Speed Up Outlook Express
I was investigation my dad’s computer trying to find out why it was so slow. There was the usual culprit of Norton Antivirus and Outlook Express. There’s nothing I can do about Norton, but he’s been using Outlook Express since 1998 and his mail folder is a whopping 5.8 GB. It’s time to perform my sonly duty and try to fix his slow computer, even though I haven’t used Outlook Express in the past ten years.
I’ll walk you through how I do it…
Step 1: Connecting Remotely
I use CrossLoop.com to connect remotely. I find it’s much faster than Fogcreek CoPilot (sorry Joel). The downside is that you already need a remote connection to the person’s computer to get them to run CrossLoop correctly and send you the access code. There’s too many user interactions in the already stressful process of trying to fix someone else’s computer. Their instructions are missing the “Create an Account” spam that gets in the way of running the service for the first time.
The nicest thing about doing tasks like this remotely is that you’re free to do other things (like write a blog post) while they’re computer is tied up performing backups, defragging, etc. :)
Step 2: Speeding Up the Connection
Always check their System Tray for what’s running. You’ll want to turn off any peer to peer file sharing clients and any anti-virus. When you turn Norton Anti-virus off it’ll ask you how long you want to turn it off for. Choose until next system restart — then you can ask them to reboot their computer and they’ll be protected again.
This is a huge timesaver on your end. You can’t underestimate how much less stressful remote access is when it’s fast and responsive.
Step 3: Backing Up Outlook Express
Backups are the morning after pill of computer support. Before you touch anything you should create a backup so that you can write off the night if something terrible happens. Inside Outlook Express recommends OE Backup (direct link). It’s simple: setup your backup directory, run, and wait.
Step 4: Extracting Attachments from the Mail Folder
There are entirely too many shareware applications for extracting attachments from Outlook Express. I went with Outlook Express Attachment Extractor because it has a 30-day free trial and it looks the most professional of the bunch. Install it, click on Local Folders, and then choose the Multiple Folder Wizard. Specify the directory you want to save the attachments to, and you can get started.
Ok, scratch that. Outlook Express Attachment Extractor trial version only handles the first 20 messages of each folder.
Step 5: Improving Outlook Express Performance
Inside Outlook Express has many tips on speeding up Outlook Express. If Outlook Express is slow you should compact your folders and defrag your hard drive.
Before defragging the hard drive, I run WinDirStat to identify where all the space is being used on the hard drive.
Step 6: Re-education
This is the hardest part: the performance issues with Outlook Express happen because of computer habits.
The best advice you can give a newbie programmer is: You Aren’t Going to Need It. The same is often true of your old emails. You don’t need them. Delete read email liberally. Unsubscribe from mailing lists if you don’t read them. Turn off email notifications for websites you never visit. Follow inbox zero.
Use Your Hard Drive
A lot of people use their email program instead of their hard drive for storing things because they have no idea how to access their hard drive (use Windows Explorer) or how to use it once they’re there. Unfortunately, Outlook Express doesn’t let you remove attachments from emails. So after you save an attachment to the hard drive you’ll have to delete it.
Compact Your Folders
The other problem happens because people don’t compact their folders. If you don’t compact then Outlook Express will get slower and slower and slower. I know this is something I never want to do with Outlook at work because it can kill an entire afternoon.
Unfortunately, this is a band-aid. The real solution would be to import his email from Outlook Express into Gmail and get him to use Gmail full time. Heck, then he wouldn’t even need Norton Anti-virus since Gmail scans attachments on the server side. Switching from storing email in folders to having a near instant search of your email archives is the biggest productivity gain I’ve ever experienced.