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How Do You Store and Reconcile Email Archives?

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the translate-them-to-quipu dept.

Communications 380

heyitsjustme wants to know how you deal with old email. "I delete most of what I get but keep the stuff from friends and relations as an archive. Unfortunately I have these email archives from the late 80's through today in the form of macintosh, linux and windows mailboxes including AOL 1.0 mailboxes. What does everyone use to archive email across multiple platforms and non-standard mailbox formats? Is there an easy solution out there? Does anyone archive IM?"

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Italian school of driving (4, Funny)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922512)

No need for rear view mirrors. What is behind you is not important.

Re:Italian school of driving (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922521)

I like pie!

Re:Italian school of driving (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922533)

Until you get a flat, then dego wop wop wop.

Re:Italian school of driving (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922546)

pancakes are better than pie!

Re:Italian school of driving (4, Interesting)

boybaha (584738) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922555)

I also have email archives that stretch back to the early-1990s. I pretty much still have every email I've ever sent or received. When upgrading email clients, I often migrate my archives with me, converting them using whatever client's built-in importing and exporting functions I have available. I went from Eudora to Outlook Express to Thunderbird to Mac Mail. I also have programs that "pop" webmail off their sites (gmail, hotmail and yahoo) to consolidate them in whatever current mail client I'm using. I just keep them in neat folders ("Old Eudora Mail," "Old Yahoo Mail")..

Re:Italian school of driving (0, Redundant)

Man in Spandex (775950) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922599)

So if Barbra MegaStreisand is chasing you from the back while you're driving to go get a few Krispy Kreme doughtnuts, it's not important ? =O


Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922613)

The post is clearly on topic. It's also a quote from a movie on philosphy. Stupid moderators modded it down.

Philosphy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922778)

How about a quote from a movie on e-mail archives, next time?

American school of driving (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922744)

My car is bigger than yours. Move it or lose it!

One word (0, Offtopic)

xenostar (746407) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922524)


Re:One word (5, Insightful)

Padrino121 (320846) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922604)


I don't know about you but I generate about 6GB of email archives per year. Besides that having my email potentially available for searching doesn't sit well with me. I'm not sure where it stands now but there were a lot of potential privacy issues with Gmail.

No I don't receive hords of email, just a lot of engineering related with source code,research, white papers attached. If you do anything business related it's important to keep all of the original emails received so there is an electronic paper trail.

Re:One word (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922780)

6GB yearly? Holy shit...

Do you actually sign up to those free porn places?

Re:One word (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922748)

And have all my mail arrive in the NSA's inbox?

Thanks, but I'll pass.

Here's what I do... (5, Funny)

sub7 (187049) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922526)

I archive all my pr0n on DVDs these days. It's really easy and oh wait... fsck!

Re:Here's what I do... (5, Funny)

The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922637)

I archive all my pr0n on DVDs these days. It's really easy and oh wait... fsck!

One day... someone... somewhere is going to invent some sort of mechanism for removing text you've already typed. It shall be called "back-one-space" and will remove the letter before it.

If this is impossible, surely they can keep a way of having all our text auto-submitted!

Re:Here's what I do... (2, Funny)

sulli (195030) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922729)

You probably don't need to check DVD file systems if you've burned them properly.

Since a month back (2, Informative)

Cambrant (735036) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922528)

I've been going with the Gmail philosophy of storing everything. Until someone gets hold of my password of course. People should generally be more careful with the storage of their online communication. Print what's important and stick it all in a drawer. That's the safe way to do it.

gmail (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922529)


rm -fR /var/spool/mail/* (2, Funny)

xlyz (695304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922534)

and you are done!

Once every computer change (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922536)

I save backup of my emails and other stuff (including IM).

Then I trash them when I change my computer. (every 4 years)

Disk space is cheap. Why bother deleting? (5, Insightful)

heypete (60671) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922537)

Save it all. With the exception of some mail archives lost to catastrophic disk failures (I keep archives for my own convenience, not for any official purposes, so I don't back them up), I keep all my email.

