Backing up e-mail and address books

Tips & Hints

How do I backup my e-mail and address books?

29 November 2001

For many people, the most important things on their computer are their e-mail messages and address books. Any data that is important must be backed up. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to find where mail and address books are saved on a system.

Each program has its own place to hide data. Some, like Outlook, Netscape, and Outlook Express 5, allow the user to choose where the data goes. Others, like Eudora, are predictable where they save their data. Earlier versions of Outlook Express and Microsoft Internet Mail hide the data away where you may never find it.

Address books are another problem. Outlook saves its address book with the mail, Outlook Express uses the Windows Address Book which has no flexibility at all. Netscape and Eudora save theirs in the same folder as the e-mail.

Outlook Express

Outlook Express could save its data anywhere. At last count we know of 13 different places that Outlook Express could store its mail. Fortunately versions 5 and 6 allow you to specify where to save the mail.

Click on tools, options, maintenance and you will find the options to change the location of the store folder. We recommend saving the mail to a new folder such as c:\mail folders where it is obvious what to back up.

The Windows Address Book that Outlook Express uses can be very difficult to find. Its location varies with the type of Windows and Internet Explorer being used. It is easiest to do a search for all files that end in .wab, note their locations and back up all wab files.


Outlook uses the personal information store, also known as a pst file, to save addresses and data. Moving it is a little trickier that Outlook Express. To find where it is stored you need to right click the Outlook Today icon, select properties, advanced and the path to the message store is shown there.

You then have to close Outlook, navigate to the pst file and move it to your mail directory. My Documents is okay, but you’ll have to remember not to delete it. Creating a new folder for it is a better idea.

When you restart Outlook, it will say it cannot find the message store. You then tell it the new location. Because the pst folder holds all the messages, contacts, appointments etc. you only have to move the one file.


Netscape users can click edit, preferences, mail servers then choose the location to save mail.

Depending upon the version, Netscape saves addresses in either addresses.htm or pab.na2, these are found in the user directory but can be changed.


Eudora saves it’s mail into the Eudora folder. Typically this is c:\program files\eudora, but it can vary. The files mail files have the suffixes .mbx and .idx. Addresses are saved in a file called nndbase.txt and are saved in the same folder.

Once you know the locations of your mail and addresses you need to back them up, so you have to allow for the space taken up by your mail. If you have a lot of mail then your mail folders can easily be the biggest files on the computer. We’ve covered backup options before and it is important to choose the one that can fit all your data.

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