Outlook Express: Bloated E-Mail Files

If you use Outlook Express regularly, you might already be familiar with
"DBX" files. If not, here's the idea: Outlook Express stores all of your
mail and newsgroup data - i.e. the contents of your mail and newsgroup
folders - in special files ending in ".dbx". If you don't do regular
housekeeping, your DBX files will grow larger and larger. This Tip focuses
on maintaining mail folders.

A larger DBX file obviously uses more disk space; it also slows down
operations that access the file. In addition, a larger file is at a greater
risk of becoming corrupted; if that happens, you may lose all the data it
contains. Not to worry: this Tip will help you prevent your DBX files from
growing too large.

1. Basic Mail DBX housekeeping

Deleting email messages from a folder doesn't actually shrink the
corresponding DBX file, but it does open up space that new mail can occupy.
Saving email attachments you want to retain outside of Outlook Express and
deleting them from the email messages that brought them likewise frees up
space. Both these steps, performed regularly, will help constrain the
growth of your mail DBX files. You should also compact your DBX files
occasionally as described below; this actually shrinks them, provided that
there is free space to eliminate (i.e. you have done the housekeeping chores
prior to compacting).

2. Is it time to compact?

To determine the size of your DBX files, you'll need to locate them using
your computer's built-in search feature: go to Start -> Search, choose
"Files or folders", and in the search name field, type "*.dbx". Your search
should turn up one DBX file for each Outlook Express folder (including
newsgroups if you use them), plus one called "folders.dbx". If more than
one person uses Outlook Express on your computer, your search will turn up
more than one set; yours are the files stored under your Windows logon name.
Note the entries in the "size" column of the search window.

There are no authoritative guidelines for what size is "too big", or for
how often you should compact. Here's our take: if you routinely get lots of
mail and/or keep tens of thousands of messages, you should compact at least
monthly. Lower-volume users can get by with compacting less often. If you
find Outlook Express running slower and slower, try compacting.

3. Compacting your DBX files

Once you've decided that it's time to compact, do basic housekeeping first
to gain the maximum benefit. Also halt all other programs. Be aware that
compacting a large .dbx file can take a *long* time.

Go to Folder/View/Layout/Folder list, and click Outlook Express so that no
folder is open. Then click File/Work Offline so that no new messages arrive
while you are compacting. Then compact as follows:

To compact all folders (including newsgroups), go to File/Folder/Compact
all folders.

To compact a single mail folder, click once on the folder to select it,
then click File/Folder/Compact.

For more on Outlook Express maintenance, including more on newsgroup
folder maintenance, go to http://insideoe.tomsterdam.com/files/maintain.htm.

This article provided courtesy of Shulman Clark Associates - Ann Arbor, MI - Providing Practical Technology Services For Small Business