Thunderbird is able to import all my old mail archives (from years and years of Eudora) and search it effectively. If I were inclined to export all my archives from my Mac to my Windows machine, I could use Google Desktop Search to really search through it all.

Re:Disk space is cheap. Why bother deleting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922615)

Ye-es, but that also necessitates keeping legacy systems over time, and sometimes that's not practical.

For instance, I started out using email on an Amiga, then a PC, then a Linux box. Accessing those older PC and Amiga email archives is practically impossible and the situation will only get worse as more and more email info - pretty much all of it - is being sucked into current proprietary email systems.

On a sidenote, MSN Messenger is actually quite useful in that you can turn on conversation logging and get output in XML format. Nice, futureproof, simple...

Re:Disk space is cheap. Why bother deleting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922701)

Daddy, did you really order gay phone sex twice in October 1998?

Re:Disk space is cheap. Why bother deleting? (5, Insightful)

Libraryman (721151) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922722)

Why delete?

Because if you delete early and often, you've committed no crime. If you wait to delete it until someone (feds, cops, *IAA, UN-black-helicopter troopers, whoever) demands you turn it over to them, you're screwed.

After all, you break laws too (everybody does, they are written that way). You just haven't been caught yet. (I know this because if you had, you wouldn't have all you email archived!)

Dave's top ten (4, Funny)

FreeLinux (555387) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922760)

10 Your mother told you to stop being such a pack rat.
9. Disks fill up, no matter how cheap they are. Low cost doesn't excuse gluttony.
8. Backups take forever.
7. Restores take an eternity, especially if your not confident.
6. Mail client gets slower and slower.
5. Searches take too long.
4. Mail clients make mistakes, especially on big stores. See #7
3. Your CYA evidence may be used against you.
2. A mail store is not a file system and SMTP is not a file transfer protocol.

And the number one reason to delete your old email...


I work for Microsoft (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922540) I just delete everything after a major deal falls through.

I'm afraid... (3, Insightful)

joNDoty (774185) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922541)

the best way to consolidate various types of emails may be to email them to a common source. Then archive from there.

Re:I'm afraid... (1)

Koyaanisqatsi (581196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922657)

That's good for the text itself, but screws with the rest of the data (sender, date sent, etc)

And assuming you still have an app to read that: I've got some old netscape (2.x, I think) mail folders that I can read with a text editor, but I no longer have a program that will open it - there may be, ut I haven't looked that much really.

email archive (4, Funny)

Pompatus (642396) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922543)

I delete most of what I get

You must work for microsoft

Re:email archive (1)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922587)

You must work for microsoft

That's not a very fair comment. There are many fortune 500 companies out there that engage in this type of activity - it's just that Microsoft got caught more than most :p

Re:email archive (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922731)

Of course its a fair comment. As you state many fortune 500 companies engage in record manipulation and Microsoft WAS caught, therefore it is a perfectly legitimate comment.

Maybe other companies do it but until there is proof then you can't slander them but Microsoft do it, so they're fair game.

Re:email archive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922652)

"You must work for microsoft"

I don't think that's really fair and it's certainly not insightful. We encourage people to delete mail because for legal purposes we have backups that include client-deleted emails and are taken daily. Live mail space for a 15000+ workforce can be a major drain on resources. In any case, daily backups means the chances of having more than one copy of any required email are extremely high.

Cyrus Imap... (2, Interesting)

DaGoodBoy (8080) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922545)

...with fetchmail / procmail / cyrdeliver for sorting and storing from other sources. How can 5GB of mail can't be wrong?! I can slice and dice my all my email (including about a gig of spam... [] ) for choice bits of information.

Unix mail format (3, Interesting) (771661) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922547)

I use the basic Unix mail format, essentially plain text series of messages. Eudora does fine with it; and most anything else can read/import it. I have email going back to the 80's in this format. The one time I had to convert was when I was working for a company that used "Quickmail" on the Mac. I wound up reverse engineering their format and hacking up a program to convert it to plain text.

