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Salvaging Windows Mail *.eml files to Outlook

Posted by jpluimers on 2013/02/15

A while ago, I salvaged the Windows Mail *.eml files from a broken Vista machine of a friend to a new machine running Outlook. The Vista machine was so broken that it wouldn’t boot any more (now he knows that porn comes with truckloads of viruses).

Naively I assumed this was a straightforward process (hey, it’s all Microsoft, and they have great interoperability, right?).

Well no (:

  • *.msg files are for Outlook, which does not support *.eml files
  • *.eml files are for Outlook Express and Windows Mail, which supports exporting to Exchange (which is wrong, they mean “Export to the message store that Outlook uses)

So as soon as you have all mail in Windows Mail, then you can export it to Outlook.

You can do the same with *.dbx files from Outlook Express: use Windows Mail as an intermediate store as described here: Importing DBX files into Outlook 2007 – Windows Software.

But first things first.

The first process was making sure the files were virus free:

  1. Install a temporary machine with the latest updates and the latest virus scanners
  2. Detach the machine
  3. Mount the hard drive on that machine (an USB IDE+SATA set from DealExtreme; I bought the one on the right almost 2 years ago and has been more than useful since then)
  4. Copy all the files locally using RoboCopy in administrative mode, killing all files with viruses.
    (note to self: I should look into hobocopy as it can use the Volume Shadow Copy Service to make copies that are point-in-time consistent)

The next step was to get back the *.eml files into Outlook.

Note: it seems you need a 32-bit version of Outlook for this, presumably because Windows Mail is a 32-bit application, and it will load Outlook as a COM object to do the export. You cannot mix-n-match 32-bit apps with 64-bit COM objects.

This is a multi step process:

  1. Start Windows Mail
  2. Optionally configure mail settings (you don’t need most of them, as you will be using Outlook anyway)
  3. Start Windows Explorer in the backup of
    C:\Users\<<UserName>>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail\Local Folders
  4. Recreate the folder structure from that directory in Windows Mail
    (note that inside the about directory structure, folder names longer than about 10 characters are truncated; that was no problem for me as I could still guess the correct names, but it will be a problem when you have many folders with long names and similar prefixes)
  5. For each folder in that directory structure:
    – select all *.eml files
    – drag-drop them to the corresponding folder in Windows Mail
  6. Start Outlook
  7. Configure at least one mail account
  8. In Windows Mail, export all mail to Outlook, similar to described in Importing EML files into Outlook 2010 (these work in Outlook 2003 and up):
    – start from the File menu,
    – choose Export
    – choose Exchange (that will export to Outlook)
    – press OK
  9. In Outlook all your Windows Mail folders will appear under a new folder.

It looks like there is a 3rd party tool Outlook Freeware – Import Messages from EML Format that can do the whole thing in one sweep, but I found that only after I figured out the steps above (which work dandy).


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