Outlook Express Compact Messages

If you use Outlook Express to read your e-mail you’ve probably seen the message: “To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact messages. This may take up to a few minutes.” What Outlook Express wants to do is make a copy of your message archive sans any messages you have deleted, trash the old message archive, and replace it with the new one. This is usually a good thing as it does indeed free up disk space and keeps your message archives in tip-top shape.

The problem is that in determining when to display the message, Outlook Express simply counts the number of times you close it and when it reaches 100 the message starts popping up. If you have multiple e-mail identities set up and switch between them several times a day you can see that message every couple of weeks. At that point it starts to get annoying. I have several years of messages stored and it takes quite a while for Outlook Express to complete the compacting process.

Unfortunately there is no way to turn off the message entirely, but you can make a quick edit to the Windows registry to set the counter back to 0 and dismiss the message (for a while, anyway).

Note: The following requires modifying your computer’s system files. Although I’ve tested and use these modifications on my own computer, I’m not responsible for any damage to your computer that might arise as a result of attempting these modifications—proceed at your own risk!

  1. Start the Registry Editor by clicking the “Start” menu, then choosing “Run…” and enter “regedit.”
  2. To start, navigate to the following folder in Regedit:

    In the “Identities” folder you will see at least one entry that looks something like this:

    The number of identities will correspond to the number of identities you have set up in Outlook Express. You will need to repeat the following steps for each identity.

  3. Continue to navigate to the following key, substituting “{identity}” for one of your identity keys:
    “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{identity}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0”
  4. In the “5.0” folder you will see a key called “Compact Check Count.” Double click this key.
  5. Enter “0” for the value data and click okay.

Repeat steps 3, 4, and 5 for all of the identities you have in the “Identities” folder.

It would be nice if there was some easier way to turn off the message but this is the only way I have found. As I said above, it’s usually a good thing to let Outlook Express occasionally compact your message archives and you should not continue to simply turn off the message indefinitely. I usually compact messages every couple of months.

6 thoughts on “Outlook Express Compact Messages

  1. I “compacted” my messages and every file in OE DISAPPEARED. I didn’t want to dump everything — I need some of those files. I tried using DBXtract but some of the “recovered” files have no content. Anything else I can do to find my missing e-mails?

  2. Thanks for that.

    Being looking around try to fix this problem this site should how to get to”regedit” and then proceed.


  3. I am in a “compact messages” loop! Every 10 seconds to 2 minutes, I am questioned “compact messages?” even after I allow it to do that!
    If I totally remove the compact message count from the registry, this problem goes away for about a week then re-occurs. When I look at the registry, that entry has been re-established with the original value. Who is doing this??

  4. I have exactly the same problem as Gene. I have never used Outlook and can’t even find an Outlook file on my PC – interestingly though when I did a search for the words ” Outlook Express ” I did have entries in each of the user identities as shown above in the original article.
    I am getting the message in a loop ever 30 seconds or so – surely this must be a virus of some sort it has also coincided with my PC slowing down very dramatically.

    Can anyone else throw any light on this ?

  5. I just started getting the pop-up message when I do a hard reboot (power outage). Like others, I don’t use Outlook in any variety, for security reasons, which is why I searched the text of the message, assuming the worst. I am not noticing performance issues, yet, and I have run ccleaner and I am keeping any eye on my AVG and PC Tools Spyware Doctor for any unusual activity.

    I am wondering if it worth uninstalling this Oulook program, and how feasible that might be.

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