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Speed Up Outlook Express

Posted in Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, Technology by engtech on April 09, 2008

Working With Windows

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.

Delete It

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.

The Solution?

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.

11 Responses

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  1. Ross said, on April 09, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    As someone who comes from a support background, during the era of Outlook Express as “the” email client, I have a couple of comments.

    1. It’s WAY dangerous to let that file get to 5.8 GB. In fact, I’ve never, ever heard of one that big. The number of problems grows exponentially after you hit 1GB. I’m honestly surprised OE even opens.

    2. Could he even import that much to Gmail? I haven’t played around w/ gmail imports but I guess if enough of that data is attachments and you opt to import w/o attachments it might work.

    Let you dad know he has a great son. That backup is going to save him a huge headache any day now.

  2. Mrinal said, on April 10, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Eric – we at CrossLoop like to listen so will pass your feedback on internally.
    I am not sure what you mean by “already need a remote connection to the person’s computer to get them to run CrossLoop correctly and send you the access code” – all our users use it for remote connection by sharing the access code by phone/im etc and then click ‘Connect’.
    Can you tell me more?

  3. engtech said, on April 10, 2008 at 8:23 am

    @ Mrinal:

    With older versions of CrossLoop all I had to explain was:
    – click on the sharing tab
    – tell me the access code
    – click connect
    – accept my connection

    Now there’s quite a bit more that has to be done because of the Create Account screens. It makes the program quite a bit harder to explain how to run. As is, it usually takes me between 8-12 minutes to get a connection established because of all the screens I have to explain.

    What would be great is if it started up at the sharing tab, then all I would have to explain is:
    – tell me the access code
    – click connect
    – accept my connection

  4. logtar said, on April 10, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    The usual culprit… yeap that is a great name for it.

  5. Vaibhav said, on April 13, 2008 at 6:58 am

    I face problems with Outlook performance all the time. I get so much email that I have to run regular maintenance (Outlook, not OE)… I wrote up a post on what steps I take:


  6. Mrinal said, on April 14, 2008 at 4:10 am

    Eric – thanks.
    An fyi which some users have not noticed yet – you can skip that screen by clicking on the ‘x’ up on the top right corner

  7. engtech said, on April 18, 2008 at 11:18 am

    @ Mrinal:

    I’ll have to give that a try. Thanks!

  8. Nirose said, on July 26, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Thanks for the information

  9. […] Poor performance because emails are never deleted […]

  10. mutu26 said, on February 16, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    There is not bad tool which works with mails-recover outlook express mails,as how as i remember tool is free,soft compatible with all currently supported versions of Outlook Express and Microsoft Windows,keeps your mailbox in many files of dbx format, but, it does not split messages from attached documents,can work with very large files of dbx format and process them in a batch mode,will see the list of files, that are a part of your mailbox,process of email recovery in Outlook Express represents the recovery of corresponding files with dbx extension.

  11. Fix Access said, on March 02, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I just wanted to drop you a short note to let you know that I really enjoy your blog.

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