Windows Vista : Maintaining Windows Mail

9/1/2012 3:29:04 AM
For the most part, Windows Mail is a set-it-and-forget-it application. After the program and your accounts have been set up, you can go about your email business without worrying about Windows Mail itself. However, to ensure trouble- and worry-free operation, here’s a list of a few maintenance chores you should perform from time-to-time:
  • Remove clutter from your inbox— Few things in business life are more daunting and frustrating than an inbox bursting at the seams with a huge list of new or unprocessed messages. To prevent this from happening, you should regard the Inbox folder as a temporary holding area for all your incoming messages.

    Periodically throughout the day, you should perform the following routine to keep your Inbox clean:

    If a message doesn’t require a response, file it or delete it. By file it, I mean move the message to another folder. You should have folders set up for all major recipients, projects, customers, and categories that you deal with.

    If a message requires a response and you can answer it without further research or without taking a lot of time, answer it immediately and then either delete or file the message.

    If a message requires a response but you can’t send a reply right away, move the message to a folder designated for messages that require further action. You can then handle those messages later in the day when you have some time.


    Before moving the message to whatever you’ve designated as your “action items” folder, be sure to mark the message as unread. That way you’ll be able to see at a glance whether there are items in that folder and how many there are.

  • Clean out your Deleted Items folder— This folder is a good safeguard to help you recover accidentally deleted messages. However, after a while, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll need to recover a message from this folder. Therefore, you should regularly delete messages from the Deleted Items folder. I recommend leaving the last month’s worth of deleted messages and deleting everything older.

  • Look for Windows Mail patches and updates— Pay a visit to Windows Update to see whether Microsoft has released any security patches or updates for Windows Mail.

  • Back up your messages— Windows Mail keeps your messages in various folders, the names of which correspond to the names you see in Windows Mail’s Local Folders list. For example, the Inbox messages are stored in the Inbox folder. Each message uses the Windows Mail E-mail Message file type (.eml extension). Together these folders constitute the Windows Mail message store, which you can find in the following folder:

    %UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail\Local Folders

    You should include the contents of this folder in your backups and run those backups regularly.


    You can change the location of the message store. In Windows Mail, select Tools, Options, display the Advanced tab, and click Maintenance. Click the Store Folder button and, in the Store Location dialog box, click Change. Use the Browse for Folder dialog box to choose the new location and click OK. Note, too, that the following Registry setting holds the Windows Mail store location:

    HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows Mail\Store Root


    The structure of the Windows Mail message store shows two major internal differences between Vista’s Windows Mail email client and XP’s Outlook Express email client. First, it shows us that Windows Mail no longer supports identities: separate mail accounts and folders for individual users. Instead, Windows Mail assumes that you use separate user accounts to maintain email privacy and security, which is indicated by the fact that the message store is located in a %UserProfile% subfolder. (This makes sense because having two different methods for maintaining separate email accounts is redundant, and user accounts provide more security and privacy.) Second, it shows us that Windows Mail no longer uses separate .dbx files to store the contents of each folder. This is good for a number of reasons. It enables you to access each message as an individual file (for example, you can double-click any .eml file to view the message). It brings the messages into the file system (for example, the message store is searchable) and it likely lessens the risk of data loss because .dbx files would occasionally become corrupted.

  • Back up your accounts— If you have multiple accounts, re-creating them on a new system or in the event of a crash can be a lot of work. To lessen the drudgery, make backups of your accounts by saving them to Internet Account Files (.iaf extension). In Windows Mail, select Tools, Accounts, select an account, and then click Export. In the Export Internet Account dialog box, choose a location and then click Save. Note that you can also do this with News and Directory Service accounts.


    Windows Mail stores the data for each account in a file named account{ID}.oeaccount, where ID is a unique 32-digit identifier. An even easier way to back up your accounts is to include these account files in your backup. You can find these files in the same folder as your message store:

    %UserProfile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail\Local Folders

  • Back up your Windows Mail data— Your defined Windows Mail rules, signatures, and settings are stored in the following Registry key:

    HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows Mail\

    Regularly export this key to save this important Windows Mail data.

  • Compact your message store database— Although Windows Mail keeps your email data in regular folders and .eml files, it keeps track of those folders and files using a database file named WindowsMail.MSMessageStore. When you delete messages, Windows Mail removes the corresponding data from the message store database, which results in gaps within the file. To remove these gaps and reduce the size of the file, Windows Mail is set up to compact the database from time to time. Specifically, Windows Mail compacts the database every hundredth time you shut down the program. If you want the database compacted more often, select Tools, Options, display the Advanced tab, and click Maintenance. Make sure to activate the Compact the Database on Shutdown Every X Runs check box, and use the spin box to set the compaction interval you prefer.

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