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Finding Your Way Around Lotus Notes

How to identify and find your Lotus Notes mailbox, address book, archive and id files for copying

If you want to make a copy of your Lotus Notes data to another PC to convert NSF to PST, backup or archive your data you need to be able to identify where all of that data is and which files it is stored in. You also need to understand a bit about the way Lotus Notes stores its configuration information as it can vary from version to version and from install to install. You should check for encryption and copy your id file.

Your data files are Lotus Notes databases

Lotus Notes data is stored in database files which are NSF files (files usually ending in an .nsf extension).  Lotus Notes configuration can be stored in many places and files (such a notes.ini and in the registry). Your mailbox, address book and archives are all Lotus Notes databases (NSF files).

What you should copy

You will need to make a copy the following data

  • Mailbox database
  • Personal Address Book database
  • Archive databases
  • Id file (a small security id file usually with an extension*.id)

What you must understand first

Before we discuss the specific database types and how to identify them you need to understand:

  • The difference between a local and server storage
  • How to identify a databases location
  • What the Lotus Notes data directory is
  • What encryption options are and how to they effect handling your database

The difference between local and server storage

A Lotus Notes database is either stored locally or on a server.  The term locally means on your PC or a mapped PC drive (which could also be a network drive).  The term server here refers to a Lotus Notes server also known as a Domino server. It does not mean a file server you may map to from your PC.

Lotus Notes data directory

The Lotus Notes data directory is the place Lotus Notes stores some of its data files. This location does not necessarily include all data files and obviously does not include server based files. It is the place Lotus Notes looks by default for certain files (like the address book). Where it is located depends on the version of Lotus Notes and also the type of install.

The Lotus Notes configuration file, notes.ini, defines the Lotus Notes data path (in a setting called Directory) but the location of the configuration file may also be unknown to you. The notes.ini file may be in the program path or in a windows search path. It may also be pointed to by the Lotus Notes icon shortcut as an application parameter.

Old version of Lotus Notes would by default install the data path under the program folder in a directory named data.  Administrator / single user installs may also use a similar path.

Example – Old version of Lotus Notes (versions 4 and 5)

c:\lotus\notes\data

(Where the program path was c:\lotus\notes)

Example – Single User Install

C:\programs files\IBM\Lotus\Notes\Data

(Where the program path was C:\programs files\IBM\Lotus\Notes)

In latest versions of Lotus Notes it is usually stored under the users’ application settings (in the windows settings folders) for multi user installs (‘anyone who user this computer’ installs).  Depending on your version of windows this will also vary.

Example – Windows XP Lotus Notes multi user install

C:\Documents and Settings\Username\Local Settings\Application Data\Lotus\Notes\Data

Example – Windows 7 Lotus Notes multi user install

C:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\Lotus\Notes\Data

If you are running a customized environment it could also be on a networked mapped drive (map to your network user area).

Example

H:\Notes\Data

How to identify the location of a database

In Lotus Notes open your database (mailbox, address book or archive). While in it (where you can see your data) choose the menu, File – Application – Properties (or File – Database – Properties depending on your version of Lotus Notes). You should be able to see the database Title, Server and Filename. If the server is Local that means it is on a PC drive. If it lists a server name then it is on a server. If the filename does not contain a full drive path (like c:\mynotesmail\mailbox.nsf) then that filename is a relative name and the file is stored in the Lotus Notes data directory.  See Lotus Notes Data Directory section for more information on locating the Lotus Notes data path. You can also check encryption settings here and take note of whether or not the file is locally encrypted.

How to copy a Lotus Notes Database

There are three ways to copy a Lotus Notes database

  • File copy from the windows file system
  • Lotus Notes application copy (also known as Database copy)
  • Lotus Notes application replica copy (also known as database replica copy).

If you database is stored locally (on a PC drive) you can simply make a file copy of that file directly to your movable storage using windows explorer.

If your database is on a server you will need to make a copy using the Lotus Notes Application copy menu option (or you can also use replication options but these are not described here). The Copy option only shows in later version of Lotus Notes when you have menu option View – Advanced checked. Once the advanced options are activation you can choose File – Application – New Copy (or File – Database – New Copy for older version of Lotus Notes) to make a copy of your database. You should see a button that shows encryption options. If you do not want the copy of the database to be encrypted make sure you choose this option and make sure Do not encrypt this database is selected. You should copy database and design. Please note if you do not specify a full path for the new database name (i.e. no drive and path) it will put the database in the Lotus Notes data directory.

Lotus Notes mailbox

Your mailbox is either stored locally or on a server. There is no default name or location for your mail file. Some companies use standard naming conventions and some do not. It could really be called anything so you will need to identify it. Open your mailbox so you can see you mailbox data (inbox etc) and identify it using the How to identify the location of a database instructions.

Once you have identified it you may access it as a file or make a copy of it. See How to Copy a Lotus Notes Database above for details.

Lotus Notes Address Book

The Lotus Notes address book is usually stored locally on your PC in the Lotus Notes data directory. It is usually called names.nsf but can be named differently (although rarely).

Open your personal address book so you can see your contact data and identify it using the How to identify the location of a database instructions.

Once you have identified it you may access it as a file or make a copy of it. See How to Copy a Lotus Notes Database above for details.

Lotus Notes Archives (also known as archive folders)

You Lotus Notes archives which are also know as archive folders are actually each a separate Lotus Notes database (nsf files) that contains archives mailbox messages. They can be stored anywhere so you need to identify the location of each. The easiest way is to open each particular archive (so you can see messages in it) and identify it using the How to identify the location of a database instructions.

Once you have identified each archive database you may access it as a file or make a copy of it. See How to Copy a Lotus Notes Database above for details.

Lotus Notes ID file

Your Lotus Notes ID file is a small file usually ending in a *.id extension that contains your Lotus Notes security information. That in conjunction with your password allows you access to a server and to your personal encrypted information. The location of this file is usually in the Lotus Notes database directory but can be stored anywhere. The Lotus Notes configuration file Notes.ini  which is also usually in the Lotus Notes database directory defines the name and location of this file in the setting KeyFilename. You can open notes.ini and look for this settings to determine the file name if you cannot find this file. In the Lotus Notes client you use the File – Security – Switch ID to switch between different security settings. When you eventually move this to the destination PC you will need to use the File – Security – Switch ID option to specify you want to use this security file.

Before carrying out a conversion from NSF to PST, performing backups, or running any major archiving task, ensure that you thoroughly protect your data with the above copying processes.

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