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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?
Note: this article has been replaced with a major revision. Why? A reader pointed me at new information that fundamentally changed the answer. The new article can be found here.
Apparently the answer is "you can't".
With the introduction of Internet Explorer 7, Outlook Express has apparently been put out to pasture, at least if you're on Windows XP.
Let's look at why that is and what some of your alternatives might be.
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 have a replacement: Windows Mail. It's the new version of Outlook Express, except it's available on Windows Vista only.
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 - there's no matching Outlook Express for you. You probably have Outlook Express version 6, but if for some reason you don't, there's nowhere to get it. The downloads that claim to have it are actually Internet Explorer 6 downloads which should fail to install if you already have IE7.
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.
For one thing, it's clear that Microsoft has decoupled Internet Explorer from any mail program. I would expect that now not to change. Actually, except for the lack of OE updates for XP users, it's actually a good thing.
Windows Mail is the future. But I would expect that updates to Windows Mail will probably happen only if you're already running Vista. I would not expect there to ever be a separate Windows Mail download. If you're running any older operating system, you're pretty much out of luck. It would be nice if Microsoft made Windows Mail available for XP, but I wouldn't count on it. Not at all.
What You Need To Do
What you need to do depends on what problem you're attempting to solve. Many people look for a 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 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.
In my opinion Microsoft made a big mistake by not providing a way to update Outlook Express when they released IE 7. In an ideal world they'd make OE7, or perhaps make Windows Mail available for non-Vista users. As I said above, I don't think that's very likely.
** Update **
I stand corrected. Thanks to reader Jason Edward for pointing out that something called "Windows Live Mail" (which, when I looked, appears to still be in Beta) looks to be exactly what many people are looking for: a successor to Outlook Express that doesn't require Vista. It also appears to address a couple of problems that many people often request - most significantly downloadable Hotmail.
Download Windows Live Mail here.
I'll be evaluating it and posting more on it shortly.
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