Re:Unix mail format (2, Interesting)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922690)

Ditto, in my case the "mbox" format to be precise. I currently use Procmail to automatically CC all incoming messages to a dedicated archive file, one per month, each year in a seperate folder. Outgoing mail is also sent to the same file, although I could easily have an "infile" and an "outfile", break mail apart by topic, or whatever. For more robust long term backup purposes I simply tarball the dozen files within each directory into a file called "mail-yyyy.tar.gz" and backup as normal.

Since mbox is a pretty standard format many tools have a built in import routine or that there there will be an existing third party tool to handle any conversions at least. Failing that, it's fairly trivial to cobble together a one-off conversion tool using a scripting language, or even to batch remail each message one at a time if your new email client uses some undocumented storage format, or is an online service like GMail.

PDF (4, Insightful)

DisasterDoctor (775095) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922550)

I delete almost everything, and only save a few very important or personal emails. For those I do keep, I print to PDF, and archive by date and person/subject. It works exceptionally well for me. It is all electronic, takes very little disk space, and keeps the clutter to a minimum, and eliminates most of the cross platform nightmares.

Spotlight and Tiger (4, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922649)

Combine this with spotlight/tiger in mac os. Spotlight indexes PDF content. print it to pdf and it will be searchable. Assuming you have a Mac that is.

One Word (5, Insightful)

Zone-MR (631588) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922553)

One word: IMAP. If you can read your email using any decent email client, it should support moving it to an IMAP server. If you are using web-based email or some crappy client which can't export emails to a standard/raw format, you'll have to write a script to convert the messages.

Re:One Word (2, Interesting)

Murphy Murph (833008) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922619)

I second this.
I started running my own IMAP server on an old machine a year or so ago - and synced all my old mail archives to various folders.

My mailserver also solves another problem - multiple POP accounts. I have my IMAP server set up so that each one of my POP accounts gets automaticly tagged and sent to it's own folder.

A third common problem this solves is having multiple machines. Now my desktop's email client is always synced with my laptop's email client. Before I had run into problems when ever I traveled and fetched my email from the road.

Re:One Word (2, Insightful)

pasamio (737659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922632)

IMAP isn't really a word, its an anocrym. But I agree, IMAP is the way I use, it helps for the relevant email and on my network I use both Linux and Windows (with a dedicated Linux box). I have Evolution set up to continually check and sort my email into IMAP folders and I generally read them off my linux box. If I need to click on links, I generally open up any Windows email client (from Thunderbird to Outlook) and it'll connect to IMAP and my emails will all appear (nicely sorted too!). If I need webmail, I have squirrelmail (which I use) to access my IMAP system remotely using any web browser and I can get at my hotmail email (from the old days, but my accounts are still active) using freepops or some other Web Email to POP3 gateway. Everything (but gmail, my mailing list archive), is in my IMAP server - I just backup one area.

Re:One Word (5, Interesting)

pHDNgell (410691) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922678)

One word: IMAP

Absolutely. I use no fewer than two mail clients on two different machines on any given business day. Every email I've sent since 1995 or something like that, and received since 1998 is available and searchable. Over this time, I've accessed this archive with the following clients:

* pine (lots of pine)
* mac mail
* thunderbird
* various netscapes/mozillas
* ML (some random IMAP reader)
* My phone (my old Sony/Ericcson speaks IMAP)
* My palm (two different apps)
* python
* a java webmail system I wrote
* three or four other webmail systems
* mutt ...who knows what else. I've got freedom to try whatever I want at any given moment without losing my current or past mail.

Re:One Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922762)

That's four words:
IMAP: Internet Message Access Protocol.

It's simple: plain text (5, Insightful)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922556)

Ever since I first got acquainted with e-mail on my Apple IIe in the '80s, I've used e-mail programs that offer plain-text storage as at least an option. It's one of the most universal formats in existence, and can be read one way or another on computers both decades old and brand new. I encountered some weird proprietary clients in the '90s that still stored e-mail in this format, because from a corporate perspective, this stuff was still in its infancy, plus HTML hadn't yet mucked everything up. To this day I still store in plain text from Eudora 6.2.

