Retrieving email out of chaos


I’m still recovering from a hack/server crash on my VPS on Monday last week.

Poor back-ups have added to the misery and chaos.

Anyway lessons are being digested and better procedures put in place.

But I have lost the email for three clients in 3 different ways and wonder if anybody has any suggestions.

  1. Raw email files
    We have one client’s emails backed up as Raw email files. The VPS support staff say we can re-import these.

Do you know if there is a service out there that provides a way for us to see these emails again?
Hapy to pay as am overwhelmed at the moment.

  1. Zipped up copy of the emails
    I understand one the support guys downloaded a zip file of another email account.
    Any ideas on the best way to get these back.

  2. 123REG email account
    I have accepted the internal transfer of a domain name which had email accounts set up on it.
    The domain arrived without the email accounts.

We tranferred the domain back in the hope the email accounts would start again. But they were gone from there too.

Unfortunately, “123REG do not provide backups for mailboxes”. :rolleyes:

My client has some emails on her mac but i think these are just ‘headers’ and she may not have downloaded the emails fully.

Any suggestions on what we can do?

Thats about it from the worst week of my working life!


[FONT=verdana]Waht type of email system are you using? Is it a cient-based or POP3 system, such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc? Or is it a web-based system like GMail?

These raw files you mentioned? Do they have an EML extension? If so, you should be able to open them in any of the above programs. You could also try opening them in an ordinary text editor, such as Notepad. You might see plain text along with a bunch of headings, or you might see HTML, depending on the system that was used to send them. But, either way, it shouldn’t be too difficult to extract the actual message.

As for the zipped up copies, if these were zipped with a standard compression utility such as WinZip, you can use the same utility to unzip them.



Both accounts were POP3. But the client was managing both using their browser (webmail).

Your feedback was encouraging - I’ll see what I can do.


[FONT=verdana]Pete, if you learn anything new about the format of the emails, let us know.


On most linux servers the raw emails are just stored as text files, you may be able to put a copy of these files back in the correct directory and apply the necessary permissions and be good to go. As with any test procedure on a server, I’d try this on a virtual machine (e.g running in vmware) that is the same OS as your live machine first.

1 / 2 - it should be possible to at least partially restore the data from backups yes - in the raw files, it’ll depend if the original mail server was an mbox or maildir format (they store mail on a server differently).

  1. I’m going to say those are lost then :frowning:

Thanks guys for getting back

  1. Raw email files
    The .rar file contains the email in .msg format.

  2. Zipped up copy of the emails
    Jury still out…

  3. 123REG email account
    Yes it looks like these are gone.

Its dissapointing that:-

  1. 123-REG don’t back up email accounts
  2. Don’t flag up to account holders/registrants that email accounts are not moved and so will be lost following a transfer.

I guess if they made this more public they may not get too many people using their email accounts?

Thanks again.

.msg formats should be importable into a client, from there they can be copied via imap back to a server.

I don’t think 123reg’s email system is a big selling point, they are mostly a domain registrar and that seems to be a tacked on service rather than anything.

I’ll still stick with self hosted email fro this reason - i get to control it all :slight_smile:

Thanks Tim.

Re: 123Reg. Agreed.

I was thinking of hosting the client’s domain email on the Gmail system.
Do you know of an great article or thread which discusses the pros/cons of this as a way forward?

My experience is that most of my clients tolerate their websites being down (they are mainly informational) but are immediately on the phone if email stops.
And, if as happens above, email is lost then pretty much their to do list, contacts and work schedule is up in smoke.

Its a pretty heavy responsibility and I want to get this right going forward. Gone are the days of tacking some email accounts on to my webhosting… or using 123Reg!


Yeah, I’ve seen many people use gmail for email, and some people like the interface / how integrated with other google services it is. Myself, I have a gmail but never really got on with it, I still like to stick to self hosting all my email, it gives me full control over (hourly) backups too.

If you set gmail to imap you can set a normal mail client to back it all up. I’m definitely a fan of where possible using google apps email for clients, and if necessary hooking it up to a client of their choice, it’s vastly reduced support overhead and issues with spam, also with my server ips getting blacklisted because of people sending out inadvisable bulk newsletter /mailing list stuff.

I not sure if this is an appropriate thread to expand on this; however can you provide a few steps or insight into how you achieve this. I, like Timlgoe have always hosted my own mail, but I really like your reasoning and would like to give it a try.


It’s fairly straightforward, there’s a setting within google apps email to switch on imap then e.g for thunderbird


You can also use server apps like imapsync to back up to another account. In the last 5 years or so that I’ve used google apps email, I’ve never had or heard of any loss of data. Apparently all gmail activity is replicated in 2 data centres, so even with minimal backups it’s still pretty resilient. The main point of failure would likely be user error e.g permanently deleting an account

Great the links and info will help to do a test. Excellent process and idea @EastCoast;