Inside Outlook Express

Files and Settings

The Outlook Express Store Folder

and how to maintain it

How OE stores files on your hard disk

All of your OE mail folders and messages, local IMAP and Hotmail folders and messages, and all of your subscribed newsgroups and messages are stored in one folder called the store root, or store root folder, or store folder, and in at least one place in OE, the Store root directory. It's default location is

C:\Windows\Application Data\Outlook Express\{GUID}
C:\Documents and Settings\<User>\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{GUID}\Microsoft\Outlook Express

where {GUID} is the Global Unique IDentifier (technical jargon for a unique long number) used to specify an Identity. Depending on your operating system and upgrade history, your store folder might be located elsewhere. To determine the location of your store, click Tools| Options| Maintenance| Store folder.

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Outlook Express User Files

Opening the store root in Windows Explorer reveals a collection of *.dbx files. These are the files where all your messages are actually stored. The Folders.dbx file is the master index of the entire store. Likewise, the *.dbx files for the OE default mail folders will also be created if missing. If one of these folders stops working properly, deleting the corresponding *.dbx file will usually solve the problem. (Be sure to move the contents of those folders in OE before you attempt this). Special attention should be paid to the Inbox, Sent Items and Deleted Items folders. It is easy for these folders to grow extremely large. OE is not a dedicated database program, and can have problems with very large files, making them prone to corruption and data loss. For this reason alone, you should not use the Inbox to store messages. Instead, create other folders for storing mail and leave the Inbox for incoming mail. You should also make cleaning and compacting the Sent Items folder part of your regular maintenance. You can avoid a large Deleted Items folder by configuring OE to empty the Deleted Items folder automatically upon exiting. Do this under Tools| Options| Maintenance. If you choose to disable that, be sure to include Deleted Items in your regular maintenance.


This is the master index of an OE store folder and is required for OE to run. It stores the tree structure (nesting) of mail folders, the lists of newsgroups on each news account, and the synchronization options for all subscribed newsgroups and Hotmail folders. If it is missing when OE starts, OE will scan the store folder for all *.dbx files and then create a new Folders.dbx.

If Folders.dbx becomes corrupt, OE often stops displaying folders for existing *.dbx files, and sometimes will simply refuse to start. Also a bloated Folders.dbx can make OE run very slowly. Both problems can be repaired by closing OE and deleting Folders.dbx. Understand though that you will lose the mail tree structure, all lists of newsgroups, and all synchronization options, and that message rules will likely need to be edited.

Inbox.dbx Drafts.dbx
Sent Items.dbx Deleted Items.dbx

These are the default mail folders, created automatically if missing. Should one of these stop working, move all messages into another folder, close OE, and delete the corresponding *.dbx file.


This stores IMAP and Hotmail actions that you carry out offline, and are created only if an IMAP or Hotmail account exists


This keeps track of messages left on a POP3 mail server, and is created automatically if missing. If OE starts downloading the same mail that you've already read, close OE and delete this file.


This is created when automatic maintenance is enabled.


This represents a user-created mail folder and its messages. The number of folders is limited only by your disk space, but don't let any one folder grow above 2Mb or so or performance is likely to suffer.


This represents a newsgroup folder. All newsgroup folders are tied to the news account keys in the registry and so cannot normally be imported

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How to move your store folder

It is quite easy to move your store folder to a more convenient location, rather than buried in the Windows folder. First open Windows Explorer and create a folder you want OE to use for the new store, preferably on a separate local drive or partition. You cannot move the store to a network drive nor a removable drive.

With the new folder created, open OE and click Tools| Options| Maintenance, then click the Store Folder button. Click the Change button and Browse to your new folder. Click OK to close each dialogue, and then close OE. When you open OE again it will automatically move the old store to the new location.

Warning! Do NOT attempt to copy the store manually to the new location. This will only confuse OE and result in warnings that will confuse you. The automated move function works as expected, and is quite safe.

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