How to Archive Old Mail in Outlook and Keep Your PST File Small
Summary: As you continue to send and receive mail in Outlook your Oulook .PST file grows and so does the time it takes Outlook to do what you want it to do. Here is how to speed up your Outlook and keep the .PST file manageable.
A user's mailbox grows as items are created and received. As a mailbox grows larger, Outlook slows down in day-to-day operations, and the probability of data file corruption increases. To manage these potential problems, many users manually clean out old messages, tasks, and calendar items, but Outlook provides an automated process - AutoArchive - to handle this time-consuming task.
AutoArchive is a mystery for many Outlook users. By default, AutoArchive runs every two weeks and moves all of the messages and other items that are older than six months to an archive folder - a .pst file located on a user's computer. While almost all users have seen the prompt from Outlook to run AutoArchive, most cancel the operation because they are not sure what the process entails.
To set up AutoArchive properly requires three simple steps: 1) review and change the global settings to meet a user's needs, 2) apply the changes to all folders, and 3) customize the global settings for specific folders.
To change the global settings for auto-archive:
- From the menu, select Tools, Options to open the Options dialog box.
- On the Other tab, click AutoArchive.
- In the AutoArchive dialog box, review and modify the settings to meet a user's needs.
In default, AutoArchive runs every fourteen days, archives all messages and items older than six months to a file named archive.pst, and deletes expired items. The expiration date for all messages and items is six months, except for Calendar items (which do not expire) and Sent Items and Deleted Items (which expire in 2 months).
K2 Enterprises recommends that users uncheck Delete expired items (e-mail folders only). All other settings should be configured to meet the needs of individual users.
Note that the name and location of the archive.pst file can be modified in this dialog box if desired.
Before closing the AutoArchive dialog box, make sure to apply the changes to all existing folders:
Click Apply settings to all folders now.
Click OK, OK to close the dialog box and complete the process.
Now that the modified AutoArchive settings have been applied to all folders, the only task remaining is to customize the settings for individual folders as necessary:
In the Navigation Pane, right-click on a folder for which the archive settings need to be customized and select Properties from the context-sensitive menu.
- On the AutoArchive tab, adjust the folder's archive settings as required.
Among the folders that may require individual archive settings are Action/Hold, Company or Personal inboxes, InfoPath Form folders, and Calendar and Task folders. The Contacts folder is never archived. Follow along with your instructor as we explore AutoArchive.
Once AutoArchive runs, the Archive folder will appear in the Navigation Pane at the bottom of the folder list. Expanding the Archive folder will reveal a set of folders identical to those contained in a user's mailbox. As a message or item is archived, it is moved to the same location in the Archive folder.
In other words, a message in the Company Inbox will be moved to the Company Inbox in the Archive folder during the archiving process. All messages and items in the Archive folders can be accessed just as any other messages or items in a user's mailbox.
They can be searched with Instant Search, or moved to other folders in the archive or back to the main mailbox using drag-and-drop. The point is that users will have the same access to messages and other items that they have always had, notwithstanding that the messages and other items have been relocated to the Archive folder. The advantages gained are that a user's mailbox is smaller, opens faster and performs better, is less cumbersome to use, and is less likely to corrupt.