Windows 9x: Transfer Outlook Express settings

Moving your Outlook Express settings to a new machine is not an easy task. Your Outlook Express setup has four different pieces that you may want to move. I suggest that you transfer them in the order listed below.


On your old computer, open Outlook Express, select Tools-Accounts, and under the Mail tab pick the account you want to transfer. Click the Export button, save the file to a floppy disk or other removable medium, and move it to the new computer. Select Tools-Accounts on the new computer, click the Import button, and double-click the file you exported.


Like Accounts, Address Book contains an easy export/import feature, which you'll find on its File menu - but the feature doesn't work very well. If you use Address Book folders to organise your contacts, importing an address book will wipe out that organisation.

Instead, copy the address book file from the old computer to the new one. The location where Outlook Express keeps the address book and the name it gives the file vary from one PC to another. To find yours, select Start-Search-For Files or Folders (or Find-Files or Folders) and enter *.wab in the "Search for files or folders named" (or Named) text box. If the search unearths just one, that's the one you want. If it finds more than one, you'll have to figure out which option is your address book. The correct file is likely named after you, with a designation such as 'default.wab'. Double-click the file to read its contents, if you like.

After you have searched both the PCs, copy the .wab file to either a removable or a network drive on the old computer, and then move it to the new PC. Give the file the same name as the new computer's existing .wab file, and place it in the same folder so that it replaces the .wab file used by your new computer's Outlook Express.


This is by far the hardest part. On the old computer, select Start-Run, type regedit, and press . Navigate the Registry Editor's left pane as if it were Windows Explorer until you find HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities. Click the plus sign next to Identities to see one or more "keys", each identified with a long, bracketed string of letters and numbers. If there's only one key, you've found the one to use. If there are multiple keys, select each one and in the right pane examine the data it contains. The identity of the key that refers to you should be obvious.

In the correct identity's subkeys, go to and highlight Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express. Select Registry-Export Registry File. Save the file and move it to a temporary folder on the new computer.

Make sure Outlook Express is closed; then open three applications on your new computer's desktop: WordPad, the Registry Editor, and Windows Explorer. Make sure Explorer is opened to the folder containing the .reg file that you just exported.

In the Registry Editor, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_"USER\Identities and click your identity's key in the left pane. In the right pane, double-click the UserID value to bring up the Edit String dialogue box. With the 'Value data' field highlighted, press -C to copy the identification string. Press to close the dialogue box (see FIGURE 1). Close the Registry Editor.

In Explorer, drag the .reg file to the WordPad window and drop it on the menus, not on the blank editing space. This will load the file into WordPad. Near the top of the file, you'll see a line that starts [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\, followed by the identity number from the old computer. Highlight that number, including the curly brackets that surround it, but don't highlight the backslashes that surround the brackets.

Select Edit-Replace. The identity number that you've just highlighted should now appear in the Replace dialogue box's 'Find what' field. Next, move to the 'Replace with' field and press -V to paste in the new computer's identity. Click Replace All, followed by File-Save, and then close WordPad. In Windows Explorer, double-click the file, and then click Yes.


To move your Inbox, Sent Items, and any mailboxes you created yourself, simply move all of the files from their folder on the old PC to a folder on the new system. To find the location of that folder, open Outlook Express, select Tools-Options, click the Maintenance tab, and then click the Store Folder button. That method will work on both computers, but if you've brought over the rules, signatures, and other settings as described above, the files will be located in the same place on the new computer as on the old one. Exit Outlook Express on each computer before you begin copying the files.

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Lincoln Spector

PC World
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