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Windows XP hints and tips

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Backup Outlook Express email

It is just a fact of life that faults will occasionally occur in the files used to store your email messages and it is always a good idea to regularly make backups, just in case the worst happens. Having a backup means that you will be able to recover most of your email in the event of a serious fault. All that you will lose are the messages that arrived since your last backup, so the more frequently you back up, the less you will lose.

Outlook Express stores email in .dbx files in some obscure location on the hard disk drive and one way to find them is to search for them. Click Start, Search and select All files and folders, then enter *.dbx. Make sure that the hard disk drive is selected in the Look in box and then click Search. When the search is complete you'll see your email files. Now you can drag them to a CD-R to save them to a CD or you can select them and choose Edit, Copy and go to another disk drive or folder and select Edit, Paste to make a copy of them.

Another way to discover the location of your email files is to start Outlook Express and select Tools, Options. Select the Maintenance tab and click the Store Folder button. The location of the folder containing your email is displayed. Click and drag the mouse across the whole path and then press Ctrl+C to copy it. Press the Windows key and R, then press Ctrl+V to paste in the path and press Return to open an Explorer window displaying your email files. Now back them up by copying them to another folder, disk or CD.

If there is ever a problem you just need to drag the files back to their original location.

Avoid Outlook Express timeout errors

Outlook Express expects email messages to transmit quickly and if one takes too long it can trigger a timeout error code. Broadband internet connections are up to 100 times faster than old dial-up connections, so you might expect timeout errors to be a thing of the past, but fast connections simply mean that we can send bigger emails. Digital photos, videos and files can be very large and therefore take quite a long time to send even over broadband, which can trigger a timeout error.

If you cannot retrieve your email without getting an error it might mean that you have a large message in your inbox on the mail server at your ISP or in your outbox in Outlook Express and the time taken to upload or download it is too long for the current timeout setting.

Fortunately, it is possible to change the timeout setting and increasing the value should get your email working again. Run Outlook Express and select Tools, Accounts. Double click your email account and select the Advanced tab. Drag the Server Timeouts slider to the right to make it longer and click the Apply button. Setting a long timeout value will also mean that should a real problem occur, Outlook Express will sit waiting until it times out before reporting it. Although timeouts can be set to five minutes, it is inconvenient if you frequently have email failures and you need to find the right balance.

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