Win7 Upgrade Guide: From Outlook Express to Thunderbird

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Bill P. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I finally made the plunge to Win7, thanks to your series of articles on upgrading from XP to Windows 7.

I noticed that Outlook Express is no longer part of Windows 7. Question: is there another email program similar to Outlook Express, and one that can import all my old Outlook Express emails for use on Windows 7? I've archived many Outlook Express emails over the years that I would still like to keep. "

My response:

I faced the exact same issue when I upgraded to Windows 7.

In short: Microsoft chose not to bundle an email program with Windows 7 because they want to re-brand MSN Messenger and Outlook Express (plus other programs) under one name, namely "Windows Live Essentials."

I had a chance to look at Windows Live Mail and, frankly, I didn't care for it. I chose to go with Mozilla Thunderbird as my default email client. Thunderbird is made by the same folks that make the Firefox web browser. It isn't exactly the same as Outlook Express, but it has a similar feel to it, with a lot more features and is updated regularly.

Importing Outlook Express Email to Thunderbird

Importing emails from Outlook Express to Thunderbird is simple because Thunderbird can read Outlook Express (.DBX) files natively. To import your Outlook Emails to thunderbird:

  1. Launch Thunderbird.
  2. Click Tools -> Import -> Mail, then select Outlook Express.
  3. Navigate to where your Outlook Express .DBX files are located. I will assume you backed them up before you installed Windows 7, obviously ;-)
  4. Thunderbird will then import your emails.

Importing Contacts into Thunderbird

The Windows Address Book (.WAB format) contains all your Outlook Express contacts. Unfortunately, Thunderbird does not support .WAB format, so you must convert them to another format (.LDIF) before you can import your contacts into Thunderbird.

To do the converison, I used a program called wabread that runs via the command line prompt.

Converting Windows Address Book to .LDIF Format

  1. Click Start -> Run, then type in "cmd" (no quotes) to open a command line. This will open a Windows command prompt window.
  2. Change directory to where your .WAB file is stored via the command line. Assuming they are stored in C:\backup, the commands would be:

    cd \backup
  3. Download and save it to the same folder as your .WAB address book file.
  4. Extract all files in and store it in the same directory as the your .WAB address book file.
  5. Go back to the Windows command prompt window. From the command line, type in:

    wabread *.wab >contacts.ldif

This will create contacts.ldif in your c:\backup folder (using the example above).

Importing your .LDIF Contacts File into Thunderbird

Now that your .WAB address book file is converted into .LDIF, you need to import the .LDIF file into Thunderbird. To do so:

  1. Open Thunderbird.
  2. Click Tools -> Import -> Address Books, then select Text File (LDIF).
  3. Navigate to where your .LDIF file is stored, select it, and click OK.
  4. Your contacts should be imported.

Hope that helps.

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