Moving the Mail Folder

In Outlook Express, Microsoft have done a pretty good job of hiding the location of the files that your emails are stored in. This makes it rather hard to back up your data files as you don't know where these data files are.

The location of your mail folder is actually stored in the registry and so if you are prepared to run regedit then you can find out where they are. If you are prepared to edit your registry then you can even change the location of your mail folder to where you want it to be.

First, finding out where your mail folder is. To start the registry editor select the Run option in the Start menu and then enter regedit and select Ok. Next select the HKEY_USERS entry as the information we are looking for is in a lower level within that part of the registry hierarchy.

The exact location of the data that you are looking for depends on which version of Windows you are running and what you have arranged for logging into the system. If you have multiple logons defined and/or multiple identities defined within Outlook Express then there will be multiple occurrences of the field you are looking for, one for each logon and one for each identity within each logon. The hierarchy under HKEY_USERS starts with the logon. With 95/98/SE/ME there will be one entry for default and one for each logon id that has actually been used showing the logon name. For NT/2000/XP there will be one for each logon id but they will each use an encrypted code in place of the logon name. Within this (for all operating systems) is a key called Identities and within this you will find one encrypted value for each identity that you have defined in Outlook Express.

From here it gets easier as the rest of the hierarchy is the same within each identity. The next level is Microsoft followed by Outlook Express and then one with a version number (I found 5.0 on both SE and NT with Outlook Express 6 installed on both so it is not the current version number).

You need to double click on this entry and then scroll down looking for an entry (in the right hand panel this time) called Store Root. The name to the right of this entry is the location of the mail folder for this identity for this logon id.

An easier way to get there perhaps is to select HKEY_USERS then press ctrl-f to bring up the find dialog and search for Store Root. You can then check where you are in the left pane to check that you are looking at Outlook Express and to see which logon id and identity the information belongs to.

So now you know where Outlook Express stores your emails. What if we want to change this location to another easier to remember spot on our system (eg. C:\mail). Well there are two steps to do this and it doesn't really matter which order you do them in as long as you do both correctly. Let's start with moving the folder itself (since once we change the registry entry we wont remember where the folder currently is). Using your preferred folder navigation method (My Computer, Explorer, or a third party tool) navigate to the folder identified by the name in the Store Root field. (eg, if the field contains c:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Identities\{1B7....E2C}\Outlook Express\ then go into the C drive then into the Windows folder then the Application Data folder within that and then the Identities folder within that then the {1B7....E2C} folder within that and select the Outlook Express folder within that). Go into the folder and select all of the files within the folder. Either right click and select Cut or select Cut from the Edit menu. Now navigate to the location where you want to move the mail folder to (create the folders as you go if they don't exist) and then paste the files that you cut to their new location.

Next we need to change the entry in the registry. The entry will be updated immediately in the registry database so you hopefully will back up the registry before you start. You will need to Right click on Store Root and select Modify from the context menu (or select Modify from the Edit menu) to bring up the current value in an editable field and overtype the entry with the new drive and folder name where you want to move your mail folder.

The next time that you open Outlook Express you will be accessing the mail in its new location so if your existing mail doesn't appear double check these two steps to make sure that the name in the Store Root field matches exactly with the folder hierarchy that you moved the mail folder into.

Note that making the above changes does not move your address book, that's a whole separate task and the entry in the registry isn't in Identities, its in WAB then WAB4 then WAB File Name with the entry called {Default}. If you are going to move this then the last part of the name is the actual filename and needs to have the .wab on the end for it to work. You will still find one entry for each logon id.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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