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Dealing with an SNMaster.idx Error Message

I keep getting an error message when I start my computer. It says “The snmaster idx file database file is missing, please restore this file”. What’s this all about? Can I restore it? Error: Missing or Corrupt SNMaster.idx. What Do I do!?

Do you start your computer up every day, greeted by a message notifying you that your “SNMaster.idx” file is missing, and needs to be restored? Do you have problems connecting to the internet, or using AOL instant messenger? Even if you don’t use AIM, do you have AOL installed on your computer? If you find yourself confronted with the above error message, then you most definitely have AOL installed on your computer, and if you are not yet having problems using AOL or its related programs, it is highly likely you will begin to experience issues with it in the future.


SNMaster.idx is an important data file used by AOL to store various bits of program information essential to running the AOL software and its numerous components. As such, when the SNMaster.idx file goes missing, AOL will attempt to access it (usually automatically when Windows first starts,) and when it does not find it, will display a message asking you to restore this missing file. When this happens, you will want to replace this file ASAP, to prevent any data loss or further problems with your AOL installation. Luckily for us, AOL provides a backup SNMaster.idx file with every installation of AOL, all you have to do is find it . . .

To recover the backup SNMaster.idx file, and fix the “missing SNMaster.idx” issue, follow these steps:

(Note: These instructions detail methods used to find the SNMaster.idx file in Windows 7, finding the SNMaster.idx file in previous versions of Windows can also be done in a similar fashion, with slight variations of some of the methods outlined below.)

1. Navigate to your C: drive by clicking the Start button, followed by the Computer or My Computer button/icon.

2. Double click the C: drive icon

3. Click the Organize button. In the menu which appears, click Folder and search options.

4. The Folder Options menu box will appear. Click the View tab and make sure Show hidden files, folders, and drives is selected. If it is not, select it and then click the Apply to Folders button followed by the Apply button.

5. Click the Search tab, and be sure the following options are selected:

– Always search files names and contents
– Include subfolders in search results when searching in file folders
– Find partial matches
– Include system directories
– Include compressed files (ZIP, CAB…)

If any of the above options are not selected, select them and click the Apply button.

6. Click OK to set and close your folder search options.

7. In the Search Location search box (in the upper right corner of your Folder display) type in SNMaster.idx and hit the Enter key.

8. Windows will search your C: drive for the SNMaster.idx file. This may take a couple minutes so, as they say, feel free to grab a coffee/soda/beer while you wait.

9. Once Windows search has completed, you will see all found instances of the SNMaster.idx file. If there are multiple copies of SNMaster.idx on your hard drive, you will see them all displayed in the search window.

10. Click the folder view options button, and select the Details view setting. The search results window will update to show various attributes of your SNMaster.idx file(s.)

11. Take note of the Folder file attribute column. This column will show you the location of your SNMaster.idx file(s.) If you have multiple SNMaster.idx files displayed, they will likely all be in different folders, which will be displayed under the Folder file attribute. In this example, we see two SNMaster.idx files in the “backup” folders found under the two paths (C:\ProgramData\AOL\C_AOL 9.5) and (C:\ProgramData\AOL\C_AOL 9.5a). At the end of each file location path is the AOL program folder named after its corresponding version number (C_AOL 9.5 and C_AOL 9.5a) Select the SNMaster.idx file which is located in the folder with the latest version number, either denoted by the highest number, or the highest letter at the end of the file path. In this case, you would choose the SNMaster.idx file from C_AOL 9.5a.

12. Once you have selected the latest SNMaster.idx file, right click it and select Open file location from the context menu. Your search results window will update to display the “backup” folder containing SNMaster.idx and its related files.

(Note: If you are unable to find the Open file location link in your right click context menu, you can alternatively get to the AOL file location folder by typing the entire path (C:\ProgramData\AOL\C_AOL 9.5a\backup) into the address bar at the top of your folder search window and hitting the Enter key.

13. Right click the SNMaster.idx file, and select Copy from the context menu which appears.

14. In the folder address bar, click on C_AOL 9.5a to move up one folder level, then find and open the “idb” folder.

15. Right click inside the “idb” folder and select Paste from the context menu. If the SNMaster.idx file is missing from this folder, the backup copy will appear after the Paste operation is complete. If, however, there is an old or corrupt SNMaster.idx file already in the “idb” folder, the Copy File dialog will appear. From this dialog, select Copy and Replace to overwrite the old SNMaster.idx file with your “untouched” backup version.

16. Close all windows, and restart your computer.

Once windows starts up, you should no longer see any error messages referencing SNMaster.idx, and any AOL programs which were dependent on this file to run properly should be working correctly once again. In the unlikely event that you still receive a SNMaster.idx error message, consider uninstalling your AOL software and re-installing a newer version if possible. For further information on this procedure, consult your AOL help files.

~ J. Conboy