PC Doctor July 25, 2014

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Dear PC Doctor:

I recently had a failure on my Dell Inspiron 530s with Vista sp1 Home Premium. I found an auto failure and corrupt registry at 05 and 06.  I had to use the original operating system disc to get it working again.  It is working as it should now.  There was a warning that I may lose all of my files and I did. I have a backup of pictures and they are back.  Is there any way that you know of to retrieve e-mails or documents after I re-installed the original operating system?

Thank you for your help,


Dear Richard:

First, congratulations on re-installing the operating system!  I am glad your computer is working well now.

Second, do you use web-based e-mail (gmail, yahoo, a web-based version of Verizon, etc.)?  If so, your messages may still be out there.  Go to the online portal for your e-mail provider and log in.

If you typically downloaded all of your e-mail into an inbox on your computer, it is not likely that any of your messages remain – unless you backed them up.

You can back up your e-mails from Outlook Express or Windows Mail by opening the program and navigating to Tools, then Options.  Choose the tab that reads “Advanced” and then click “Maintenance.” You should have an option called “Store Folder.” When you click that, you should be able to see where your e-mail program actually stores the messages on your computer.  Once you know the name of that folder, you can copy it onto a flash drive.  Voila!  A back up of your e-mails.

If you use Outlook, you should be able to back up your e-mails this way: In Outlook, right-click your e-mail account.  Click “Data File properties.” When you click “Advanced,” you should be able to see the file name.  It should end with “.pst” and you can copy it.

In general, to save yourself heartache if you ever have to reinstall your operating system again, save all your log in credentials (user names, passwords, etc.) someplace other than your computer, export your e-mail address book and save the file on a flash drive or other back-up media, back up any files you would be devastated to lose forever, again on a flash drive, and back up your e-mails.  At work, I typically do this about once each month.  I also alternate between two flash drives, in case one of them fails or is lost.

I hope this is at least a little bit helpful.

Until next time… Happy Computing!

     PC Doctor