Are you afraid to archive your Microsoft Outlook mailbox? If so you are in good company, but don’t be – your data isn’t going to disappear and you will get the benefit of not only having better organized information, but faster performance from Microsoft Outlook. In this Arrow-Tip I’m going to give you some best practices for archiving and then show you how to find your data easily once you have archived.
By default, Microsoft Outlook is set up to archive items from your mailbox or main personal folders every two weeks. In general I think this is a good frequency and you should start answering “yes” to the question “Do you want to archive your folders now?” If you send and receive an extraordinary large amount of emails you may want to archive more frequently and if your mailbox traffic is fairly light you can go less frequently. Follow this link to see how to change your archive frequency.
So where do your items go when they are archived? The answer is that they are going to a set of archive folders usually housed on your local C drive. By default your main archive folder is called “Archive Folders” in your Outlook folder list and “archive.pst” out in your file folder system on your hard drive. The default location for both your main Outlook data file (either a .pst or .ost file) and your archive.pst file is C:Documents and Settings<your name>Local SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook for those of you on Windows XP. You want to make sure that whatever mechanism you are using to back up your hard drive is capturing these files as well as your “My Documents” sub-folders.
You can choose whether or not to show your archive folders in your Outlook folder list, but I recommend you keep them visible for easy access. I also recommend that you organize your archive folders in quarterly files. For most users, arranging archived items quarterly will help insure that your archive folders stay at the optimum size for easy and expedient access of your archived data as well as preventing corruption of the archive data file. Here are basic instructions for quarterly archiving (follow the links for more detailed instructions):
The next time that Outlook attempts to archive your mailbox, it will create a new file called Archive.pst automatically. I also recommend that you keep no more than one year’s worth of archive folders active in your Outlook folder list at a time so you will want to close the oldest set of archive folders after you create this new one (e.g. for the current quarter you would be closing “2006 Q4 Archive Folders”).
OK, so now the $1,000,000 question – how do I access my archived items? Here are the two ways that I access my archive folders in Outlook 2003 (Outlook 2007 has some advanced searching features that I won’t go into here):
Quarterly archiving allows you to not only better organize your data by quarter, it will also help keep the size of both your main mailbox and your archive folders down to help enhance Outlook performance and help prevent file corruption. I’d love to hear from any of you that I have worked with to get your archiving strategy in place to let us all know how it has improved your Outlook performance and efficiency.