AOL main.idx File Recovery
More than once, I've had an AOL installation on Windows
fail catastophically with complaints about a missing
or corrupted main.idx file. The failure occurs
when you try to launch AOL, and you tend to get a
series of vague error messages about startup
difficulties. AOL won't start at all, and after
retrying a few times, you start to see the message
referring to a corrupt or missing main.idx file.
These errors may coincide with address book problems;
that is, you may notice some flakiness with the address
book before the system gets corrupted to the point that
AOL won't start at all.
The first time this happened to me, I dutifully followed
the instructions and reinstalled the AOL software. After
it happened again, I started looking around the system
to see if I could figure out what was causing the problem
or perhaps even come up with a way to repair the damage
without resorting to a full reinstallation of AOL.
To my surprise, I found that AOL keeps a copy of main.idx
in a backup directory! How the software can be written to
keep that file backed up but then be unable to retrieve it
is a mystery best left to the AOL developers, but it
does result in a simple fix for main.idx issues.
Here's the fix:
When AOL starts, you may be prompted with the
first couple of questions asked by the initial
setup sequence - don't panic, just follow the
prompts. In a moment, AOL will "remember" the
rest of your settings and start normally.
- Locate your AOL home folder (something like
"America Online 7.0" inside the "Program Files"
- In the home folder, two of the subfolders are
"backup" and "idb". Locate the main.idx
file in the "backup" folder.
- Copy the main.idx file from the "backup"
folder into the "idb" folder. NOTE: You want to
copy the file, not move it. When
you're done copying the file, you should have
main.idx files in both places.
- Start AOL.
If this happens to you, you might want to consider
making a safety copy of main.idx somewhere
completely outside the AOL folder hierarchy. Only
do this when you have AOL in a sane state that starts
up properly, of course - there would be no point in
safeguarding a screwed-up main.idx file.
I have no idea what causes main.idx corruption
problems, and at this point I don't much care - as
long as this fix seems to resurrect the application,
I'll stick with it.
DISCLAIMER: This works for my AOL 7.0 setup on a
Windows ME box. Your mileage may vary. Any time you
start screwing around with application files like
this, you undertake the risk of worsening the situation
and/or failing to fix the problem.
And.... now you know!