Outlook Express users who also use McAfee's antivirus software have reported suffering from mysterious cases of disappearing email.
An intermittent problem involving the interaction of Windows 2000 or XP with McAfee VirusScan 4.5.1 and Outlook Express 6 means that the index file to existing email folders can become damaged when a user downloads new mail. In extreme cases folders are trashed - all users get is a message saying Welcome to Outlook Express 6 as if they were a new user.
A similar problem involving Outlook Express 5.5 means that all saved mail in a user's Inbox goes away when users download new email. The messages are still present in the .dbx file used by Outlook Express but as the index is damaged, users can't read them from the email client itself.
Jack Clark, product marketing manager from the McAfee division of Network Associates, said the company is aware of the issue but describes this as an "isolated problem", reported by just 12 of its 70 million users.
McAfee has released a hot fix, available from its technical support, which addresses most of the reported problems, but doesn't fix the apparent loss of a user's In-box, according to Clark.
McAfee Beta testers report that this hotfix can result in the deletion of mail picked up via Hotmail, but this remains unconfirmed. Outlook users are apparently unaffected.
The root cause of the problem may be that Outlook Express tries to compress emails before VirusScan has released control of them, resulting in corruption of the index file. However this remains only a theory, though McAfee have promised to get back to us with a more detailed response.
Users have suggested workarounds involving creating another Inbox (i.e. Inbox2) and creating a rule to send all messages into this new folder. Disabling email scan and auto-update on McAfee have also been suggested, but we can't verify if these measures are effective ourselves.
The only real solution is a definitive fix from McAfee. We trust that this will come sooner rather than later. A clear explanation of this intermittent problem would be nice too. ®