If you're using all of Microsoft Outlook 2002's components—e-mail, calendar, contacts, notes, tasks, and journal—chances are very good that your Personal Folders file has become quite large. If you want to see for yourself how large your file is, just pull down Outlook's File menu and select the Open | Outlook Data File command. When you see the Open Outlook Data File dialog box, select the Views button on the toolbar, and choose the Details view. When you do, you'll be able to see the size of your Personal Folders file, which is usually named Outlook.pst. As you can see in Figure A, the Personal Folders file on my example system has grown to a whopping 438 MB (448,512 KB/1024 = 438 MB).
|An extremely large Personal Folder file can have an impact on Outlook’s performance.|
As you can imagine, when your Personal Folders file becomes very large, it's usually the result of a large amount of e-mail messages. The size factor is compounded when there are a lot of e-mails that include attachments.
If you do indeed have a lot of e-mail messages in your Personal Folders file, chances are that some of those e-mail messages are old messages that could be archived using Outlook’s Archive feature. If the majority of e-mail messages in your Personal Folders file are old messages, then I would recommend that you investigate archiving as a solution.
Now, there are two major problems with having a very large Personal Folders file. First, it adds a significant amount of overhead to Outlook's file management operations, which usually means that it takes longer for Outlook to open and close than it should. Second, and more serious, is that a larger Personal Folders file has the potential to become corrupted more easily than a smaller file. When that happens, you're left with your most current backup—that is if you have one.
Fortunately, you can streamline Outlook 2002 by creating custom Personal Folders files and moving e-mail messages to these folders. Doing so will allow you to reduce the size of your Personal Folders file. Not only does this increase the speed with which Outlook can access the Personal Folders file, but it also reduces the chances that you'll lose all your important data due to a corrupt file. An additional benefit of creating custom Personal Folders files and moving e-mail messages to these folders is that it may help you to better organize your e-mail messages.
I'll show you how to create custom Personal Folders files and move e-mail messages to these folders. As I do, I'll explain each step in detail. In addition, I'll introduce you to Microsoft's free Outlook Personal Folders Backup add-in.
Working with Microsoft Exchange Server
Keep in mind that if you use Outlook 2002 in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange Server, typically your e-mail messages, calendar, and other items are stored on the server. As such, you won’t find a Personal Folders file on your local system and will need to talk to your Exchange administrator if you feel the need to streamline Outlook 2002.
Back up your Personal Folders file
Before you begin the process of creating custom Personal Folders files and moving e-mail messages to these folders, you’ll want to back up your main Personal Folders file. That way, if anything were to go wrong, you would have a backup.
Fortunately, you can download and install Microsoft's free Outlook Personal Folders Backup add-in. You can then very quickly and easily create a backup of your main Personal Folders file. Note that the Outlook Personal Folders Backup add-in is designed to work with Outlook 2000, 2002, and 2003 and runs under Windows 2000 Service Pack 3, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Me, and Windows XP.
After you download the pfbackup.exe program file, you’ll double-click it to launch the Outlook Personal Folders Backup Installation Wizard. Then, simply follow the onscreen instructions.
Once the installation is complete, launch Outlook, pull down the File menu, and select the Backup command. When you see the Outlook Personal Folders Backup dialog box, shown in Figure B, you’ll need to configure the backup. To do so, click the Options button.
|Before you can use the Outlook Personal Folders Backup add-in, you’ll need to configure it.|
You’ll then see the Backup Options dialog box where you’ll configure the reminder interval, select the Personal Folders file for backup, and specify a location for the backup, as shown in Figure C. Keep in mind that it’s a good idea to specify a backup location on a separate drive from where the Personal Folders are stored.
|You’ll use the settings in the Backup Options dialog box to configure the Outlook Personal Folders Backup add-in.|
When you click OK, you’ll return to the Outlook Personal Folders Backup dialog box where you’ll click the Save Backup button. At this point, you’ll see a message box that informs you that you must exit Outlook in order for the backup operation to commence. As such, click OK to close the message box and then close Outlook. As soon as you do, your Personal Folders file will be backed up.
Creating a custom Personal Folders file
Now that you’ve backed up Personal Folders file, you can safely create a custom Personal Folders file. Fortunately, doing so is easy using Outlook’s Data File Management features.