I burn it to CD-Rs that I know won't get moved around or scratched. They stand a good chance of lasting the rest of my life.

Re:It's simple: plain text (1)

jwcorder (776512) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922769)

"I burn it to CD-Rs that I know won't get moved around or scratched. They stand a good chance of lasting the rest of my life.

Actually, that's not true. New studies (forgive me I have no link but I did see it on the Screensavers a while back) have shown that if you take normal run of the mill CD-Rs and burn data on them then store them untouched for one year, when you try to read the data, a lot of them will fail. Just something to think about.

Most companies do make long-term disks (read expensive) for critical data storage. Something about "DVD/CD rot" which consists of inconsistencies in the organic dye on the disks that corrodes over time.

Log everything... (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922561)

I log and keep all my traffic including IRC logs going back to '94.

My email isn't in quite the mess yours is, (I used Eudora for almost all of my emailing since I first got on the net, and have just imported from one version to another, and now into Thunderbird.)

I would simply start copying & pasting, or see if you can try importing into excel.

Re:Log everything... (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922670)

I log and keep all my traffic including IRC logs going back to '94.

Hey B5_geek, here's a trick to free up a lot of disk space *and* raise the S/N ratio in your logs:

mv irclog.txt irclog.txt.fat && grep -vi lol irclog.txt.fat > irclog.txt && rm -f irclog.txt.fat

IMAP server (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922563)

I use an IMAP server

Upon Searching.. (4, Informative)

yuriismaster (776296) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922565)

EmailMan [] has the answers to your problem.

More utilities than I want to bother with, but hopefully they'll have the converter(s) you need.

Good Luck!

of course (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922566)

Of course people archive IM. I archive everything, but in particular conversations with customers (I do contract programming.)

See if one of the desktop search products, such as Beagle or Google's will index will index your archives. That might be all that you need.

If not, the first step is to convert everything to a real format. Eudora and Thunderbird can read in some of the non-standard mail formats and convert them to unix mbox.

Re:of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922779)

As for archiving IM, doesn't AOL do that for you? []

Just set aside a couple bucks today, and with compounded interest you'll have no problem buying your old IM conversations on the open market.

Print them to PDF (1)

karmaflux (148909) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922570)

and store the files by correspondant. It's not fancy, but it's foolproof.

local WU imapd (0)

mAIsE (548) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922573)

setup a local imap server, you can generally setup imap from almost any modern mail client, let the client do the work of conversion.

then put all of your mail into imap folders, sort by year etc.. Each folder will then be in a large text based file. That you can rsync, tar , etc..

gmail (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922574)

every email I get has a copy forwarded to a google gmail account. I also forward everything to an account on my server as well, but I like the gmail account because I can get at it anywhere.

Your favorite online storage (4, Informative)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922583) gives unlimited free 1 Terabyte email accounts that include 500 Megabyte attachments. We have been asked why we would do such a thing. The answer is simple to help people store large amounts of information in a safe and secure environment. - - - We decided that yes a Terabyte of space may sound rather extreme to some, others will not think so. If you have a free membership with then you will receive a free 1 Terabyte 500 Megabyte attachment email account. You will be able to store over 40 million emails, videos, games, mp3s, or pictures.

This might be useful, if they don't collapse under /.

Well.... (1)

cloudkj (685320) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922588)

I try to use the same family of e-mail clients to maintain some sense of backwards compatability. For example, I first started using Netscape Communicator, and have since then switched to Mozilla's e-mail client (not Thunderbird). I basically do what you do, and just save the mailboxes. I think Mozilla has a feature for importing mail archives from Netscape, but for some reason it didn't work for me.

So I just keep those files lying around, with the texts of the e-mail pretty much stored in the flat files of the e-mail client. It's inconvenient. But I think my idea of sticking with the same type of client is a viable solution. As long as the client allows you to import old mailboxes and folders, then you can just back those up whenever you get a new machine, re-install your system, etc.

Simple.. (2, Funny)

billimad (629204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922589)

I give mine to Microsoft for the safe storage and instant retreval they are renoud for. Oh wait..

