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Outlook Express 6 is part of Internet Explorer 6. But if you've moved on to IE7, then Outlook Express 6 can be difficult to locate and download.
I need to reinstall Outlook Express, but I can't find it on the Microsoft web site. Where do I get it?
|If you are running Windows 7, please see these two articles: Where is Windows Mail, or Outlook Express, in Windows 7? and What is Windows 7's "Windows XP Mode"? (And can I use it to get Outlook Express back?)|
Note: this article is a major revision of a previously posted article. Why? A reader pointed me at new information that fundamentally changed the answer. The previous article can be found here.
Apparently the answer is "you can't".
But you can download its replacement.
Let's look at what happened, and what you should probably do.
The Way It Was
Outlook Express (OE) was never a stand-alone install. Up until Internet Explorer (IE) version 7, Outlook Express was a component of Internet Explorer. The way to install or upgrade Outlook Express was to install or upgrade Internet Explorer. There simply was no separate download or installation program for OE by itself.
But things were even slightly more complex than that.
Internet Explorer is part of Windows XP. That means that Outlook Express is a part of Windows XP as well. If you have Windows XP, then you have Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Which is all well and good until something breaks. More on that in a moment.
The Way It Is
With the introduction of Internet Explorer 7, Outlook Express was apparently removed from the installation package. You can download IE7 all you want, but there's no updated Outlook Express with it. In fact, from what I can tell there's no way to get Outlook Express from Microsoft at all.
Windows Vista users already have a replacement: Windows Mail. It's the new version of Outlook Express, except it's available on Windows Vista only.
For the rest of us, there does now appear to be a replacement for Outlook Express: Windows Live Mail (marked as being in Beta at this writing).
Windows Live Mail is more like a new mail program that you download and install onto your machine. Outlook Express is not affected, it's not updated or removed. However when you fire up Windows Live Mail for the first time it does automatically import all your Outlook Express mail, contacts and settings. (Though it does appear to remove the Outlook Express menu item from your Start Menu, even though Outlook Express is still installed.)
Even though Windows Live Mail is installed as a new program, and has a new name, at it's core, it really is just Outlook Express. Most of the UI has been changed significantly, which you may or may not like. Once you get down a level or two - say, the options dialog - things start to look very familiar for Outlook Express users.
So it looks like this:
If you're running IE6 on pretty much any operating system, then you have the Outlook Express 6. You can download an Internet Explorer 6 SP1 package, and be as up to date as is possible.
If you're running IE7, but not on Windows Vista you can download and install Windows Live Mail.
If you're running IE7 on Vista, then you have Outlook Express. It's just called Windows Mail instead.
The Way It Will Be - I Think
Outlook Express is dead. Long live Windows Mail. Or is it Windows Live Mail?
Microsoft has apparently replaced one naming confusion (the infamous "Outlook" versus "Outlook Express" debacle) with another: "Windows Mail" versus "Windows Live Mail". They're quite different, but this time they at least appear to have Outlook Express as a common ancestor.
It's clear that Microsoft has decoupled Internet Explorer from any mail program. I would expect that not to change, and I consider that a good thing.
What You Need to Do
What you need to do depends on what problem you're attempting to solve. Many people look for an OE6 download or reinstall when in fact they don't really need it.
You're running Windows XP, Outlook Express 6 is broken and you want to install a new copy: Run the System File Checker instead. It will look for missing or corrupt operating system components and replace them. As we noted, OE is part of the operating system, so it's included in this. You may need your Windows install CD.
You're running an older version of Windows, Outlook Express 6 is broken and you want to install a new copy: You can download and install Internet Explorer SP1 from the Microsoft web site. As we noted, OE6 is part of IE6 and is included in that download.
Back on Windows XP, Outlook Express 6 is broken, the system file checker didn't work, and you still want to install a new copy: Perform a repair-install of Windows itself. OE6 is part of the operating system, and will be reinstalled as a part of this operation. You'll probably need your Windows install CD, and you'll want to visit Windows Update afterwards to make sure you get all the latest patches as well.
You're not sure what's broken, you're not running Vista, and you just want Outlook Express back. Or something as close to it as possible. Download Windows Live Mail. As discussed above, this is the OE replacement that works on Windows XP.
You're not sure what's broken, you just want a working mail program. Download and run Thunderbird. Particularly if the suggestions above don't work for you, just switch. Thunderbird is free, fairly similar to OE to use, and actually somewhat more powerful. It's free, downloadable, it's being updated, works on Windows XP and Vista as well as the Mac and Linux, and there are many add-ons available for it.
Thanks to reader Jason Edward for pointing me at Windows Live Mail. There are several changes over Outlook Express (DBX files appear to be a thing of the past, and the ability to download your Hotmail account seems to have returned), so I'll be looking more closely at Windows Live Mail in upcoming articles.