Back Up Your Email Box Before It is Too Late

When so many of us rely so much on our email to operate our
businesses or our personal lives, it is important to take
preventative measures to avoid the ultimate disaster of
unrecoverable email.

I come to this subject as a matter of multiple events on my
machine where one day I would open my mail to discover that
all has been lost. The pit that wells in your stomach upon
realization of this occurrence can be overwhelming. To recover
in the event of future losses, each of us should learn the
basics of maintaining and backing up our email.

One of the important things to do in preventative maintenance,
is to clean your folders and to empty your trash. Most people
do not realize that when the number of messages in a specific
folder exceeds a certain threshold that they begin running on
borrowed time.

Exactly where that threshold is varies from email client to
email client, so what may be true for mine may be different
for yours. Personally, I use the Netscape 4.x Email Client
for security reasons more than anything. The Netscape 4.x
Email Client is less susceptible to JavaScript attacks than
any other email client I have used.

What I do know is that I have repeatedly pushed my client to
its limits to see where the threshold might be. The Netscape
4.x Email Client will generally break at around 4,500 email
messages in one folder, though it will become shaky at around
2,000 messages.

For users of other clients such as Outlook Express, Eudora and
others, I cannot tell you the top end of how well the software
will perform.

If there are more than 2,000 messages you wish to hang on to,
you should begin filing your messages in separate folders
below the Inbox. This will help you to find your messages
quicker and it will provide more stability to your email
client.

There are three folders that you must pay regular attention
to. They are the Inbox, Sent Mail Folder and Trash Folder.

Most people fail to remember that their client is pre-configured
to save a copy of all outgoing email. As a result, this folder
can grow to unbelievable sizes before anyone thinks to clean it
out.

It is important to mention the Trash Folder in more detail
since most people do not realize how it works.

Most email clients follow a general principle in their
operation. Each email box is generally represented by two
files. The first is a text rendering of all messages in the
box. The second is an indexing file that lists the title of
the email and other identifying characteristics relative to
each individual message.

When you look at the contents of your email box, you are
actually seeing the contents of the indexing file. When you
pull up the text of an actual message, the software is finding
the message in the message file according to the software
assigned Email ID as listed in the indexing file.

Now, when you move a message from one folder to another,
including into the Trash Folder, the only thing that actually
moves is the listing in the indexing file! This is important
to understand. A message moved to the Trash Folder has not
been deleted from the origination folder. In fact, the message
is just where it originated until you do the command Compress
Folders or Empty Trash Folder.

The Empty Trash Folder command will only compress the messages
for the item that is in the Trash Folder. In order to do the
same for your entire email system, you must use the command
Compress Folders.

The simple action of sending email to the trash without
compressing the folders or simply emptying the trash can also
lead to great destabilization of your email client. So please
take great care to maintain your email client software as it
should be.

If there is one thing that I have learned with computers, one
should always prepare for the worst case scenario. Always! In
order to be fully prepared for the worst case scenario with
your email, you should do regular backups of your mail folders.

Here I will explain how to do that outside of the email
client's process for this purpose. I am also explaining how
to do so only for Outlook Express and Netscape Mail. I have
never ran an Eudora client at the times I was exploring this
scenario.

FOR OUTLOOK EXPRESS USERS:

In your windows Explorer, you will find a folder, most likely
with this precise name. The only difference you might see is
in the Application Key as noted between the {}.

C:WINDOWSApplication DataIdentities
{B074ABA0-9FFF-11D4-AE87-FE1E7BFD5248}MicrosoftOutlook Express

When you navigate to this folder, this is the default location
where your Outlook Express Email is stored. Simply highlight
the last folder, "Outlook Express" and copy it to another
location. In most cases, this folder will be way too large
to copy to a Floppy Drive. Most likely, you will need to
copy it to a Zip drive or another location on your hard drive.

You can also save the individual *.dbx files, which outline
the contents of each of your mail boxes, the Inbox, the
Outbox, etc.

If you are really bored, you can send the *.dbx file to Wordpad
to view the actual format of a mailbox from a text standpoint.
You can use this only in a worst case scenario to attempt to
rebuild a broken mail box. Always make backups of the file
before trying to repair it by hand --- Always!!!

FOR NETSCAPE MAIL USERS:

The location of the mail storage is:
C:Program FilesNetscapeUsersusernameMail

Of course, replace "username" with your username.

Within the Netscape Mail system, you will discover three file
types: *.sbd, *.snm, and (blank).

The *.sbd is a folder that contains all of your sub-folders.
The *.snm is the indexing file of your email. The (blank), ie.
"Inbox" without an extension, is your actual mail messages
recorded in plain text. You can also send these files to your
Wordpad application to view the contents. Do not save this
file when you close it unless you are trying to rebuild your
box, and if so, always make sure you have a backup before
doing so.

If you delete the *.snm, the *.snm file will rebuild itself
the next time you open your Netscape Mail application.

Taking these precautions and knowing this information, you will
never have to chance losing all of your important emails again.
The time you take today to backup your email box can save you
the worst nightmare ever. Trust me, I have been there.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill Platt owns The Phantom Writers, a company committed to
helping people to establish an Internet presence & promote their
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