Re:Simple.. (1)

varmittang (849469) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922640)

yep, I recently lost all my emails in my hotmail account due to something they were doing. Which, I only use that account to get security updates and MS Tech show invitations. So I didn't lose anything important.

Don't change e-mail clients (3, Informative)

rueger (210566) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922590)

That's one of the many reasons why I have stayed with Pegasus Mail [] for many years. Because they were created in the same program I know that I can still access my old mail files without problems.

What I do at year end is move all of that year's messages to a new folder and reset my filters so that the new year's messages go into a new set of folders.

Periodically I just copy off previous year's messages to CD.

At least few times I have been able to back a couple of years and find information that I lacked.

Kinda Sorta OT (4, Interesting)

hot_Karls_bad_cavern (759797) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922592)

but ...

Along these lines, is there an OSS package that can read the varied formats the Submitter is referring to, tag and drop them in a DB with a nice, friendly, web-enabled (secure) front-end for searching?

My former employer kept *all* of his email from the last 20 years in tar.gz files. Let's just say it wasn't easy to find an email from er, 15 years ago very easily.

Is there a package that can read the mbox, the other box-formats, plain text, pull from pop, old tar.gz bundles, categorize (sorta), tag and make such things searchable?

Totally a shot in the dark here, i'm not a mail guy at all ... just wondering as the Submitter did what i like /. Submitters to do: make me think and look for new, better stuff ... or better ways to do old-stuff.

It is the "drink" that makes me wonder, sorry :)

Re:Kinda Sorta OT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922766)

Is there a package that can read the mbox, the other box-formats, plain text, pull from pop, old tar.gz bundles, categorize (sorta), tag and make such things searchable?

Not really, but procmail comes with a tool called formail that can read and convert between several formats. If you output each email into a separate file, it should make the messages easier to work with. You could probably run something htdig or Google desktop search, or use grep to find messages. Of course it would help to have a search tool that understands mail headers, MIME encoding, etc.

How I archive my mail (2, Insightful)

gpscc (315484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922596)

I only use e-mail clients that store mail in ascii with standard headers. This means no Outlook mail. I still use the Netscape e-mail client to view and organize my mail. Also I have various perl scripts that can access the e-mail archive. I have 22 years of e-mail, archived on my PC. It gets backed up with the nightly backup onto a swapable firewire drive. I swap the backup every morning and have one of the drives with me.

Convert to MBOX format (4, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922597)

Almost every email client around can import and export mbox formats. Getting your email in a format that is going to be readable in 20 years is the first step, otherwise why bother?

Worse comes to worst mbox is readable as plain text.

Or use maildir (4, Informative)

suso (153703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922676)

Whatever you do, I think its best to keep it in an open and obvious format like mbox or maildir. The nice thing about maildir though, is that since all the messages are seperate, it might be a little easier to write a program to put them into a new format.

Personally, since 1999, I've been using a combination of maildir and procmail to archive and save my mail. Every message that comes in, goes to a folder called .saved-messages-YYYY-MM and also to my inbox. I simply don't touch the saved-messages folders and when I am done with the message in my inbox, I just delete it. This has worked well for me and makes it much easier to deal with archiving old mail. In the end, having categorized folders and such is just a waste of time. Its kinda like the wm2 (window manager) way of thinking, but for mailboxes.

My Backup System (1)

hhlost (757118) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922601)

Every week I do a backup of everything important on my SuSE box, the entire public dir on my live web server and two testing servers plus the MySQL databases on all four. My email and document files go back to about 1995 and still everything fits on a single CD. (I also burn another copy for off-site b/u.) So, I have multiple copies of everything that's more than a week or two old. As soon as I have more data than will fit on one CD, I'll move to an incremental system... and start to worry about CD rot [] .

I wish... (1)

shanen (462549) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922608)

Well, my basic reaction to this topic is that I haven't ever found a really good way to do this, but I wish there was one. Actually, I wish it was part of a more general system to sort and manage personal files, restructuring things and getting rid of the duplicates. This is actually an indirect side effect of the cancerous growth of HDDs. Sort and clean up? Why bother? Just copy the universe to the new machine. Who cares about wasting a few GB?

