Outlook Express

Outlook Express – Disappearing Inbox Messages

Last week I was sent to a client to fix some Outlook Express 6 problem. On one of the staff’s PC, the Outlook Express is acting weird – two months worth of inbox messages mysteriously disappear. I have no choice but to visit the client’s office to fix the problem on site.

Extracting DBX files

What I do as first step was to backup the messages (DBX files) and try to extract the Inbox.dbx file and find the missing messages one by one. With 4,000 messages, I couldn’t find the missing messages (Jan 12 – Mar 4 2011). I have tried my Google Kung-Fu but still no idea what had happen.

I learn that in any DBX file (where messages are stored), deleted files are just marked as DELETED and stay on the file as long as the user didn’t compact the messages. I tried installing extracting tools here and there but still I cannot get back the missing messages.

More on compacting

As more backup I create and more tests made, there was an annoying popup messages on Outlook Express that says that it can save disk space by compacting messages. If I click OK, it will compact the messages. Given that MS softwares are really annoying, I did not dare to click OK as to not to complicate the problem.

I have read somewhere not to follow that advice from Microsoft (to compact messages) because it will actually cause you trouble – ex: it can corrupt your DBX files or you will now lost your chance to recover your messages.

The problem

The annoying popup message is still occasionally popping up. I was thinking the the user may have compacted the messages which results into this problem. I also learn that when Outlook Express compacts the messages, it creates backup of the DBX file.

After three (3) hours, I happen to open Recycle Bin where it contains a lot of DBX files. One of the file is Inbox.dbx which is 1.6GB size. The current Inbox.dbx is just 600MB, therefore it may be the backup created after compacting the messages. Good thing the user is not stupid enough to clear her Recycle Bin.


Based on my previous post, I restored back the old Inbox.dbx and finally found the missing messages. Exhausted I am, I didn’t bother merging the messages, but I just created a new Folder and point the old Inbox there.

3 thoughts on “Outlook Express – Disappearing Inbox Messages”

  1. Very nice solution. Found the backup copy of inbox in Recycle Bin with .bak extension, restored it and changed it back to .dbx

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