Longtime subscriber Peter wrote recently from the U.K. to ask about an Outlook Express problem he’s having:
Hi Terry, Many thanks for the latest issue of your newsletter, which always arrives here in the UK on a Sunday evening – a great time for reading it through.
My question is: Do you know a way of permanently stopping Outlook Express from compacting all its stored files? Every so often OE pops up a dialog asking if it can do this and if I let it go ahead it then makes a complete pigs mess of all my folders.
Very old deleted e-mails suddenly reappear in the Inbox folder bolded as unread, with dates months before the real latest message, although they drop in after it – so it has apparently also managed to mess up the date sort order, something I thought a computer couldn’t do.
Some other stored messages get wiped altogether. Once even a message I know I had deleted permanently (by emptying the Deleted folder) three years ago managed to resurface!
I’ve tried ignoring the kind offer to compact but it simply tiresomely pops up again quite soon afterwards until I give in. Even Microsoft’s use of the word "compact" sounds as dodgy as the process — more usual terminology would surely be "compress" or even "zip".
My computer has a 1 terabyte hard drive so the whole idea of zipping the OE folders is completely unnecessary in any case. I have Windows XP running the version of OE that matches Internet Explorer 7.
Many thanks, Peter
I wrote back to Peter to say that he had apparently misunderstood some of my articles, for example When I delete an email, it’s gone — right?. I’ve written several times about how email programs store messages, and what happens (and does not happen) when you delete an email and then empty the Deleted Items folder.
The misunderstanding is obvious from his sentence: "Once even a message I know I had deleted permanently (by emptying the Deleted folder) three years ago managed to resurface! "
Outlook Express does not work that way. Really, no PC email program does. All that step does is to mark the message, while still in the Outlook Express email data file, to be purged the next time the folders are compacted.
Yes, compacted is the correct word — not compressed nor zipped.
When you compact the folders, the actual computer file is rewritten, from the beginning, leaving out all the messages that were marked to be purged.
Peter’s real problem is that his Outlook Express data file seems to be corrupted, since he’s having messages reappear and other saved messages vanish.
The only permanent way I know to keep Outlook Express from compacting folders is to delete it! Of course, if you upgrade to Vista or Windows 7, Outlook Express won’t do that any more, either — since it’s not available for Vista or Windows 7.