How do I move my Outlook Express email from
Windows XP to Windows 7?

by Leo Notenboom - Ask Leo!

Summary: I'll show you how to move from Outlook Express to Windows Live Mail on Windows 7 (the easiest moving option), step by annoying step.

I get variations of this question a lot since Microsoft made the decision to remove Outlook Express - or any email program for that matter - from Windows 7.

Unfortunately, Outlook Express is not available for Windows 7:

That means it's time to migrate to a different email program.

In this (lengthy) article, I'll show you how to move from Outlook Express to Windows Live Mail (the easiest moving option), step by annoying step. With lots of pictures.

I'm going to assume that you're also switching machines. It's OK if you're not; you'll get to skip a few steps, but for the most part this process applies equally whether you're moving from one machine to another, or just upgrading an existing machine to Windows 7.

In Windows XP

Don't worry if you've already upgraded to Windows 7 and XP's no longer around. I'll address that in a moment. Particularly when you're moving machines, though, there are a couple of things you can do before the upgrade to make life just a tad simpler.

In Outlook Express, locate the "message store" folder. Click on the Tools menu, Options... menu item, Maintenance tab, Store Folder... button:

Outlook Express Store Folder

You can actually click-and-drag to select the store folder name therein - just make sure to drag to the far right to get it all, then right click on it and you can select copy:

Outlook Express Store Folder selected for copy

It'll probably give you something very similar to this:

C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\Local Settings\
  Application Data\Identities\
  Microsoft\Outlook Express

(Though all on one line, and of course some of the specific text will be different.)

Open up Windows Explorer (Windows Key + E is easiest), and paste that into the address bar and press Enter:

Windows Explorer open on the Outlook Express Store folder

This entire folder, including all the files and subfolders within it must be copied to your Windows 7 machine. It really doesn't matter how you do it; you can burn a CD or DVD, copy to a flash drive or removable hard disk, or even copy directly over the network. What matters is that the entire folder is somehow copied to the Windows 7 machine.

Next, your address book.

In Outlook Express, click on the Addresses toolbar button, then in the resulting Address Book Window, click on the File menu, Export menu item, and Address Book (WAB)... sub-menu item:

Exporting the Windows Outlook Express address book

Enter a file name and save the address book export in some location. (You may need to repeat this once for each identity you use if you use more than one - be sure to select a unique name for each.)

All of these exported address books must now also be copied to your Windows 7 machine.

Finally, you'll need to note, save or record your email account configuration, as there is no automated process to transfer it to your new installation.

In Outlook Express click on the Tools menu, Accounts... menu item, Mail tab. For each account listed there click on the account and then the Properties button.

In the General tab:

Outlook Express Account Properties: General

Take note of your Name and E-mail address configured.

In the Servers tab:

Outlook Express Account Properties: Servers

Take note of all your settings here. If "My server requires authentication" is checked, then click on the Settings... button and note all your settings in the resulting dialog.

On the Advanced tab:

Outlook Express Account Properties: Advanced

Take note of all your settings in this dialog as well.

If You've Already Left Windows XP

If you no longer have access to Windows XP - presumably because you've upgraded to Windows 7 in place, then you'll need to:

  • Locate your Outlook Express store on your machine. You may be able to infer its location from the examples above. Another alternative is to search your machine for the file "Folders.dbx" - the folder containing that file is likely the folder you'll need to use below. No need to copy it, simply note its location for use later.

  • Locate your old Windows Address Book. In Windows XP its in a folder similar to:

    C:\Documents and Settings\LeoN\Local Settings\
    \LeoN\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book\LeoN.wab

    All on one line, and with your login name instead of mine. If you had multiple identities in Outlook Express there may be more than one. I find it easiest to once again search, this time for "*.wab" to locate all the Windows Address Books. And once again, no need to copy, simply make note of where you found them.

  • You'll need to remember your account configuration, or get it again from your ISP or email service provider.

Windows 7

Windows 7 does not come with an email program, so you'll need to download and install one.

