Technology Today –
Outlook is a wonderful program for managing your email but the problem is that it can be difficult to work with especially when you want to make sure your email system is backed up. Think of an Outlook file as a massive database where your emails are entries to that database and not individual messages.
Because it is a database, this first section will be about making sure your Outlook file is clean and problem free. The second section will be on managing those Outlook files. Outlook has been around since the early days of Microsoft Office and has changed radically with the changes in Office. I don’t intend this article to be about how to use Outlook, just on how to make sure that when you use it, it has not been corrupted and is clean and workable.
In Outlook, a personal folder file is a file with a.pst extension which is usually stored on your computer's hard disk or on a company server. Personal folder files contain messages, forms, attachments notes, calendar, address book, and other message folders. You can work with a personal folder file as you would with any other file and you can copy or move a .pst file to another location on your computer or a server. These files allow you to work with your email when you are not connected to the server or the internet.
Personal Folder files can get very large. It is not uncommon for a .pst file to grow to over 10 gigabytes in size, way too much to be held on a DVD disc, so saving them offline can be difficult. If you have a ton of emails (say over a few thousand) with lots of attachments that you leave attached to the messages, then the solution is to have multiple .pst files and the good news is that they can still all be available in Outlook all at the same time.
So first of all, make sure you know what versions of Outlook you have on each computer. With Outlook 2007 & 2010, hit the file tab and then click on help. Next would be to make sure you have all of the updates for the version of Outlook you have. In Outlook 2010, you would click on File / Help and then Check for Updates. Also probably a good time to make sure your version of Windows is up to date as well by clicking on Start / Programs / Windows Update.
If Outlook does not appear to work very well, you might want to repair your personal file folders. Go to Microsoft’s Search site and look for "Inbox Repair Tool" and of course, the instructions will vary by what version of Outlook you are using. For Outlook 2003 and earlier, it is a file scanpst.exe which is located on your hard drive. For Outlook 2007 & 2010, it is located on the first Office CD or you can get it here: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=272227
Keep reading below for tips on cleaning up your Outlook data files and making them manageable.
Managing Outlook Data Files
Normally, you wouldn’t really need to worry about how Outlook manages files but if you need access to several emails from within Outlook on a different computer, there are a few ways of getting it done. One would be to simply email the messages to you to another account. Another would be to save individual messages as a text file and not deal with the Outlook data file structure. Just open up the message you want and click /file/save as/. If there is an attachment you need with it, you simply copy that attachment to any folder on your computer. To export messages to a text file, look at these instructions here: http://kb.iu.edu/data/aetw.html.
If you need access to more than just a few messages, it gets far more difficult. Remember that Outlook is a database so just copying off messages or a folders worth of messages to another file to be able to read them will not work very well and in fact, you need to have Outlook available on the other computer that you are going to read these messages. If you don't have the same version of Outlook on that other computer, you need to take special care in copying over the folders to make them compatible with that version of Outlook.
Outlook does an excellent job of allowing you to manage your email into subject folders. When you first start Outlook, you have the basic folders of Inbox, Drafts, Sent Items, and Deleted Items. All are subfolders of the main Outlook database. You can right click on Outlook and add as many folders as you like and then move your messages to the various folders. I even set up rules to grab a message when it comes in and automatically move it to its appropriate folder. If there is a new message in one of the folders, it will be in bold with a number beside it indicating how many new unread messages are in that folder so it is easy to spot the new mail when it comes in.
Outlook 2010 makes it much easier to deal with the .pst files. If you have an older version of Outlook, you may have to do a Google search to find out more information. Indiana University has a good reference article (from what this is based on) at: http://kb.iu.edu/data/aesn.html - the following is from IU.
Setting up personal folders
In Outlook 2010,
tab, and then from the
2. Select the Data Files tab, and then click Add. In Outlook 2003, Select View or change existing email accounts, click next, and then click New Outlook Data file... .
3. If you only use Outlook to view personal folder files, select Office Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst). If you want your personal folder files to be compatible with previous versions of Outlook, select Outlook 97-2002 Personal Folders File (.pst). Click OK.
4. The Create or Open Outlook Data File window will open. From the drop-down menu next to "Save In:", select a location to store the personal folder file.
In the "Filename:"
field, enter a filename for the folder file (e.g.,
Personal Folder File). A
.pst extension will be
6. Click OK. You will now see the Create Microsoft Personal Folders window. The name that you supply here will appear among your mail folders in Outlook; use a name that is related to the contents of the folder. For example, if you named the.pst file Becky's Personal Folder File, then you may want to name this folder Becky's Personal Folder.
When you set up a new .pst file, in Outlook, it will appear at the bottom of the folder list. If you have messages groups in folders, you can easily move or copy them from one folder to another either individually or in large groups. Brush up on your drag and drop and cut/copy/paste procedures if you are not sure how to do all that.
Outlook .pst files have no theoretical limit on the size of the file but experience has shown that with versions prior to Outlook 2007, if your file size gets larger than 2 gigabytes, you will have problems. A couple of tips; one would be to remove the attachments especially if they are videos or pictures. They take up a lot of space. 2nd would be to empty the "deleted items" folder. When you delete a message, it goes there and they can pile up. If you send a lot of email, you might also empty the "sent items" folder. Those three things will do wonders to the size of your .pst file.
To see how large your .pst files are, in Outlook 2010, go to the Data Files tab in steps 1 & 2 above and just highlight the default .pst file listed there. Click on the "Open File Location" and it will open a new explorer window of your Outlook data files and you can then see how large the .pst file has become. From this window, you can then copy those .pst files to a USB memory drive or stick (assuming it is large enough to store the data files) for moving to another computer.
From this window, you also see where on your computer that the files are stored. If you are going to copy one of those .pst files to another computer, you will also need to know where on that computer the Outlook files are stored and the best way to do that is to again follow the steps 1 & 2 above. You need to remember where it is stored on your computer because after you copy the .pst file to the new location, you need to then tell Outlook that you are going to use it. Go through steps 1 and 2 above and when the window opens up, instead of typing in a new file name, just select the file that you have just copied to this new computer. Outlook will then recognize the new file at the bottom of the list of folders.
Those USB Memory sticks are a great way to backup you your Outlook files, another would be to get a USB external drive and use the backup software that comes with it. Either way, you will be sure you have all your email messages.
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