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  • Back Up Your Email Box Before It is Too Late
    Copyright 2002-2005, Bill Platt

    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. When this article was originally written, I was using
    the Netscape 4.x Email Client for security reasons more than 
    anything. The Netscape Email Client is less susceptible to 
    JavaScript attacks than any other email client I have used. 
    These days, I have grown with Netscape to the Netscape 7.x
    platform. This is important to note as Netscape 8.x does not
    offer email anymore.
    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. I have yet to determine the upper threshold
    on Netscape 7.x, and I have had folders with more than 20,000
    messages in them.
    These upper ends will also depend on your computer hardware.
    If you have a 200mhz machine with only 56kb Ram memory,
    you should expect a shake-out sooner than a machine that has
    a bigger processor with more memory. 
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Identities\
    {B074ABA0-9FFF-11D4-AE87-FE1E7BFD5248}\Microsoft\Outlook 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!!!
    The location of the mail storage is:
       C:\Program Files\Netscape\Users\username\Mail
    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.

    Bill Platt owns http://thePhantomWriters.com . If you choose to use our article distribution service, one of the benefits you will receive is that you will no longer have to manage the thousands of emails being sent to the article distribution groups on a daily basis. We use our email address and profile to distribute your articles, and we have been whitelisted on many of the groups where we submit your articles.

    This article was originally written: May, 2002

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