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Restoring or exporting?

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By: Tom_Cruiso

February 20, 2019

Restoring or exporting? Which one suits you better?

Well, we are talking about your emails. We believe you are backing them up to some drive. We won’t ask you how because that depends on how and where you want it; and how your company gets the task done. Here we will be discussing the post-disaster situation, where you have lost emails from the source, and you need them back. Before that, let's learn the probable disasters.

Mail Deletion due to office policies:

Most offices receive hundreds of emails on every single system. Taking into account the limited space offered by the email provider, space is often filled up. At this, they have just two options:

The first option is to increase the storage space, that would come with an additional price. The price increases with a higher number of users. As you have opted to keep all the emails, chances are you will need to buy more space shortly. The story keeps going like this.

The other option is to delete the emails after a certain period. Most offices store the emails for a maximum of 3 months. This turns into Junk after those 90 days. They are removed from the server and are no more available.

Now, some offices need to save the cost and need to keep the emails for future use as well. These companies opt to back up the emails in various ways, which eventually gets to centralised cloud storage or the local storages (Harddisks/Network Storages).

But the question is, how can they be retrieved?

The emails are archived to the storage drive using email archiving applications. These email archiving applications extract the email contents and store them in the storage drives in their formats.

Mail Server issue:

This is a rare case where the mail provider’s storage server is at fault. The fault leads to removal of emails from the server. As they aren’t deleted manually, they are less likely to be present in the Trash, than being permanently lost. That implies a permanent deletion.

If you are using an email client, like Outlook that is configured to access your emails via IMAP server, the emails are going to remove from it as well. IMAP is otherwise known as a continuous synching system. The emails are staying with Outlook until they are available with the mail provider’s mailbox. While few people consider that getting Outlook already backs their emails, it is a mere myth.

Deletion from the mail client:

We have already explained the situation how the provider’s server could be at fault. Not only that deletes emails from the provider itself, but also the email client configured.

The reverse isn’t much away from the reality. If an email is deleted from the Email client, the mail is deleted from the provider’s mailbox as well. If you are on the thoughts that deleting the emails from the Outlook, only removes the emails from the system, you are on the wrong page.

The case isn’t confined to the IMAP server only. For POP3 accounts, where a user often opts to delete the emails from the server, after they are delivered to the Outlook, the situation is equally disastrous.

As the emails are no more available in the mail provider, the mail only stays with the Outlook database. Deletion of emails from this place implies a loss forever.


Corruption of the email program:

This a common issue for most users. If the account is IMAP configured, you are less likely to suffer. But if you are getting your emails through a POP3 server, the results are depressing. The emails are confined to your Outlook. The Outlook being unresponsive makes it impossible for the emails to be exported. If you are lucky enough you could locate the mail database and extract the mail database. The accuracy of the extraction is at stake.

Corruption of the system:

Much similar to the one explained above, this case intensifies the concerns. While the email database was still accessible in the previous example, it indeed turns impossible to get the emails from the Outlook this time. We have no access to the system, n access to Outlook as well. IMAP beneficiaries won’t be harmed much. But POP users will suffer a lot.

How to get the emails back?

The backed up emails can be retrieved back by the restoration techniques. All the known Backup tools offer some restoration technique. They either restore the emails to the original location or export them to some mail format.


As the term suggests. Recovery refers to replacing the backed up data to the exact original place. Suppose that you have emails in your Thunderbird and to some reasons you last 12 months’ emails. With a tool that could restore the emails, you can have all the lost emails back to the original place. The mail folders and the hierarchy is well preserved by most of the applications as well. It is as if a page was lost and you replaced with an exact copy of the original, without affecting any other part.

Similarly, Outlook emails are restored to the Outlook with the right mail folder order. The process is preferably automatic and seems effortless.


While few applications restore the archived emails to the original position, few applications offer exporting of emails to one of the many standard mail formats:





The emails are not restored to the original location. Instead, they are exported to independent mail files which need to be imported to the desired mail program, manually. This process seems rather conventional and manual.

On pen and paper, the restoration seems more advantageous, as your emails are restored to the original location with no extra efforts. But, does the story end there? Is our process confined to this spot only?

No, it is more profound. For some users, like me, Exporting seems a slightly better option. Restoration means that emails will be back to the original place. That is, we are sending the email archive to the place where the fault had raised. We are risking our emails again. Isn’t that unreliability a reason, why we had taken the backup? Isn’t that fear an idea, why we opted to backup the original contents? Then, why risking the emails again?

The Outlook was already misbehaving. It was sinking every next moment. It turned out as an impossible task to extract the emails from the Outlook database. The backup application was the only way to retrieve them back. I doubt if restoring the emails to the original Outlook location, will ever make sense; unless you have a separate system that could read them.

While Outlook emails can’t be read by any other application, few applications port the same database file types. The group consists of the kinds of Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, OperaMail, PostBox, etc. If on Mac, you can add Apple Mail to the list. All these email clients deal in MBOX file formats. That is, the exported file format of one is easily accessed by the other.

Exporting gives you an additional benefit. You can switch between the Email clients. For example, I am someday, fed up with Outlook. If my mail archiving application allows me to convert the archives to MBOX, I am more likely to switch any among AppleMail, Thunderbird or PostBox. Restoring the email archives confines me to either the original email client or a limited list of email clients.

The preferences may vary from person to person. This was just my perspective.

Thanks for the read.

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