October 14, 2004

Q and A

James Coates of the Chicago Tribune may be reached via e-mail at jcoates@

Q: When I save an e-mail message from Outlook Express to another file on my hard drive, does the original message remain in Outlook Express? Also, how do I back up my entire hard drive onto a CD? I have Windows XP.

A: Making copies of an e-mail message and saving it in a backup file does not affect the original message that Outlook Express stores in a special folder. To find that folder, click on Tools in Outlook Express and select Options and then Maintenance. In that menu is a Store Folder button that will bring up a box with the location of the folder in which all the e-mail messages, address book entries and newsgroups you have acquired are kept. Each is stored in a file with the extension "dbx" (such as Inbox.dbx for e-mail).

To back up the data, use the mouse to paint the folder address, right-click on it and pick Copy. Open the Web browser and put the cursor in the Address bar, right-click and select Paste. This opens the folder with your stored files. Use the mouse to paint all of them and drag them to a backup folder; copy them to a CD for safekeeping.

To put a whole hard drive on CDs, you will need software that will accept more data than can be held on one disc and then copy it onto several discs, a process called spanning; two popular programs are Nero 6.0 ( and Roxio Easy Media Creator (

Most users, however, decide to simply make frequent backups of the data they create or acquire. The CD-burning module built into Windows XP is perfectly adequate for this. Put a blank CD into the drive and wait for the computer to display a menu of possible actions, including making a data disc. You then drag the icons for your data into the provided folder and click a command line to burn a CD.

Q: I hope you can help me since the folks at Hotmail can't seem to figure out my problem. I set up a simple signature to appear when I send out a message. Suddenly the signature stopped appearing. Now it appears only for the very first message I send out in a session; after that it disappears again. My other "junk" Hotmail account doesn't have this problem and I was thinking of importing all my messages to that account, but it doesn't have a POP (post office protocol) option. Can you get my signature back?

A: This sounds like a duplicate signature problem. This complication sets in when subscribers to Hotmail pay services try to take advantage of the added "premium" account feature that lets users abandon the bulky Web browser e-mail display for the superior software used by POP-mail subscribers, which includes Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express and Qualcomm's Eudora. The free accounts at Hotmail do not let users have this POP-type service.

One signature file - boilerplate type printed at the bottom of outgoing messages - is on your computer and the other is on the Hotmail server. The fix is to erase the files at both locations and restore just one on your PC.

Log on to your account and select Options in the commands displayed on the right-hand side just above the message list. You will find prompts that give a text box with your current signature. Delete it and return to the Mail screen. Send a message to your other account or elsewhere to change the signature settings on the browser.

Now do the same with Outlook. To find the signature box click on Tools and Options and then open the Mail Format tab and choose the Signature button. In the box this brings up, delete the signature and send a test message to the other account. With both the Web version and the PC version now without signatures, you can go back to Outlook's Mail Format tab and type in a new signature.

Finally, look for the two settings boxes to order the new signature attached to all replies and to all new notes. This will restore your account to a single signature file.

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