Software

How do I... Archive Outlook e-mail without a PST file?

Introduction

Organizations and employees, of course, are increasingly dependent upon e-mail. From correspondence with customers and clients to strategic communications with colleagues, vendors, suppliers and others, e-mail has become a business critical application. Information technology departments have responded accordingly. Back-end e-mail servers are often well-hardened, run on dedicated systems and feature intricate remote or offsite backups. But an age-old problem remains: how to effectively store old e-mail while maintaining accessibility to those messages.

Microsoft's answer has been the PST (Personal Storage File) file and an intricate archiving dance. Redmond uses the PST file to store Calendar items, e-mail, Journal entries and Tasks on local Windows workstations. Users, meanwhile, are responsible proper archiving (which requires specifying archive periods, file locations, folder and subfolder locations, etc.).

Thankfully, there's an effective alternative to archiving Outlook e-mail using only PST files.

Just use folders.

This gallery is also available as a TechRepublic download and as a TechRepublic article.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

15 comments
daniel_baughman
daniel_baughman

When solving this problem, I used Adobe Acrobat Professional. I could archive a whole group at once, it added several search features, and it didn't change any dates. If there were links or documents attached within the email, it saved all that functionality as well.

k.filius
k.filius

Nice, creative solution but still cumbersome in operation for end users, relating to procedural steps and data management. For those companies that are not married with Outlook i advise to switch to Paralda which offers a convenient, folderless email client with automatic, unlimited archiving and data retrieval in seconds. Paralda is also customer centric which makes it a great CRM tool that automatically connects all received and sent emails with a customers' profile and existing email, calendar and other CRM functions, all in one single view. Data connectors with other CRM environments are available. For more info please send an email to info@paralda.com

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

Many of my small business clients are cost sensitive. With less than 15-20 employees, many are simply not interested in any CRM solutions (or cannot afford them). Instead, they seek a simple desktop method they can employ to reasonably archive email (while still being able to search and access e-mail messages without having to explode entire PST archives each time). Talk about cumbersome exercises for a user that needs to access only a single e-mail message!

barbara1973
barbara1973

I have both Modified and Received columns in my Outlook inbox. Received contains the original date of the message, while Modified contains the date that it was moved, etc. By having both headings, you retain the original dates of the messages.

barryt
barryt

My company runs Outlook 2002 on NT machines, and when emails are dragged to Explorer folders as .msg files, the file date & time that appears in the Explorer 'Details' view becomes the date & time of dragging, not the original email send/receive date. These can be days apart if, for example, you've been out of the office for a few days. It then becomes impossible to easily look for emails received on a certain date. I don't know if this happens on XP & Vista machines - perhaps someone could try it and post the result.

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

The file time/stamp changes, but the received/sent date remains the same within the Outlook e-mail message.

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

Yes, I also found out the hard way, that the date changes to the date the messages are moved to the folder. In addition, I would "zip" the files to compress them. What works best for us now is to create a .PST with an intelligent name (could be date or subject oriented), move the messages to that .PST, then, after detaching the .PST from Outlook, zip the .PST file. It compresses really well (sometimes to 1/3rd the original size) and retains the original dates inside the .PST. Extra work? -- sure, but saves a ton of space, speeds up Outlook by removing files from the active sub-folders, and creates useable archives. This works best on critical departments, rather than across our local company of 5,000 peeps.

luisb
luisb

How do I detach the .PST files from Outlook ?

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

In Outlook, go to Tools/Options/Mail Settings tab/ click on Data Files button. In the window that opens (Outlook Data Files), you can select from the following buttons: Tell Me More.... (not as helpful as it should be) Settings Open Folder... (where the .PSTs are stored) Add... (where you can add existing or new .PSTs to your active Outlook) Remove (what I click on to "de-activate" or what I called "detach" the .PST from the active Outlook) and Close. If you don't detach it, it remains active and opens every time you open Outlook. That slows Outlook and takes up a lot of space.

Darren B - KC
Darren B - KC

barryt has a good point here. I tried copying some of my email to a few folders, but all the .msg files that were created had today's date on them in the explorer window. In the office that I support, this would not be practical. Being able to look for and retrieve messages in a specific date range is extremely important to our users and I know they would not agree with this method. Other than that, it's actually not a bad idea from an organizational standpoint. Keeping PST's in order can be a pain sometimes, IMHO.

pbd
pbd

I think this is horrible advice. PST files are the way to go. Users just need to learn how to use them properly, and life is much better than this method. Another problem I have is telling people to use all these desktop search utilities. If you are organized, and know where you put things, you won't have to search to find them. This article is just re-assuring lazy people stay lazy.

Erik Eckel
Erik Eckel

I've serviced numerous clients who have found this solution much more efficient and workable than using Outlook PST files. Does that mean this method is appropriate for everyone? No. But in many, many small businesses this is the most effective solution.

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

.....how would you achieve a similar result? For example, what if a person wanted to save emails on a network drive (instead of the aforementioned destination), so that those emails could be shared and viewed among many people while still maintaining the integrity of the original Outlook properties?

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

Nope, no Exchange Server. I have a mixture of Outlook and Outlook Express users (mostly Outlook Express). The Outlook users are those independent sorts who want it because they like it, and they like it because they've always used it, and..... well, you know. (And one of them is the boss!) And they use Outlook to interact with another pain in the a...., one of those palm-held devices. I'm considering getting Exchange Server, but am only weighing the pros and cons right now. (Vista and Office 2007, by the way, is what's being planned.)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

are how we share e-mails among multiple readers. However, I understand MS is going to eliminate public folders in one of the next two releases of Exchange. Yes, I'm assuming an Exchange server, but why else would you be running Outlook?