Closest thing to a helpful feature I've seen is the importing features of some programs. Unfortunately, that has mostly favored Microsoft. They have the most resources to devote to this, both in terms of making sure the competitors email can be imported into their system, and in terms of making sure that their OWN email can't be exported successfully to the other systems. (The last one is indirect these days, in terms of the file system. Yeah, you can export to one giant flat mess. At least that was the situation the last few times I tried to escape from Microsoft's clutches, but I'm really loathe to abandon my very complicated filing system.)

Farthest thing and least helpful was a shareware program that would eat the email when the trial period timed out. I don't remember the details except that I'll never voluntarily deal with blackmailers.

Archiving IM (1)

stephthegeek (733850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922614)

I use Trillian, which logs all my IM conversations, and I can't tell you how many times I've looked up a URL from a year ago, or a friend's address, or some other bit of obscure information I might have passed on, but didn't think it was worth saving at the time.

emacs (1)

bsdpanix (170144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922616)

I've been using emacs to read mail for 18 years.
from rmail to vm to gnus, no conversion problems.

(what's an AOL mailbox?) :)

One's things sure (4, Funny)

eddeye (85134) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922621)

Don't ask Microsoft [] .

AIM Logs (1)

HitByASquirrel (710289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922622)

I use Adium [] on OS X for AIM, and I have it automatically set to log everything. Currently both my G5 and Pismo log to boot drives, but I back the logs up on an external hard disk on a regular basis.

It basically acts like an automatic journal/diary, as I tend to talk about most significant, or even sometimes insignificant events with friends and family.

Hmm that's easy (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922623)

Store everything in mbox format (that is, raw text with headers and all).

Every email client worth the name understands that, for the good reason that it's the format they receive emails in :-)

For nonstandard forms of archives (perhaps old AOL clients and whatnot), you're probably left either (1) perl'ing a convert script or, if you can (2) fire up the old client in Win95 in VMWare or something and fwd the mails to yourself (tedious).

Mailing lists... (1)

rrosales (847375) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922625)

All of the links in my daily pr0n-in-your-mail messages go bad if I dont check them every day so they're useless after being read :)

My technique (1)

Karpe (1147) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922627)

I delete all mail that has not been directly addessed to me. Usually all mail from mailing lists, unless the message is really interesting or it is a thread I've been participating. I didn't use to do that, but when I changed to this method I deleted the old unimportant messages as well. It brings down the number of messages to a manageable level.

Messages are not sorted into separate subject folders. They are all in a single mailbox, the mailbox. Every month I back up this mailbox to the name of the previous month. I do the same with my sent mail. Messages are then kept in individually monthed mbox files, independent of the email program I am using. All mail programs to date I've used are able to import messages. I keep in the mail program only the mailboxes of the last few months.

If I need to find a message, I first search through the month or, if I am not sure, the year that the message was received. I "grep -i" in a directory with all my mboxes. It usually doesn't take too long, just a few minutes in the worst case. After I find the mailbox, I import it in my current mail program ( now), to forward, save attachments, etc.

I've tried keeping all these mboxes as a Cyrus imapd spool, but the trouble was larger than the benefit.

I keep all (personal, things I've been directly involved with) my mail since 1996. It works for me. It is around 300MB compressed with gzip.

mbox or maildir (2)

Xtifr (1323) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922628)

I've been using mbox format since the eighties, and never had a problem with it on any platform. It's pretty much been THE standard for email for as long as email has existed. If I ever were to switch, I'd probably switch to maildir, which has nearly as wide-spread support these days.

Re:mbox or maildir (1)

Bishop (4500) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922710)

Mbox is better for archival as it is only the one file, or a few larger files as opposed to many small files with special names. You can always tar Maildir, but then you might as well put the email in mbox which can be opened directly. There are a number of simple tools that will make a copy Maildir or Imap and store the result as mbox.