We'll go get Windows Live Mail, which is similar to Outlook Express, and a free download from Microsoft.

Visit Windows Live's download page <>:

Windows Live Download page

[Dale Note: Many new PCs with Win7 installed, has Windows Live Essentials and all its apps (including Windows Live Mail) already installed. If so, skip past the installation instructions/]

Download and run the Windows Live installer. (You may have to confirm with Windows 7 UAC.) It'll present you with a list of optional components you can install:

Windows Live Installer

Uncheck everything except Mail. (That is, unless you know you want some of the other components. You can also add them later.)

Click Install. Upon completion of the install (it can take a while), uncheck all the additional options you're offered - we just want mail. (Unless, of course, the options are actually things you want. If you're not sure, uncheck them - you can add them later once you decide.)

It's also up to you if you want to create a Windows Live ID. Given that we're moving your existing email accounts, it's not required that you set up a new one. [Dale Note: If not sure, skip creating a Windows Live ID. You may already have one, e.g., a Hotmail or MSN Mail account, that you may or may not want to include in Windows Live Mail.]

Off the Start menu, under All Programs you'll find Windows Live, and within that Windows Live Mail. Click that to launch Windows Live Mail (WLM).

The first time you start WLM it'll launch the "Add an E-mail Account" process. Complete the process with the information that you saved from your Outlook Express account configuration above. Upon successful completion it may immediately download new mail - that's ok. It will also create an Inbox and other folders for your newly configured account. [Dale Note: If you exported each OE e-mail account to its .iaf file, skip this step. Instead import each of the previously exported .iaf files into Windows Live Mail.]

Coming from Outlook Express, you'll probably be much more comfortable with a traditional menu bar in place. On the right side of the WLM window is an icon, shown below. Click that and then click on Show menu bar:

Windows Live Mail Show menu bar option

Now, click on the File menu, Import menu item, Messages... sub menu item. In the resulting dialog box:

Windows Live
Mail import format selection

Choose Microsoft Outlook Express 6 and click Next.

In the next dialog - "Location of Messages" - click the Browse... button and navigate to the folder that has your Outlook Express messages that we saved or located above. This can once again be on external media, or directly on your machine. Simply locate the folder containing the infamous ".dbx" files. Click Next, make sure "All folders" is selected in the resulting dialog, and click Next again. WLM imports your email, after which you can click Finish.

Your messages have been imported - but where did they go?

It's not obvious, what WLM does is set up a new "Imported Folder" folder within the "Storage Folders" in the program:

Live Mail showing Imported Email in the Imported Folder folder

All your messages are here. You can now manage them as you see fit, perhaps leaving them there, perhaps dragging and dropping them into other folders - whatever you like.

Last but not least: the Address Book.

In Windows Live Mail, click on Contacts in the lower left:

Windows Live Mail contacts

That brings up the Windows Live Contacts application, into which we'll import the old Windows Address Book.

Click on the File menu, Import menu item, Windows address book (.WAB) sub menu item. It'll then prompt you for the location of your ".wab" file. Navigate to the location containing the .wab file you copied or located earlier and press OK.

Live Contacts import complete

That's really all there is to it. Your contacts are imported. You may need to repeat for multiple .wab files if you have them.


As complicated as all that may seem, conceptually it's fairly simple: move mail, move address book, copy account settings.

There are a couple of lingering issues.

  • Windows Live Mail is not Outlook Express. It's similar, but there are differences, and the differences will take a little getting used to. About all I can suggest is that you be patient and embrace change:

  • In particular, advanced usage of Outlook Express - such as using Identities - may not be preserved. Windows 7 pushes the concept of completely separate Windows user accounts over Identities within Outlook Express.

The good news is that after having set up Windows Live Mail on your Windows 7 machine, it makes migrating to other email programs such as Thunderbird or Outlook that much easier should you decide to switch again later.

Copyright  2003-2010 Puget Sound Software, LLC  and Leo A. Notenboom