Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #9 Why Archive Your Microsoft Outlook Mailbox?

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):

  • Rename your Archive Folders to the format “YYYY QX Archive Folders” – for the current quarter that name would be “2007 Q4 Archive Folders.”
  • Close this newly renamed set of archive folders in your Microsoft Outlook folder list.
  • Close out Microsoft Outlook, and then go to your Archive Folders file in your file system and rename it with the same format preserving the .pst file extension. IMPORTANT NOTE: make sure that you do close out the archive folders in your Outlook folder list before renaming the file out in your Windows folder system. Otherwise, you will end up with a corrupted file that will not work properly in the Outlook folder list.
  • Re-open Microsoft Outlook and then add the Archive Folders file back to your Outlook folder list.

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):

  1. Access Outlook items directly from the Archive Folders. You can expand and contract Archive folders just as you do your regular Outlook default folders so if I’m looking for a particular appointment item, I’ll just go to the calendar for the relevant quarter archive.
  2. Access Outlook items from a contact Activities tab. In order to see items from your archive folders (or any other folder not within your mailbox or default personal folders) you will need to set up a special Activities tab view. You can set up as many custom Activities tab views as you like – to change views in your activities tab, click on the drop down arrow to the right of the selected view (usually “All Items” by default) and select the view you would like to display.

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.

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on October 29, 2007 in the following categories: Archiving, Arrow Tips, Calendar, Front Page, Inbox, Journal, Performance. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


Misty: What a helpful tip for the Outlook user. I appreciate how you approach the subject and everyone, no matter what level user, can glean tips from your article. I’d like to forward this on to the CEO’s on my Advisory Board (TAB).

Thanks again for being such a valuable resource!


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