7:42 PM 02/12/2005
I am a Mozilla (www.mozilla.org) web browser fan. I also use the email client built into it. I have had a small utility to backup my browser settings for awile now . Its called 'BAKFIREFOX' (see links below). Its a small utility that can be used to backup all of your mozilla bookmarks, email accounts, etc.
When I first backed up my browser it was about 10 MB in size. I didn't give it much thought except lately when I backed it up again and it was almost 50 MB. I delete all my emails and empty the trash before closing the email program. Also the program had the option to 'clear the cache' before backing up.
So I decided to check out the files on my hard drive to figure out what was going on. To find your 'Profile' or personal settings. Just open 'windows explorer' and navigate to the following folder: c:\windows\application data\mozilla\profiles\(user name)\
otherwise, if you prefer to use 'My Computer'
Double-click on each of the following folders to get to the next: first on your desktop....
Look inside any one of these folders and you will see a bunch of files, its the files without the extensions that you should be concerned about: Drafts, Inbox, Sent, Templates and Trash. Ignore the ones named like: Drafts.msf, Inbox.msf.... and so on.
I don't save the emails but the inboxes for each one was about the same size except one which was almost 50 MB. I thought my email program was corrupt.
So, I went online to find out if it was safe to delete theses files. In my search I came accross information about 'compacting my folders'. So I opened my email program, then clicked on one of the accounts listed, clicked on the 'File' option on top Menu. And then click on 'compact folders', or 'right-click' on each folder in the account, like; inbox, drafts, ...and so on, and then in the menu click on 'compact this folder'.
It worked wonders. The super-large files where knocked down to 0 kb and I saved almost 100 MB of hard drive space and My latest backup is just about 600kb or roughtly half a megabyte, down from almost 50.
As I understand it, when you delete an email its not deleted automatically, it just gets marked as deleted and apparently stays in the file, lets say 'inbox', without the extension. The only way to truely delete these files is using the 'compact' command.
Some warnings: Do not compact folders while downloading emails and if you don't compact every now and then, a large build up of emails can cause your mozilla email client to get screwed up. And of course there is the waste of hard drive space.
So compact those folders and back them up occasionally. Of course the simplest way To backup Mozilla and Firefox is to just burn the 'Profile' folder to a CD
One final note. This experience is from the Mozilla email client, built into the Mozilla browser on a WindowsME system. I don't have any other experience using any other email client so I don't know if the same information applies.