, you will have to copy your *.wab file to a machine running 5.01 or higher and export your contacts to a text file of type *.csv (comma separated values). You can then import that file into the OE5.0 WAB.

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Why can't I delete messages inside OE?

That can happen if the Deleted Items folder is damaged. Move all messages you might want to keep out of the Deleted Items folder and into another mail folder you create. Close OE, then delete the file Deleted Items.dbx in your Identity's store folder. OE will create a new one when you re-open OE.

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Why doesn't OE preview pictures any more?

This might be due to some minor corruption in the registry. Download this small registry file to your desktop and then double-click it to repair the image files keys needed for preview to function properly.

Download Imagefix.reg

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Why does OE show duplicate messages in my Hotmail or IMAP account?

That can happen if your Hotmail or IMAP account is the default mail account and OE is configured to both open directly to the Inbox (which downloads headers automatically) and check for new messages when starting (which also downloads headers automatically). To stop the duplicates, simply choose one option or the other, but not both. Click Tools | Options, then remove the check mark for When starting, go directly to my 'Inbox' folder OR the check mark for Send and receive messages at startup. If you already have duplicates showing, click Tools | Synchronize Account or Synchronize All.

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Why does OE always open such a small window?

Both OE and Internet Explorer remember the size of the last window used, but neither can remember a maximized window. If a window opens very small and you then maximize the window, OE and IE will remember the small size, not the maximized size. So instead of maximizing the window, just drag the corners of the window until it is large enough for you, then close the window. OE and IE will then remember that large, non-maximized size. Note that this problem does not occur on WindowsXP; it does remember maximized windows.

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