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38. Reader can download e-mail backup systems

By Mark Alberstat

Dear Mousepad: I want to move my e-mail from one machine to another but don't want to simply forward e-mail to myself. How can I do this? Also, should I occasionally back up my e-mail?

- R. Sandness, Porters Lake

Remembering which programs you had on your machine after a bad crash or an unexpected reformat can be a challenge. After a few days, however, you pretty much have all your programs back. It's two weeks later when you go to retrieve that forgotten password out of your saved mail, or try to find an invoice for your last online purchase, that the loss of your stored mail can really hit you like a ton of spam.

Luckily, there are several programs that can help you back up your mail, especially if you use Outlook or Outlook Express, the two Microsoft e-mail clients. Many people use Outlook Express, as it is freeware that can be easily downloaded and also comes bundled with Internet Explorer. There are also versions of Express available for the Mac (OS 8.1 and 9.x).

The first and easiest way to offline, but store, important e-mail is to copy them from your e-mail client to a folder on your hard drive. Then burn the contents of that folder to a CD, if you have a burner. Almost all e-mail clients will allow you to save a message out of the client and to a folder or disk. This backup solution will save those e-mails in a more or less permanent format that can be referred to if need be. If you are a well-organized person you can divide your e-mail into differently named folders, which will help your later search.

Microsoft Outlook offers you the ability to export your messages to a variety of file formats. This can be useful if you have a new machine and want to migrate your mail. To do this, simply export your files and addresses, save this file to a disk, and import them on the new machine. The in-between format, however, does not lend itself to you viewing the e-mails. They are in a format that can be read in and reformed as messages but they are no longer e-mail messages until they are imported again.

Microsoft support has a page with good instructions on how to back up your Outlook Express data, including the mail, address book, mail and newsgroup account information. The process, however, is not a very straightforward one and could be daunting to many users who would prefer a separate program that easily steps them through the task.

A quick search of downloadable programs shows several that can back up Outlook. A similar search for products that can back up mail on a Mac resulted only in programs that could be used as a basic data backup tool. These products ranged in price from free, to shareware, to demo models of full pay-software.

Most backup programs, whether for e-mail or of a more general nature, should have some type of scheduler feature that helps you automate this mundane but necessary task.

One of the more popular and full-featured backup programs for Outlook Express is e-Backup from This software is shareware and remains fully functional after the 90-day trial period.

Another powerful backup manager is by Genie-soft. Although not cheap at $49.95 US for a single-user licence, this software package can back up a lot more than just e-mail. If you are looking for a Windows-based backup solution, this package may fit the bill.

Following are some related links:

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 11 July 2004


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