Never lose your e-mail address book again.

Question: I would like to know how to back up my Windows e-mail addresses. Could you give me the information on how to do this for both Netscape Messenger and for Outlook Express?

Answer: There are two steps to backing up e-mail address books. First, you need to export the e-mail addresses as a file. Then you need to import the file into either a new version or a reinstalled version of the e-mail program.

Netscape Messenger (version 4.51) and Outlook Express (version 4.0) approach it in different ways.

Before you start, if you’ve looked at the paragraphs below and are very frightened, go to the last a paragraph in the column. You’re welcome.

For the rest of the nutcases who are still with me and Roo, my cat who’s dozing on my desk as I write this, let’s get on with it.

In Netscape Messenger, export an e-mail address book as follows:

1. Start your address book applet, by clicking the Communicator menu and then Address Book, or use the hotkeys CTL-Shift-2. The Address Book window will pop up. In it, select the address book you want to export by clicking on it once in the left hand window pane. The default address book is called “Personal Address Book”.

2. From the File menu, choose Export.

3. Type a file name for the address book and choose the file type: .lidf, .csv, or tab delimited. Also, be sure you know which folder you’re saving it in.

  • LIDF means Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Directory Interchange Format. Masochists can see more information on this tech note on LDAP. It’s a new way of storing directory information for easy swapping.
  • .CSV is a comma-separated values file format, while tab-delimited is just a text file with tab characters between fields (like first name [tab]surname[tab] etc.)

4. Now click Save.

To import the address book file into Netscape Messenger, here’s how:

1. Open the Address Book window again as explained above. From the File menu, choose Import. The Messenger Import Utility will appear.

2. Follow the instructions in the utility to import mail folders and address book files. It’s straightforward. You’ll need to locate the backup file you created during the export process.

You can import three types of address book file formats: .csv, tab delimited, or .lidf, so importing from Eudora and Outlook Express is possible.

Note that Messenger does not overwrite entries in your existing address book when you import them, it simply adds them, even if they are duplicates.

To back up the address book in Outlook Express, simply locate the .wab file on your hard drive and copy it to a safe place. Mine was called “andy.wab”. (For Outlook Express 6.0, see Back-up your address book in Outlook Express 6.0).

To use the Windows Find utility (Search in XP), click START, point to Find, and then click Files Or Folders. Next in the Named box, type “*.wab” (without quotation marks), and click Find Now.

To restore the .wab file that you previously backed up, follow these steps:

1. Quit Outlook Express.

2. Locate the back up .wab file with Windows Explorer.

3. Rename the current .wab file in the Address Book folder.

4. Copy the backup copy of the .wab file to the Address Book folder. It will be one of the following:

  • C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book
  • or

  • C:\WINDOWS\Profiles\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book
  • In the above folder, your User ID is used to log on to Windows. So my address book is located in C:\WINDOWS\Profiles\andy\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book.

5. Restart Outlook Express.

For those of you who can’t be bothered with all this silliness, check out the Web-based address book converter at InterGuru’s E-mail Address Book Conversions.