How to Recover Deleted Messages From Outlook Express

Written by jay leon
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How to Recover Deleted Messages From Outlook Express
Find your lost e-mail. (e-mail image by Hao Wang from

If you delete important messages in Outlook Express, do not panic. All is not lost. When a message is deleted within the program, most likely it is not really erased, only removed from display so the application will run faster. To permanently erase deleted messages, Outlook Express resorts to compacting, which it reminds you to do on a regular basis. Do not compact folders if you want to recover your messages. Stop all mail activity and try one of several remedies to get back your precious data.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Outlook Express
  • Outlook Express mail recovery software

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  1. 1

    Check the "Deleted items" folder within Outlook Express to see if the deleted messages are still there. Move them back to their original folder(s). This is the easiest way to undelete mail in the program.

  2. 2

    Open the "Deleted Items" mailbox file with extension ".dbx" in Notepad or Word. You will find it in Outlook Express's Store Folder location. Search for a unique key word or key phrase that you know is in the deleted message you want to recover. When you find it, you will see strange characters in the message, but the body text should be readable. Copy the text from start to end of the message. Paste into a new document and save with file extension ".eml" (viewable by different e-mail programs) or plain text file. This method lets you view simple messages but not included attachments.

  3. 3

    Recover the mailbox's backup file. If you lost your messages during compacting, you may be able to recover them from a backup file. Exit Outlook Express and open the Recycle Bin. Look for the backup file of the folder you want to recover messages in. It will have the same name as the folder except its extension will be ".bak" instead of ".dbx." Restore the backup file to bring it back to Outlook Express's Store Folder. Browse to the Store Folder and move the corresponding DBX file there to a different location such as the Desktop. Change the backup file's extension to ".dbx" (without quotes). Launch Outlook Express and check if your messages have been restored. You can delete the other DBX file afterward.

  4. 4

    Download and install an Outlook Express mail-recovery application. This type of application will scan your Outlook Express's DBX files for recoverable messages. If the messages can be restored, the program will export them to another format, such as EML, that can be read by e-mail clients including Outlook and Windows Mail. Not all files can be recovered.

Tips and warnings

  • Back up your Outlook Express messages regularly.
  • You can find out what the Store Folder is by choosing "Tools" > "Options" > "Maintenance." Click on "Store Folder." By default it is "C:\Documents and Settings\Kipu\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\userid\Microsoft\Outlook Express" where "userid" is a series of characters that identify your user profile.
  • Not all deleted messages are recoverable. If you use a mail-recovery application, it will tell you which messages can be restored, if any.
  • Stop using Outlook Express as soon as you realise you deleted messages by accident. If OE keeps running, it may write to the space where your messages are and they will be lost. Do not send or receive new mail, and not do not move messages between folders. Exit the program.

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