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What Email Program Should I Use After Outlook 2003?


Leo, I’m preparing to say thanks for the memories to my Windows XP machine running Outlook 2003. I already have a new laptop running Windows 8.1 but no email program as yet. I’ve used Outlook 2003 to collect and hold messages from two web email accounts. I’ve not been able to find instructions to move my Outlook 2003 files to a newer program. Is it possible to use and move my Outlook 2003 files to What are my alternatives? I’m not opposed to buying an email program but free is certainly better. However, I definitely want to retain my old emails and be able to access them in whatever my new email provider might select. After all, isn’t being able to store large files and being able to find and use them one of the advantages of having a computer?

Well, I have an easy solution, and I have a cheap solution. I don’t have an easy and cheap solution. There are also definitely a couple of things I want to clear up.

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Programs and accounts are not the same thing

I was a little concerned by terminology. Email programs and email accounts are two very different things.

You’re not changing email providers. Your email address will not change. And the email service that you use won’t change.

All we’re talking about here is changing the program that you run on your PC to access your email, wherever your email may come from. An email account given to you by your email provider or email service is just that: a service that you use.

Also, isn’t going to help here. Outlook, the program, is completely unrelated to, which is an email service.

The easy solution

So, first, the easy solution. Buy a new copy of Outlook. Outlook 2013 is the most current version of Microsoft Outlook. It’s part of Microsoft Office 2013, but I believe it can also be purchased as a stand-alone package if you don’t care about Word or Excel or the other programs that are included in Microsoft Office. Set that up on Windows 8.1. Configure it to access your existing email accounts.

Your old email on your old computer that’s running Outlook 2003 is probably kept in what are called .pst files. Pst stands for Personal Storage or Personal Store. Those files, potentially just one single file, have all of your email and your contacts and your calendar; basically all of the stuff that you’ve been seeing in Outlook 2003.

MailboxesAll you need to do is:

  1. Copy those .pst files (again, there might only be one) to your new machine.
  2. Open the .pst files in Outlook 2013. It’s the “Open as data file” option on one of the menus.

You’ll now have all of your old email and other old stuff right there in Outlook 2013 ready for you to access at will. Like I said, easy but not free.

The free solutions

Free solutions are easy to a point. For example, grab a copy of Thunderbird or Windows Live Mail. Download and install one of those on your new computer; configure it to access your email accounts and you’re almost good to go.

What’s missing, of course, is being able to access your old email. That’s where things get sticky, because the .pst file that I was talking about that contains all of your old email is in what’s called a “proprietary format”. That means that only Outlook can actually open it.

In either case, you should definitely copy that .pst file or those .pst files to your new machine, if only for backup. But I don’t know a simple way of getting at its contents other than installing a copy of Microsoft Outlook, which isn’t free.

The only free solution I can think of, and this definitely falls into the not-easy category, is to configure your Outlook 2003 on your old Windows XP machine to access an email account using IMAP. Copy all of your email in Outlook 2003 from your existing folders into the folders used by that IMAP account. That will cause all of those emails to be uploaded to your account with the email service that you’re using. Then you can download them elsewhere into the email program of your choice.

To be honest, in your shoes, if accessing those old emails is a priority, I would probably spring for a copy of Outlook 2013.

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Footnotes & references

16 comments on “What Email Program Should I Use After Outlook 2003?”

  1. Another alternative is to use emClient, an email program that is free as long as you’re satisfied with forum support and do not need to use more than 2 accounts. emClient can import data from PST-files. The migration approach I recommend is to a) install emClient in your old machine and migrate the accounts including the data files there. Then b) you backup the data by using the emClient Backup feature and restore it into the new machine, where you also have installed emClient.

  2. Hi Leo
    To back up and have access to older emails there is another solution: Mail Store Home.
    It allows you to save copies of your emails from just about any server, gmail, hotmail, etc. or from the program on your computer, such as Windows Live, Outlook, etc. I’ve used it for years and have been able to save my emails. They can then be viewed offline, and it also has a great search feature, printing ability etc.
    Curious to know what you think of it.

  3. If free and open-source are important criteria for your strategy of liberating your message archive from Outlook’s PSTs, libpst ( merits investigation, as does Xena (, a broader utility that incorporates it.

    I used Xena successfully, 6 or 7 years ago. I remember there was some limitation, possibly no support of RTF e. mail, but thousands of hours’ work will have been contributed, since then!

  4. A couple of years ago, I made the switch from Outlook to Windows Live Mail (which I love) very simply using the following procedure:

    Download & install Mailstore Home from This is free email archiving software, and it works fine.

    1) Install Windows Live Mail and set up account(s)
    2) Open Mailstore Home, select “Archive Email” and point to Outlook. (It will locate your existing ‘composite’ Outlook email file and prepare to break it down into individual message files for importation into Live Mail.)
    3) Export to “File System” using the eml format
    4) Export to a directory such as C:\temp\email (This will cause the division of the ‘composite’ Outlook file into individual eml message files (which is the format used by Live Mail) and save them to the temporary directory.)
    5) In Live Mail use the Import Function
    6) Select “Windows Mail” format
    7) Select the directory such as C:\temp\email

    That’s it. Worked for me like a charm.

    • Just brilliant!!!! been struggling with Windows Live mail, managed a around the houses transfer of contacts and emails, to Exel but this is so easy. Thanks a bundle.

      Happy New Year

  5. Can’t he/she just install his/her existing copy of Outlook 2003 (Office 2003) onto the Win8.1 machine, copy across the old PST file and point Outlook 2003 to it? Won’t Win8.1 run Office 2003?? (Excuse my ignorance – I still run Windows 2000 and Office 2000!)

  6. You can simply install Outlook 2003 in your new PC running Win 8.1 and then copy your .pst file from your old PC and replace the .pst file in the new one with the .pst containing all your information. I’ve done this several times when I’ve bought new computers.

      • Your understanding is correct. Windows 8, while certain facets of Outlook 2003 work well, does have problems with some phases of Outlook 2003. Just another example of Microsoft trying to force customers to purchase more software.

  7. SUGESTION: When vendords put their software on your site please have a notation that this is pay for service, not FREE.
    I have downloaded some that I thought would help, I thought it was free, but after letting them do their thing it comes back and tells me the hundreds of errors I have and they can fitx it fo $$$$$$$$’s. It would be a service if their is a notation that this cleanup /update drivers or /??? that one clicks on it because of it being from a site we trust only to get to the end and be asked for $99. Would be nice if those who advertise on your site let us know what the small print says before we waste out time to find out we can’t afford it !

  8. I used Toby’s suggestion – Outlook 2003 works fine with Windows 8.1 and accesses POP accounts no problem; all archived files transferred and worked too. However, recently it has become ‘unstable’ in that the connection to the email server often times out, but does connect eventually….this may be simply that I have allowed the size of my .pst files to become too large. The main outlook.pst file is at 1.2 Gb and the archive.pst file is 0.8 Gb….I don’t know if the restriction to 2 Gb for Outlook 2003 applies to one or both files. I have archived emails going back several years that I still want to access if possible using the same email program – so I will try Mike Berard’s suggestion. But if your outlook.pst file is not too big, then Tony’s suggestion works fine and fast – at least in Windows 8.1. The only drawback (which is a published one) is that you can’t use the Word-based spell checker when creating an email….but that’s a small price to pay.


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