Software

Compress a stubborn Outlook Express Inbox

In this guest post, TR member Jan Martin Lund shares a tip for working around the Inbox size limitations in Microsoft Office Outlook Express. Be sure to share your tips and tricks in the discussion thread.
This guest post was written by TR member Jan Martin Lund.

Recently, I was confronted with an Inbox (Outlook Express / Windows XP) that would not compress or receive new messages. I found out that it had surpassed a probable size limit of 2 GB.

The only solution I found to cope with the problem was to move all messages, distributing them into two temporary folders. Then the completely empty Inbox would compress normally and resume accepting messages. If necessary, messages can then be moved back from the temporary folders -- respecting the size limit.

I hope this little trick can help somebody out in a similar setting.

Do you have any tips or tricks for working around Inbox size limitations in Microsoft Office Outlook Express? Please share them in the discussion thread.

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

10 comments
bhwong1
bhwong1

The 2 folders that always exceed 2GB is inbox and send item. What I always do is to create a new folder for each of them (inbox1 and send item1 etc) for my end users and drag a unwanted email inside so that OE will create a new file for that folder, next I quit OE, delete the new folders and rename inbox and send item into these new folder names. When I reopen OE, it will automatically recreate an empty folder for inbox and send item while taking the original inbox and send item as the new folder. This save me hours of not having to move old emails to the new folders and not having to recompress the original folder.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Unsure why you'd still want to use Outlook Express. It barely supported by Microsoft. it has problems with large DBX files. It is an antique. It has little security options. At least go to Windows Live Mail which properly supports multiple mailboxes, junk mail filter, handles newer standards, calendar, extensive contact features, etc.

glnz
glnz

Not directly on point, but I've been using a free OE backup utility called "Outlook Express Quick Backup (OEQB)", which is available at http://www.oehelp.com/OEBackup/Default.aspx So far, I have been making only backups and never had an occasion to restore one of them. So, if you use this and do a Restore, I'm curious to hear your opinion. In general, OE is a bit of a pain for backup, compacting, etc. Whenever I get the prompt to compact and hit OK, it ends with an error message that the folder is in use. Well, duh.

Reddog51
Reddog51

This is also a problem that occurs if the 'Sent' folder reaches the 2GB limit except that it impacts the user by leaving sent messages in the OUTBOX folder. The resolution involves removing/renaming the OUTBOX folder on the drive and when OE is reopened a new 'Sent' folder is created and the OUTBOX empties.

l_creech
l_creech

The simplest way to permanently avoid the problem is to teach end-users to sort mail into folders based on content. The few customers I have still using OE sort based on who mail is from or by subject matter. This can be done using rules or manually based on individual preference. Since the size limitation is a folder size constraint, the filing process virtually eliminates any problems as OE treats each folder individually unlike the full blown Outlook which keeps everything in a single PST file unless you create an archive. FWIW, Windows Live Mail has similar behavior to OE and much better junk mail filtering if you can talk users into upgrading. WLM will import all mail accounts and folder structures from OE.

ctdak
ctdak

I use both Outlook Express and Windows Live Mail and far prefer OE. OE has more user setting options, such as always opening to the Inbox, and whether or not to permanently delete mail upon closing. It's extremely irritating that WLM opens to the folder you were last in, and goes to the last message you were looking at in a folder when you go back there instead of always going to the latest one. Little things like this make a difference to the user's experience. Also, when you import OE folders into WLM it creates a whole second set of standard folders (outbox, sent items, deleted items, etc) that are there permanently. There are plenty of reasons to stick with Outlook Express. It's just plan more user friendly.

lund
lund

When this happens, try to close OE and immediately restart it. Then compress the folders again. This normally does the trick. I have found out that it may happen if a message just comes in during compression or something like that.

wb8mwr
wb8mwr

Thanks to '88Fan' and others, I now know why I'll stick to OE. " OE treats each folder individually unlike the full blown Outlook which keeps everything in a single PST file". I've always sorted or deleted my mail, including my sent mail. If there is any question that I may want to refer to it later it is sorted into a subject or person folder. I may not do the sorting immediately, but eventually I decide to save in a separate folder or double delete. WB8MWR

gpopkey
gpopkey

When I compact my folders, I too get the "Folder in Use" message but for me (XP Pro and OE6) it seems to occur only after my wife has done a "switch user" to logon to an ID I had set up for her on the system and while I have left the computer temporarily while OE6 was still running. After she has logged off and I resume operations on OE6 and then do a Compact all Folders - only then the Folder in Use comes up. When this occurs though, the only way I can clear it is to logoff, shutdown and then a cold reboot. A Restart after I logoff does not always clear the problem.

l_creech
l_creech

I can't say I would advise sticking with OE as it is no longer supported or patched, thus the reason I mentioned upgrading to Windows Live Mail. WLM is still supported through 2014 on Windows XP, and can be easily migrated to Windows Vista, 7, and I presume 8 when it releases. In the full blown Outlook you can create folders to sort into, they just don't get filed seperately in Windows. Another item to note is that current versions of Outlook aren't limited to a 2GB file size limit anymore.

Editor's Picks