A user opens his Outlook Express 6 (all Windows updates installed) this morning and finds that his inbox is empty. 200-odd messages that were there yesterday have disappeared. I have checked that the View is set to All Messages, and it is. No rules in existence. New emails arriving are adding to the inbox. Other folders (sent, deleted) have the same content as yesterday.

It seems that the files related to the inbox had a problem, or physically got deleted, and OE6 just self-recovered by giving the user an inbox with nothing in it.

Is there anything I can do, other than scanning hard disk sectors for text, that may retrieve these lost emails?

  • Have you tried System Restore to see if it replaces them? – CharlieRB Aug 19 '15 at 13:26
  • 1
    System restore does not restore data. – Xavierjazz Aug 19 '15 at 14:44

The Outlook Express desktop client stored emails as .dbx files. At least the client distributions that came with Windows XP.

Try switching to a specific disk (C: in the example below), then searching a disk for files with the .dbx files via the Command Prompt (i.e. cmd) as such:


dir /s *.dbx


By typing C: in the Command Prompt, then pressing Return, you switch focus to the C: disk (i.e. C: drive). Typing dir /s *.dbx, then pressing Return, will cause the computer to output all the locations of files (emails) with the .dbx file extension in the Command Prompt.


There are still three additional pieces of information I will properly incorporate into the answer at a later date:

  • Instead of outputting all locations of .dbx files directly into the Command Prompt, you can write (save) them to a file. To do this you replace the second line of code (above) with:

    dir /s *.dbx >> dbx_file_locations.txt

Where dbx_file_locations.txt is the name of the output file.

  • It may be that the "disappeared emails" are no longer in .dbx format, in which case they may be in either .bak format, or some other compressed format (e.g. .rar). In such a case, the above solution would need to be followed by:

    dir /s *.bak

  • There are some GUI tools built specifically to trawl through all user-selected desktop drives/disks for .bak and .dbx files. Will add links to these later.

  • @MLionelM14, I will provide you with a better (more thorough) solution soon. However, if you reply to my comment (here) I will know to give priority to your issue... :) – Oracle May 2 '17 at 0:06

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