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All You Ever Wanted to Know About Compacting Folders & Messages in Outlook Express

People have asked how to stop the request from Outlook Express to compact messages, and if a user checks "do not show this message again" will let it just compact when OE thinks it needs to be done, or will it stop compacting on demand? The reason for the concern with compacting messages, is that you cannot shut down while compacting is in process or it will corrupt one or all of your Outlook Express message folders. A sudden power outage is the worse case scenario.. I know, I had this happen but luckily I had my mail backed up from the day before so I only lost one day of messages.
Outlook Express used to have an option to check to compact messages, but that has been removed (or omitted?) from latest version. It is important to note that did not apply to message (email) folders anyway; it was an option for newsgroups messages. I have yet to find an option to turn this off for Outlook Express, but do have some information and options regarding compacting.

1. I was under the assumption that compacting meant just that.. compacting as in size. This is not what happens though! Every time you read an email and delete it, it is still in the dbx (Outlook Express store folder) even though you cannot "see it". When you compact, it then removes it from the dbx folder, which in turn will show a marked improvement in the speed that Outlook Express opens/closes/runs.

2. Outlook Express will try to compact every 100th time you use it; this could come at an inopportune time since you are usually shutting down for the day when you get this message, so do this:

    a.  Open Outlook Express and click File, Work Offline so that no new mail comes while backing up or compacting.  Turn off all other running programs (leave your firewall and antivirus on though!)

    b.  Make sure you back up your email! If you accidentally shut down while it is compacting, or if you have a power outage while compacting, you will lose your email. Cloudeight's Email Backup Guardian comes in real handy here :)   Just before you compact, tell Guardian to do a backup "just in case" of an accidental or unexpected shut down.

    c.  Now you are ready to do the actual compacting. Click at the very top of your folder view list on the left (Where it says Local Folders). Choose File, Folders, and Compact All folders. Do not touch your machine or open any programs while compacting... if you have never done this, it may take a few minutes. When complete, you should be all set for awhile!

Make it a routine to do once a month, so the unexpected does not happen. Going too long without compacting can and will cause your email program to become sluggish and eventually your mail will become corrupt. You cannot turn off this feature and remember, Outlook Express will compact automatically after you have opened and closed Outlook Express 100 times. You can cancel it but you the message will come up each time you close down Outlook Express until you do compact it. So, by doing it once a month, you can control when it needs to be done!

Finally, to keep things going smooth, here is something else you may want to do if you make a number of changes to a particular folder:  You can always compact a single folder by pointing to Folder on the File menu, and then clicking Compact. This is recommended every time you make large changes to any folder. But in order to compact "Folders.dbx", the crucial index of the Store Folder, you must instead click Compact All Folders. Outlook Express will first compact all your e-mail and news folders, and will finish by compacting "Folders.dbx".

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