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Compacting Outlook Express

I use Outlook Express and an annoying little thing started happening recently. Every time I close OE down, a message pops up that says “To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact your messages. This may take up to a few minutes.” What does this mean exactly and should I do it or not? Please help!

This is an excellent question. I too use Outlook Express here at the office and this same thing happened to me awhile back as well. I really didn’t know why it just suddenly started happening and to be honest with you, for quite some time, I just hit Cancel on the pop up message. I just wanted to get rid of it. Well, come to find out, I should have listened to the message. Let me explain.

We all delete e-mails from our Inbox on a daily basis, don’t we? Then most of us probably go on to delete those e-mails out of the Deleted Items folder as well. That way, they’ll all be gone for good, right? Well, not exactly. Outlook Express works in the same way as your hard drive when you’re trying to delete something from your regular system. Even though we think we’ve deleted the information completely, it sticks around until it is covered up with something else.

So, when you delete the e-mails from your Deleted Items folder, they actually go to the Outlook Express store folder (the .dbx folder) and even though you can’t see them, they are still there, taking up space. This is when compacting steps in. When you see the compact message, you may think it’s just going to cut down your e-mails in size a little, but do nothing else. Well, in all actuality, when you compact, the e-mails that are now in your store folder are removed. This then allows for extra e-mail storage space and more than likely, faster e-mail service in the way OE opens, closes and runs in general.

Now, Outlook Express will automatically compact your messages for you after the 100th time of opening and closing the program. As you can see from the above information, it is essential that you let the compact process go, in order to keep your e-mail program working correctly. So, when the compacting starts, don’t interrupt it. Just let it finish. It should only take a few minutes and then your Outlook Express will be up and running just like new.

Okay, so what if you get the message when you’re trying to shut your computer down for the day? It’s not really in your best interest to wait around for it to complete, so what else can you do? Well, you can do the compacting at any time and when it’s best for you. You may want to do it on a lunch break or when you’re not going to be using your computer for awhile.

To get started, go to File and choose Work Offline. This will ensure that no new messages come through while the compact is running. You should also turn off any other programs you have going, but you can keep your firewall and antivirus software on. Now, you should also back up your e-mail before you begin this process, just in case you happen to lose any important e-mails. This is up to you, but read here for a quick way to get the backup done. Once you’re done with the backup, go to File, Folder and choose Compact All Folders. Again, once that starts, don’t mess with it until it’s done. Just let it run and like I said before, it should only take a few minutes.

Now, there might be some times when you just want to compact one folder at a time. That’s no problem either. To do that, select the folder you want to compact (Inbox, Outbox, etc.) by just clicking and highlighting it in the left side panel on the main page of your Outlook Express. Next, go to File, Folder and select Compact. That will then compact only that one single folder. This should be done if you make big changes to a particular folder.

Also, just in case you were wondering; when you do a complete compact on all of your folders, Outlook Express starts with all of your e-mail and news folders and it finishes up with the store .dbx folder, which is where all your deleted e-mails sit. On a final note, you should make it a monthly routine to compact all of your folders, because it really will help with your e-mail’s speed and performance and you can’t beat that!

~ Erin