SOLUTION: Recover/import Windows Live Mail Contacts to new computer

So today I was tasked with recovering a client’s contacts stored in a Windows Live Mail edb database for the first time.  At first, it seemed like a daunting task–primarily because I could not get a (previously) popular solution involving the now-deprecated EseDbViewer to work.  That’s because, as I later discovered, the process must be performed on the original PC in order for it to work; if you try it using the recovered files on another machine, it simply fails.

Update: A reader, Chris Siddons, has posted an alternate method to accomplish this for those with a great number of contacts.  Feedback indicates that it works quite well.  Thanks, Chris!  Here is his method:

1) On my old PC, I Located the folder “C:\Users\{Username}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live\Contacts\Default” (obviously, replacing your user name as appropriate)

2) I copied the entire contents of this folder to a temporary location (memory stick, or another way of transferring the data to the new PC.

(NB This folder contains three folders, 15.4 15.5 and W4CR1, which appear to be empty but contain various hidden folders and files, including several versions of contacts.edb, so you may appear to be copying empty folders, but don’t worry about this, just follow these instructions as they worked for me!)

3) I located the folder “C:\Users\{Username}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows ive\Contacts\Default” on the new PC and deleted the contents, then replaced them with the contents of the Default folder from the old PC.

Following is the remainder of the original blog entry:

Fortunately, as is usually the case, there is another way around this problem, and it’s actually quite easy.  The goal is to get the contacts from the edb into a readable .csv (Comma Separated Values) file for import into Windows Live Mail.  And a company known as Nirsoft (who makes a number of helpful tools, often of forensic nature) has a program that works perfectly.

It’s called LiveContactsView, and it’s designed for viewing Windows Live Messenger contacts.  However, Windows Live Mail uses the same format for storing its contacts, so it works here, too.

Here’s the full process:

  1. Download LiveContactsView.
  2. Recover the original Windows Live Mail contacts database files from the failed PC/original drive:
    • They’re located in %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows Live Contacts\{GUID}\DBStore, where %LOCALAPPDATA% is an environment variable equivalent to \Users\{USERNAME}\AppData\Local\ on the drive, and {GUID} is a random string assigned to the original user’s profile.
  3. Using LiveContactsView, open the contacts.edb file from the DBStore folder.
  4. Select all fields within the list view.
  5. Export the items to a .csv file.
  6. Import the .csv file into the mail client of your choice.

That’s it!  It’s actually remarkably simple, and it is the best (and only) method I’ve found to accomplish this to date.

Donate to say "Thanks" if this post has helped save you time and money! 🙂

20 thoughts on “SOLUTION: Recover/import Windows Live Mail Contacts to new computer

  1. Advice on how to import properly would be helpful for those of us not spreadsheet experts. When I went to import the csv file into WLM it asked me to identify each column. I did my best, but when done it only imported about 20 contacts out of the 600 or more in the csv.

  2. I do want to thank you, however, for pointing us in the right direction. I had spent a whole day trying to get esedbviewer and its successor from the same author to work without success. At least this program actually does successfully create the csv file.

  3. Greg,

    If I recall correctly, this part of the process is just a matter of experimentation. With proper naming/assignment of the fields it should import everything relevant. Just play with it!

    -Steve

  4. Brilliant. This saved my credibility as I had lost email contacts after rebuilding new system. Thank you.

  5. Thanks, this tool does work; it was a nasty problem that Microsoft created here for anyone restoring mail after a hard drive change.

    Make sure to look at everything carefully to make sure your export to CSV and import is right the first time. I’ll be trimming out some duplicates (without email addresses) due my mistakes on the first pass. Nice work!

  6. Cheers was pulling my hair out over this one. worked a treat!

    Under options of live contacts view you can select for the exported .csv to have headers. this solve the issue about having to select the correct columns during import.

  7. I had a problem importing contacts to a new PC: Using the CSV method above, WLM only allowed me to import 600 of my 4000 contacts. I think the limit is something to do with Microsoft’s spam avoidance policies, but I never found out the reason for sure. However I found a way around the problem, and now have my 4k contacts on the new machine. This is what I did:

    1) On my old PC, I Located the folder “C:\Users\{Username}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Live\Contacts\Default” (obviously, replacing your user name as appropriate)

    2) I copied the entire contents of this folder to a temporary location (memory stick, or another way of transferring the data to the new PC.

    (NB This folder contains three folders, 15.4 15.5 and W4CR1, which appear to be empty but contain various hidden folders and files, including several versions of contacts.edb, so you may appear to be copying empty folders, but don’t worry about this, just follow these instructions as they worked for me!)

    3) I located the folder “C:\Users\{Username}\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows ive\Contacts\Default” on the new PC and deleted the contents, then replaced them with the contents of the Default folder from the old PC.

    If anyone else tries this and gets success (or problems) please do post below!

  8. Hi Chris Siddons,
    I followed your description to the letter, and it worked first time. Thank you so much, saved my day!

    Lars Petersen, Denmark

  9. Chris thank you so much the files don’t show up even with hidden files enabled. I just deleted old Default folder and copied the Default folder from dead machine into the new PC and PRESTO contacts were there.

    Thanks Again
    Chad

  10. Chris, thank you for the tip, it worked perfectly by just copying the old Contacts directory into the new computer.

    It is confusing at first since no files show up even if you have Windows Explorer flagged to show hidden files. Just copy the entire directory over and say yes to override existing files. The LiveContactsView tool didn’t work out for me since the original files won’t show. That being said, Nirsoft has other (free!!) tools that have saved my skin several times over, and highly recommend checking out his other tools.

  11. Thanks for this. I was tearing my hair out over something that should be so simple!

  12. Did not work in my case. Even thought the database appeared to open with no errors in LCV, 0 contacts were present, when the file contained over 3200 contacts.

  13. Chris – Thanks so much for your very clear explanation. I had probably wasted 15 hours of my time trying to recover my contacts list until I came across your post. Knowing what to do and knowind that the 15.4 etc. folders appeared to be empty when they were not, even though show hidden files and folders was enabled, was the key to solution. Once knowing that it took me less than 15 seconds to complete the task.

  14. Thank you both for your solutions. Although Chris’s solution did not work for me, the original did.

    I really cannot understand why people at Microsoft do things way overcomplicated…

    You ‘re the Guys !!!!!!!

  15. I donated $5 for your solution!
    WLM is a horrible client to repair. Your tip to copy the Windows Live / Contacts / Default folders did the trick.

    Nirsoft makes awesome recovery tools for mail passwords, wifi keys and reveal stored passwords. I highly recommend you download the complete kit.

  16. I have been looking for a method like this for ages. And even better, it works.

    thank you.

    Erik

  17. My issue is slightly different. I’m helping a friend set up a new laptop with WLM. Her old laptop had died but the drive was intact. I put that into an enclosure, fixed permissions, & copied the data over.

    The issue I’m having (hoping someone can help): the 15.5 folder is missing from the “old” default folder? Also, she only used her ISP address in WLM– not a hotmail, etc, address so signing in/out has no meaning here.

    I tried livecontactview, but not sure what to do about the “columns”? I’m not a big Windows user (I’m Linux) so all of this is foreign/makes no sense to me. I imported the csv but only got the first name & email address….

    Also, the folders in this case are in User/appdata/local/microsoft/windows live/contacts/default.

    Can someone give me the dense-persons instructions to fix the columns thing?

    Help!

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