Re:mbox or maildir (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922733)

I have used both mbox and maildir over the years and after many years I am convinced that maildir is the way to go. It is also "plain text" but is much easier (and faster) to manipulate as each message is in a separate file. With mbox, if some or other mail manipulation program screws up you lose the whole archive, while with maildir you lose at most one message.

Archive what? (3, Interesting)

Mishura (744815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922631)

I never keep emails, or archive IMs or any other form of communication. Once a email is read, it is deleted. Same goes for normal old-skool mail, I read it and then trash it. The only exceptions are of letters/email of some importance such as information I need to keep handy, or if it has some kind of sentimental value (letters from deceased relatives for example.)

Sure, HDD space is cheap; but I tend to equate people who archive every single form of written communication to those who have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, in that they hoarde everything in sight: newspapers, snail mail, magazines, boxes, etc..

Commit to memory and destroy the evidence. Thats my way of handling archives.

Re:Archive what? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922721)

If you throw out your mail as soon as you read it, how are you keeping letters written by deceased relatives? Are they sending you mail after they die?

Re:Archive what? (2, Funny)

Lorrin (813810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922728)

I'd imagine once your relatives decease they stop sending you mail -- conveniently cutting down on the amount you need to archive. Nice!

Re:Archive what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11922775)

Sure, HDD space is cheap; but I tend to equate people who archive every single form of written communication to those who have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Wait a second. You are comparing me to myself?

Web Mail and Evolution (1)

Gyorg_Lavode (520114) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922634)

I have a question along the same lines. I use Evolution to pull down my local email. But I would like to also be able to read it externally. If I set usermin to use the evolution mboxes, they become unsync'd in evolutions view.

So how do I use evolution and a browser view without keeping double copies?

formail, mairix, and mutt (3, Informative)

rsw (70577) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922641)

Convert everything into mbox format. formail [] will help you with that.

Use mairix [] to search through email.

mutt [] is the best mail client ever.


Archiving IM (1)

WillySilly (820584) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922644)

I archive IM convos to blackmail people......I mean...

Ask Bill (1)

Mustafu (867201) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922659)

This is simple. Just click "Send Error Report" and the wizards at Microsoft will be more than happy to help!

Archiving IM (1)

Unreal One (21453) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922667)

At work we're forced to use an internal MS Windows Messaging for internal IM. It's not a bad program, but it has no archiving functionality. I've found that Messenger Plus! ( is a great compatible add-on that add's message logging and other features to Windows Messenger.

However BEWARE, Messenger Plus will want to install spyware by default. Be sure to select the, "I don't want to support this company, don't install spyware". hehe Funny but the option is something like that.

Archive IM? (1)

Chris Kamel (813292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922668)

Why would you do that? Do you record all your phone conversations? IM is just like that, unless it's important (rarely happens) you'll never get to look at it even if it was archived anyway. We just feel the need to archive every piece of information as geeks as long as it's electronic and hence possible.

Re:Archive IM? (1)

praetis (806293) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922696)

I would* archive my phone conversations if it was as easy as AIM logging. When people tell me something on IM, I never have to write it down. I can just search the logs if I ever need it later. I argue there's no reason NOT to. It's also nice to look back and remember past eras of my social life (don't laugh dammit).

Easy... (2, Informative)

praetis (806293) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922669)

I archive my mail on /dev/null. Send it there daily.

Archivie Instant Messages (1)

MCron (737313) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922677)

I keep logs of all messages sent through DoorManBot [] , which allows offline messaging on AIM, but I do that through special software only for the system.

For normal IM logging, I use Middle_Man, an AIM plugin. Other AIM plugins do this too, so take a look around.

if an email is important (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922680)

then it gets copied & pasted to a text file and saved, then deleted from the email client...

Archiving tool: ForKeeps (3, Interesting)

sstern (56589) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922683)

I have several CDs worth of stuff archived with ForKeeps:

It's a bit of an old program and the interface is clunky, but it works reasonably well once you work through it.

Keep an archive on your current mail client (1)

Koyaanisqatsi (581196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922684)

That's what I have been doing in recent years: keep your regular "recent" emails in one profile, and in another all your archive stuff, using the same client and formats.

