|Office Tutorials & Software Solutions|
|Specializing in Advanced Spreadsheet & Office Macro Solutions.
|Making Microsoft® Outlook email/contacts/calendar backups|
|Tested on versions:||2000 (9.0) - should work on Outlook 97 and from versions|
|Find Outlook data files on your hard drive and make safety copies. Restore them if catastrophe arises (or you just deleted the wrong messages)!|
Microsoft Outlook is one of the world's most used software's, having become the "the facto" standard in sophisticated email clients. It is particularly popular in the corporate world, but has a huge domestic and small companies user base also.
The reason is that, while originally distributed only with the Microsoft Office package, Outlook is nowadays bundled with most OEM (PC manufacturers pre-installed) Windows XP. In another words, it comes preinstalled with the PC.
Corporate users usually use it to read the corporate email system, which processes both internal and internet emails. Home and small company users usually use it for internet mail only, as they do not have internal email systems. Corporate emails usually store emails on the server until the user decides to copy it to local archive files. Home and small company users usually download their email from the server directly to their local harddisk storage.
In either case, as soon as the messages are stored locally, it is your responsibility to backup them. Nobody will do it for you. And if they become corrupted or your haddisk is damaged you'll loose all your:
There are several possible reasons for email storage files to become corrupted:
Making backups of your email files is more trouble than it should, as Outlook hides its storage files from its users. But if you know where to find them, it is easier than you believed.
Corporate mailboxes are usually server based. You can recognize them by their name: Outlook Today - [Mailbox YOUR CORPORATE MAIL NAME]
Server based mailbox backup is in the IT Department domain. Leave it for them. It should be done professionally and, if you're based in the USA, it's even regulated by law (email messages have to be kept as potential proof for a legally mandatory period).
However, corporate mailboxes also have, usually, a size limit. Otherwise, the server would grow forever and would become unmanageable. To reduce the occupied size you can always move messages (either by copying or moving) to a personal archive. In some corporations, this is even advocated by the IT department email rules.
Once copied to a local archive, emails will be stored on a
local hardrive file, where they can be archived and backup'ed
Personal Archive - How and where to find local (harddisk) Outlook data files
Non-corporate versions of Outlook will use a local storage and corporate user can also have them as alternatives to the server mailbox. Outlook default email for them is Personal Folders, but they can be renamed. PIC 3 shows an example.
If you can't see the Folder List on Outlook, do this:
Personal Folder files are like harddrives in a file: they can have folders, sub-folders, messages, contacts, tasks and even files. They have a file extension of .PST. But Outlook doesn't show the file location, only it's contents. To find where the file is stored, do this:
Note that the file appear on Windows as NOT being related to any application (no application Icon) and you can't open it by double clicking with the mouse.
Renaming the Archive: you can rename the archive name on the Outlook Folder List tree (PIC. 3) by changing the name field just above the Path, on the Advanced Properties dialog (the top field showing Personal Folders in PIC. 7).
Personal Archive - Dealing with File Sizes
Outlook archive files have a maximum size of 2GB. If you go past the limit, your email file will become damaged and you will not be able to use it without repair. You should check its size regularly because Outlook won't warn you when it's reaching the limit.
Archive sizes can check using two different methods:
Option 2 is best because it will tell you how large is each sub-folder, allowing you to better manage your allocated space. Note that archive files always grow in size. Deleting emails won't automatically shrink them. You have to do it manually using the Compact Now button on the Advanced Properties dialog (PIC. 7).
If your archive is approaching the 2 GB limit, you should stop using it and start a new archive. Even if you're far away, files this large are difficult to copy and maintain and will take time to search. It's best to split your archive into smaller files. You may split your files by any criteria, like:
Be careful: even split, each file may surpass the 2GB limit if enough time is given. To create a new archive file, do this:
Once created, the new archive will remain on the Outlook Folder List until it is manually closed or if Outlook can't find it later (if it is removed or it's path or filename on disk is changed).
Outlook will enable you to open any number of
archive files. Once opened, it will remain on the Outlook
Folder List until it is closed by you or the file disappears
from it's opening location (Outlook will memorize it, even between sessions).
This makes it easy to work with multiple archive folders, as
you don't need to constantly open/close them. Just open them
once and use them every day, copying messages as usual
between Outlook folders. To add (open) an archive folder to the Outlook
Folder List, do the following:
How to backup them - Copy your data files to storage media;
Now that you know how to find your archive files, you can copy them into a safe backup media. The best backup strategy will depend on how big is your archive file:
You also have to differentiate between write once and re-writable media:
It is good backup practice to have regular backups into rewritable media and long-term backups in write-once media. Regular backups are used for restoration (if you have archive corruption or just deleted the wrong message, just recover it from the latest backup). You just delete the last one when you do a new one. But you should have long-term backups now and them - at least annually - to permanent media. Label it correctly and, in case you need it, you will be able to recover your files as they where on some precise time in the past.
To backup your files, follow these steps:
What about Compression?
You may compress archive files to make them smaller using any file compression utility like WinZip or even Windows XP own compressed folders. But you cannot directly to recover messages from the compressed file. It is good for storage purposes only, it will have to be uncompressed for opening and message recover.
Restoring Backup Files
Restoring your backups can have two completely different meanings:
Dumping the old archive file by replacing it with the backup archive file. It will be useful if the main archive is corrupted or the damage is to large for local recovery. And it is the easiest to implement, all steps have already been explained in this tutorial:
Instead of recovering the whole backup file, you may only want to recover a message or other small detail from an old backup. Maybe you're not using it anymore and it's not even in your active Outlook Folder List, like 1998 email backup. All you want is to recover or search for a detailed peace of information: email, contact or calendar. Your best option is to make it available for search and copy, adding it to the Outlook Folder List, for the stick time it's needed. Then store them again. Follow these steps:
It is possible to list the Receipt status on the Inbox message list by following these steps:
Warning about CD/DVD and compressed Backups.
Outlook enables you to directly open any and multiple email archives, as already explained in this tutorial. But there are restrictions. You can only open uncompressed (not Zipped) files from a hard-drive. Trying to open an archive directly from CDs, DVDs or a zipped file won't work.
If you have your backup on one of this media / formats, you can only restore them by copying the backup files to an hard-drive. You can open them by:
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