Best way to preserve old email messages from AOL and Outlook Express?
February 5, 2014 7:07 PM   Subscribe

My old email messages have a lot of sentimental value to me, and I want to preserve them indefinitely. I'm just not sure about the best approach.

I'd like to convert my AOL messages and my Outlook Express messages into some kind of searchable format—a plain text file, Word document, or a searchable PDF file, perhaps. I'm not so concerned with preserving the threading of the messages, and I don't really care much about keeping the attachments.

I used AOL from around 1995 to 2000. I still have my personal filing cabinet (PFC), which contains all my old email messages. I looked around on Google, and I saw this page and this page about converting old PFC files. Neither site gave me the warm fuzzies. I was hoping someone on AskMeFi might have an informed opinion.

I used Outlook Express from about 2000 to 2006 (when I switched to Gmail). I used to sort my messages into a bunch of different folders, so I have about 30 DBX files. I know I can import them into other email programs, but I think doing so might create more problems than it solves. I just want to have the ability to search the messages (using a simple text search) and read them at will. Again, threading and attachments are not too important.
posted by alex1965 to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Emailchemy "converts email from the closed, proprietary file formats of the most popular (and many of yesterday's forgotten) email applications to standard, portable formats that any application can use. "
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:03 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know I can import them into other email programs, but I think doing so might create more problems than it solves.

Importing stuff into Thunderbird will solve more problems than it creates, because Thunderbird's mail storage format is a plain-text mbox file for each mail folder, plus a bunch of index files it automatically re-creates as needed if they're missing or damaged.

So having done that import (either with Thunderbird itself or with some third-party thing as suggested above) all you would need to preserve are the resulting mbox files, which you'd be able to search and read as you like even if all copies of Thunderbird were wiped off the face of the Earth tomorrow.
posted by flabdablet at 11:37 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thunderbird used to have a serious problem - if you tried to import what Thunderbird considered too much, it would make multiple duplicates of the first chunk of whatever you were trying to import.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:11 AM on February 6, 2014

Personally what I do is move all my old email to a Gmail account I created. Gmail is very searchable. Basically, download Mozilla Thunderbird (which is like the Outlook program for desktop), set up both your old account and the Gmail account you want to move all the email to in Thunderbird. And then just copy the entire inbox and place it into the Gmail account. Same with sent folder. When you log into the Gmail account online, it will just look like your old account with emails to and from it. I know there are directions on moving an entire inbox using Mozilla Thunderbird online and on AskMe if you google it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:25 AM on February 6, 2014

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