When you switch mail clients (you allways do in a few years), make sure you import all current *and* archive email in a new set of profiles. Backup from your current app.

Still have to figure gmail in the equation, but with pop3 access should be just a matter of importing it in a app and backing it up - but downloading up to a GB over pop3 may be problematic, not sure what provisions are there to resume downloads.

just an idea ...

Prioritize. Your Ex' Love Letters can be deleted. (1)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922705)

I only forwarded the important/funny stuff to my other email addresses when I switched addresses.

Now I use Gmail, and everything gets archived. I don't see Gmail/Google collapsing anytime soon, (or me running out of storage space) and so I think in 10 years, if you ask this question, I'd say I just archived it.

Delete it (4, Insightful)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922712)

That way it won't be subject to a sub poena. You'll regret it one day if you don't. Do you realize how much incriminating stuff you have in there?

Re:Delete it (2, Insightful)

man_ls (248470) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922743)

Generally, most people don't have to fear subpoenas unless they're doing something illegal or nefarious in some way.

Good point, though.

same sort of thing.. (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922715)

Does anyone know what format and where outlook stores e-mails? I need to archive a friends e-mails and she only used outlook and I have no clue where to start with Windows 98 and outlook..

Google Desktop Search (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922724)

If you know basic programming (file access and working with a given API), then you can try writing a plugin for Google Desktop Search [] . This way, you can add all your old files to the GDS database, and automatically archive the new ones.

IMAP it. (1)

ron_lima (733786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922742)

I keep everything on my IMAP server. When the mailbox is full, I delete everything.

MHonarc (1)

lunarboy (731997) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922751)

I've been looking for a solution to this same problem for a long time. For now, I still have all my email from the last 10 years stored in my MS Entourage database. Scary. What I would like to do is convert them all to HTML and/or plain text so that it's searchable, and won't need a special app to view them. Who knows what formats will still be around in 10, 20, 30+ years? But I suspect HTML and plain text will survive.

What I don't like about the mbox archiving technique is that you have to import the mbox into an email app to read it. To me, that sounds like a chore because I'd want to keep those messages separate from my current email box, and then there's processing time it takes to import it, etc.

It seems to me that an ideal situation would be that the file system can search it (i.e. Spotlight [] in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger [] ) or use a web browser.

There is a solution for archiving emails to HTML: MHonarc [] . I've played with it in the past and it does its job fairly well. What annoys me about the script is how difficult it is to customize the output, especially if you want it to validate and use CSS.

There's nothing else out there that I could find to my satisfaction. Maybe some resourceful developers want to embark on a new OSS project??? :)

The answer to everything... Gmail (& Thunderbi (1)

ryrw (810868) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922753)

I'm an obsessive email archiver and thanks to Gmail, I can do it simply and easily cross platform. With gmail's smtp server, it saves all my outgoing mail no matter if I send it from my mail client on a Mac, Linux box, Windows machine, or someone else's computer through the web interface. Then, using Thunderbird on all three platforms, I can download both the incoming mail and the mail I sent (possibly from another computer). That way, all my computers have all the sent/received mail without any duplicates all the time. And if needed, when away from my computer, I can get to the most recent email archive through the Gmail web interface. Also, thanks to Thunderbird, I have a consistent mail interface between all my computers/platforms.

Moral of the story: Get a gmail account.

As for conversion, you can google for programs to convert your mail (or upload it to gmail) from pretty much any format into a Thunderbird compatible format.

It was also nice to get out of Outlook Express with it's 218 MB limit on folders. It was deleting email at random (presumably for years) without ever even mentioning it to me. Three cheers for Micros#%@!

Older versions of Eudora (1)

mabu (178417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11922774)

I use Eudora 5.1 - I have every e-mail since 1995 at my disposal. It works very well. Upgrading doesn't hose mailboxes; you can move the entire subdirectory to a new machine and it works perfectly. I can't say much for the newer versions of Eudora. Version 6.2.1 seems to have some bugs in it, but if you can get earlier releases of this software, it's excellent.
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