Backup Your Outlook Express Files

If you're like me, your e-mail messages and address book are the best record of your contacts and communications. I use Outlook Express, and was slightly shocked to find that the thousands of messages in dozens of folders and hundreds of names in my address book take up close to 200MB of disk space. And I reference them many times every day. If I were to lose them, I'd be more than slightly inconvenienced. And my only protection is a whole-system backup, since Outlook Express doesn't provide a way to back itself up.

Enter Express Assist, a $29.95 utility from Seem Software for Windows 95, 98, and NT, which offers a fast and easy solution. You can download a free 15-day trial version from the company's Web site. (Seem also offers a similar product--dubbed Backdora--for Eudora users.)

Express Installation
Express Assist installs in minutes, and it even keeps backups of all the files it replaces or updates so that you can uninstall it without fear, a feature missing from too many applications these days. Its interface is clean and easy to figure out. You choose to back up either everything (including message attachments) or specific Outlook Express folders. Then choose a destination, and off it goes. I backed up my Outlook files to an external Jaz drive. Express Assist creates a single compressed archive file that's about half the size of the total files. And you can restore as easily, including individual folders (or the address book) from the archive.

Once you've set up a default backup scheme, you can use the Fast Backup icon on your Windows desktop for one-click backup. I did find one bug. When I asked it to back up to my second hard drive, Express Assist blew up with an error message. It turned out that the program got confused when the destination for the archive had more than 2GB of free space. (My drive had 3GB free.) But the program's developer quickly delivered a patch that fixed the problem, and a company spokesperson says it will be immediately incorporated into the program.

Tweaks to Come
One minor gripe: When you choose a destination for your archive, Express Assist doesn't allow you to create a new subdirectory from within the program. That's not a huge problem; I brought up Windows Explorer and created a new directory in seconds. But the developer says subdirectory creation will be included in the next version of Express Assist, which will also support the upgrade to Outlook Express in the upcoming Internet Explorer 5.0. Of course, if you have a file compression utility (such as the popular WinZip) and are comfortable with writing batch files, you can set up a batch file that can do much the same thing as Express Assist. But finding the requisite Outlook Express files isn't easy (they're well hidden in several directories), batch file creation is becoming a lost art, and what's your time worth, anyway? For $29.99, Express Assist automates the process, wraps it all in a great interface, and offers peace of mind.

Source: PC World


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