Fast Forward

Help File: Changing an E-Mail Program, Then Backing Up Its Files

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, May 17, 2009

QI use Netscape 7.1 for e-mail and I'm stuck -- I can't back up my messages because I don't know where Netscape puts them, nor can I copy them into a new program.

AThis reader has two problems. One has an easy solution, and the other does not.

You definitely don't want to keep using the obsolete, abandoned Netscape. Install the free, open-source Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail program (, and you won't need to find your Netscape mail; Thunderbird can import it for you. A tech-support article has details; visit search for "netscape."

But your Thunderbird e-mail, with other files kept by your programs, will still be hidden by Windows -- one of the dumber things that operating system does. (Microsoft's story is that it didn't want users to delete these files by mistake.)

Some backup programs will automatically back up mail and other files in this data folder. If yours doesn't, you can make the folder visible. In Windows XP, go to the My Computer window's Tools menu and choose "Folder Options"; in Windows Vista, go to that window's Organize menu and choose "Folder and Search Options." In either version, click the Folder Options window's View tab, then click the button next to "Show hidden files and folders."

You can also navigate to this hidden folder by typing "c:\Documents and Settings\[your user name]\Application Data" in XP or, in Vista, "c:\Users\[your user name]\AppData\Local" in the My Computer window's address bar. (You'd replace "[your user name]" with the name you see when you log in to the computer.) Thunderbird e-mail is stored in a folder named "Thunderbird," and most other programs also store their data in folders named after themselves.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or Visit for his Faster Forward blog.

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