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Keeping Mailboxes Happy and Compact

Question : Whenever I close my Outlook Express program I get a pop-up window that reads: "To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact messages." What does this mean and how can I get rid of the message?

Answer : The act of compacting messages is a necessary maintenance task that Outlook performs to keep your mailbox healthy. Each of the program's mail folders like the in-box or out-box is one file containing all the messages. When that particular file gets too big, Outlook Express can become sluggish or crash.

Even if you delete messages, the space they took up isn't freed until you tell Outlook Express to readjust the size of the mail files, or "compact" your mail folders which saves disk space. (Other mail programs like Eudora or Mozilla Thunderbird can also compact mail folders.) To help you remember to do this and avoid mailbox problems, the Service Pack 2 update for Windows XP reminds you to compact your messages with an alert box every 100th time you start up Outlook Express.

If you have a large number of messages, the compacting process may take several minutes, but it's a much better alternative to slowness and crashing when using your e-mail program. If you don't want an alert box, you can usually find the option to manually compact your folders under your mail program's File menu; in Outlook Express's File menu, choose Folder and then Compact All Folders.


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