How To Backup Your Email With MailStore Home

If you're anything like me, you rely on email for more a good chunk, if not most, of your personal communication. Financial, business, and family correspondence all hangs around in your inbox or email folders, ready to be accessed at a moment's notice. But if your inbox gets corrupted, or your webmail account gets hacked into, or any number of worst-case scenarios arise, you could find that precious data gone forever. Unless you have the foresight to back it up.
Published: Dec 20, 2007
Author: Jordan Running
Related OS: XP / Vista

Importing your messages with MailStore

There are a lot of ways to backup your email, but most are specific to a specific kind of email account or a specific program, which limits their usefulness if you have several email accounts. One that isn't however, and with work with most, if not all, of your acounts is MailStore Home. MailStore Home is a free program for Windows that will backup and catalogue your email from an unlimited number of accounts. It supports Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, Windows Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and MBOX files, and it can also download messages from any POP3 or IMAP account, which means you can use it with remote mail servers including some webmail services and (possibly) your work email. MailStore is fast and pretty easy to use, but there are still some technical terms in the setup process that might trip you up, so I'll walk you through it.

Import To get started, download MailStore Home and install it. When you start MailStore you'll be looking at the empty Home screen. Click on Import Messages to start setting up your accounts. On the Import Messages screen you'll have to make a "profile" for each program and account you want to backup your messages from. For many of these, including Outlook, Thunderbird, and Windows Mail, setup is as easy as clicking on the name of the program and choosing a few options. You'll want to enter a name for the profile if the default name isn't satisfactory, and for some you'll have to choose a profile if the program has multiple profiles (e.g. if more than one person in your household uses it). If you want to fetch email from a remote server via Exchange, POP3, or IMAP, however, you'll have to enter some parameters manually.

Import IMAP

To find out the correct settings for your account, you'll probably have to contact your service provider or, if it's a work account, your IT department. If you're lucky, though, you might be able to guess. "Host" is address your email server resides at. If your email were is, say, jordan@sample.com, the sever's host might be sample.com or mail.sample.com, pop.sample.com or pop3.sample.com if it's a POP3 account, or imap.sample.com if it's an IMAP account. Whether or not you can get POP3 or IMAP access for a webmail account depends on your webmail provider. Gmail, for example, provides both IMAP and POP3 service for free, which you can enable (and find out configuration details for) by clicking on "Settings" and then "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" in Gmail (hint: chose "IMAP-SSL" for the protocol when setting up a Gmail account in MailStore). Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, on the other hand, only provide POP3 access if you pay a fee to upgrade to their "Plus" services. If you use another webmail service, check its help or FAQ section to see if POP3 or IMAP is available.

Once you've entered the account details and your password you can click on "Test" to see if it works. If it doesn't, MailStore will give you an error message that attempts to explain why it failed. Once you get it to work (and again, you might have to make a phone call to figure out the right settings), click on OK and you'll see the new profile listed under "Import E-Mail Messages." You can repeat the process for as many email accounts as you have. Once they're all set up, you can click on each of them on this screen to back them up. For mail already in your inbox in Outlook, Windows Mail, and Thunderbird--i.e. mail you've already downloaded--this process won't take too long. For remote servers, however, MailStore will have to download each of the messages one by one, which could take several hours if you have thousands of messages. It will show you a handy progress bar, however, so you can get an idea of how far along it is, and you can click on the "Details..." button to see the messages it's downloading in real time.


All imported--what now?

So you've imported all of your email. Now you've got a bunch of options. From the Homepage you see all of your profiles and navigate your messages. This is pretty straightforward. Click on the "+" next to an account or folder to expand it, and click on a folder to see the messages inside. Then you can click on a message title to view the message itself. The "E-mail Commands" drop-down contains options for deleting, saving, and exporting messages. You can see the same options by right-clicking on a message in message list on the left. Mysteriously there's no Print option, which is the only problem I've encountered in MailStore Home.

If you're looking for a particular message you can just use the search box, which will quickly search every message from all your accounts. If you want to do a more specific search click on Extended Search. This lets you pick the account and folder to search, search by sender, subject, date, etc., and include or exclude messages of a certain size or with or without attachments. You can even save your search criteria if it's a search you might perform again at a later date. By default MailStore backs up but doesn't index--i.e. make searchable--the contents of email attachments you've received. If you'd like it to index what's inside those attachments, click on Administrative Tools and then Index Options. There you can specify the extensions of the types of files you'd like it to index, e.g. doc for Microsoft Word files, pdf for PDF documents, and so on. You'll have to use the Rebuild Now button on this screen to rebuild the index after you've changed this option.

Administrative Tools also has some other useful options, including Storage Locations that let you decided where on your hard drive your backup will be stored, Export, which lets you export files that you can then import into an email program, and Restore Database Backup, which will let you load a MailStore backup you created previously.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, MailStore has a Burn Backup CD button, which, assuming you have a CD or DVD burner, will let you copy the database of your backed up email to a CD or DVD. I highly recommend using this option on a regular basis, because you never know when your hard drive could fail catastrophically, and not having a backup in another location defeats your entire purpose in backing up your email. If your hard drive crashes you can just get a new one, install MailStore Home on it, pop in your backup CD, and be back in business in no time.

About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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