To begin, pull down the File menu and select the Data File Management command. You’ll then see the Outlook Data Files dialog box, as shown in Figure D. As you can see, this dialog box shows the main Personal Folders file.
|Creating an additional Personal Folders file is easy using the features found in the Outlook Data Files dialog box.|
To create a new Personal Folders file, click the Add button. Doing so opens the New Outlook Data File dialog box, as shown in Figure E.
|The New Outlook Data File dialog box basically serves as a confirmation dialog box.|
To proceed, just click OK. When you do, you’ll see the Create or Open Outlook Data File dialog box, as shown in Figure F. At this point you’ll want to type a descriptive name in the File name text box and overwrite the default suggestion Personal Folders(1).pst. However, as you do, be sure that you include the PST extension. While you can indeed use a long/multiple word name, I suggest that you keep it as short as possible—preferably one word.
|You’ll want to overwrite the default filename with a more descriptive name.|
For example, suppose that you subscribe to a lot of electronic newsletters. If so, chances are that you don’t always get around to reading them when they arrive, but you like to keep them handy for when you do have the time. Having a separate Personal Folders file just for your electronic newsletters would make sense. So, you might name your new Personal Folders file Newsletters.pst. To continue, you’ll click OK.
You’ll then see the Create Microsoft Personal Folders dialog box, as shown in Figure G. Again, you’ll want overwrite the default name suggestion Personal Folders with a short descriptive name. This name will appear in Outlook’s Folder List.
|In addition to assigning a name to your new personal folder, you can also secure it with encryption and password features.|
By default, Outlook configures your new Personal Folders file with the Compressible Encryption setting. As you can imagine, this allows the file to be both encrypted and compressed. You can also password-protect your Personal Folder file to provide added security.
More about the encryption settings
You can learn more about the Encryption Settings available in the Create Microsoft Personal Folders dialog box by clicking the Help button.
When you click OK, you’ll be returned to the Outlook Data File dialog box. You can then click Close to continue. When you return to Outlook, you’ll see the new Newsletter Folders appear in Outlook’s Folder List along with the default Personal Folders, which is named Outlook Today [Personal Folders], as shown in Figure H. As you can see, Outlook adds a Deleted Items folder to your new Personal Folders by default.
|The new Personal Folder will now appear in Outlook’s Folder List.|
You can repeat these steps to create as many custom Personal Folders as you wish. You can then move e-mail messages to the appropriate folders.
Moving e-mail messages
Once you’ve created your custom Personal Folders file, you’re ready to begin moving e-mail messages. To do so, you can simply use drag and drop. You can move individual e-mail messages or you can move entire folders full of e-mail messages.
Dealing with rules
If you move an entire folder from your main Personal Folders file to your custom Personal Folders file that has a Rule attached to it, the Rule will revert to an inactive state. You can then use the Rules Wizard to reactivate the Rule and point it to your custom Personal Folders file.
Compacting the Personal Folders file
Once you move e-mail messages from the default Personal Folders file to your custom Personal Folders file, you’ll need to compact the default Personal Folders file. The reason that you must do so is that removing e-mail messages from a Personal Folders file doesn’t reduce the size of the file. In other words, even though the e-mail messages have been removed from the Personal Folders file, the space that they occupied remains in the file as empty holes.
To compact the default Personal Folders file, right click on Outlook Today [Personal Folders] item in the Folder List and select Properties. When you see the Personal Folders Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure I, click the Advanced button.
|When you select the Properties for Outlook Today [Personal Folders], you’ll see the Personal Folders Properties dialog box.|
When you see the Personal Folders dialog box, as shown in Figure J, you’ll notice that the Encryption text box lists the Personal Folders file as having Compressible Encryption. To continue, click the Compact Now button.
|You’ll compress the Personal Folders file from within the Personal Folders dialog box.|
When you click the Compact Now button, Outlook will display a simple Compact Now message box, like the one shown in Figure K, which alerts you to the operation.
|While Outlook is compacting the Personal Folders file, you’ll see this dialog box on the screen.|
Once the compact operation is complete click OK twice to close the Personal Folders dialog box and the Personal Folders Properties dialog box. If you wish to see how much you reduced the size of the Personal Folders file, you can return to the Open Outlook Data File dialog box and check the size of the PST file.
Reconfiguring the backup
Once you compact the Personal Folders file, you’ll need to reconfigure the settings in the Outlook Personal Folders Backup add-in. To do so, you’ll need to access the Backup Options dialog box and then add any additional Personal Folders files that you created into the backup set.
As you do, keep in mind that in addition to selecting each file’s check box, you’ll need to individually specify the backup location for each file. If you don’t, Outlook Personal Folders Backup will simply create the backups in the same folder as the originals, which isn’t necessarily a good backup strategy.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.