Unable to use Personal Certificates in Outlook Express

ID: q190296

The information in this article applies to:


When sending digitally-signed mail in Microsoft Outlook Express you may receive the following message:

   The message could not be sent. An error has occurred. 

When you receive encrypted mail in Outlook Express, the message may be incorrectly decrypted.


This behavior can occur if you click Cancel at the Windows Log On. Outlook Express is unable to locate your personal certificate information and will therefore be unable to send digitally-signed messages or decrypt messages received.

This behavior can also occur if the username.pwl file is corrupt, missing, or renamed.


To resolve this issue, when you are prompted for user name and password, enter the correct information and press OK.

You should export the Personal Certificate before renaming or deleting the username.pwl file, and then import the certificate after creating a new .pwl file. If you are unable to export the certificate, you need to obtain another personal certificate.


The Personal Certificate information used to digitally sign and decrypt secure messages in Outlook Express is stored in an area of the registry based on the user who is logged in to Windows. If the user clicks Cancel at the Windows log in screen, the user is not logged in to Windows and the system may not be able to determine which Personal Certificate to use for secure communications. In addition, the user may experience the same behavior if they had clicked Cancel at the log in screen during the session when they acquired their Personal Certificate.

Additional query words: sp1

Keywords          : outex 
Version           : WINDOWS:4.0,4.01,4.01 Service Pack 1,5
Platform          : WINDOWS 
Issue type        : kbprb 

Last Reviewed: March 20, 1999