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 Outlook.com and move my Outlook 2003 files to Outlook.com? 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, Outlook.com isn’t going to help here. Outlook, the program, is completely unrelated to Outlook.com, 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.
All you need to do is:
- Copy those .pst files (again, there might only be one) to your new machine.
- 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.