How to back up your Outlook PST files

Need a way to back up your Microsoft Outlook PST file? Here's one tool that can do the job.

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You rely on PST files to store your Microsoft Outlook data; however, PST files aren't the most reliable method of storing Outlook data. But if you can't avoid PST files, you should at least set up a reliable way to back them up. One product up to the challenge is Safe PST Backup from 4Team.

Through Safe PST Backup, you can set the backups to kick off automatically on a regular schedule; you can back up more than one PST file; and you can choose to back up the PST file on your network. And the backup will run and complete whether or not Outlook is open.

The basic version of Safe PST Backup is free. If you need more features, you should check out the $29.95-per-license enterprise edition. For example, if you use Exchange on the backend, you must use the enterprise version. You can request a free trial for the enterprise edition of up to five licenses. The page for Safe PST Backup Free and the page for Safe PST Backup Enterprise list the main features for each version, so you can compare both products.

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To start with the free version, download and install Safe PST Backup Free from 4Team's site. Launch the program. At the main screen, click the field for Backup Destination Folder. Browse to and select the folder on which you want to store your backup (Figure A). Your best bet is to store the backup on a network share, but for a computer with only remote access or infrequent network connectivity, a USB drive can serve in a pinch.

Figure A


Next, click the Options button. Select the tab for Files And Folders. Safe PST Backup automatically scans for and detects the PST and OST files set up for Outlook. If you use more than one PST or OST file, you can deselect any that you don't wish to include in the backup (Figure B).

Figure B


The free edition of Safe PST Backup backs up all the Outlook data for each PST file, including email, contacts, calendars, and tasks; the enterprise edition lets you select which folders you want to include or exclude in the backup. To view all your Outlook folders in the enterprise version, click the ellipsis next to the name and path of the PST file and deselect any you want to exclude from the backup (Figure C).

Figure C


Click the Schedule tab. This is where you can set the method and frequency for backing up the PST file. Unless there's a specific reason for launching the backup manually, set the method to Automatically.

You can then determine the backup frequency, from every five minutes to once a month. Depending on how often you use Outlook and how much email you send and receive, you should back up the file at least two or three times a week. For example, backing up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday might be an effective strategy.

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The free version of the program performs an incremental backup each time, backing up only changes made to your Outlook data. With the enterprise version, you can opt to create a full backup copy periodically; this option can be helpful if you ever need to recover an email or other piece of information from an older backup. To set this in the enterprise edition, check the option to Automatically Create New Backup File. At the corresponding screen, set the frequency for each new full backup file, the number of backup files to keep, and the limit for deleting older backup files (Figure D). Click OK to close the Schedule window.

Figure D


Finally, click the tab for Other. Here, you can determine what action to take if the connection is slow over the LAN or WAN or other type of access. The default settings are to test the connection before the backup starts and to prompt the user if the connection is slow (Figure E). Click OK to close the Settings window.

Figure E


You can now close Safe PST Backup. The program will load each time Windows launches and automatically run the backups according to the schedule you set, whether or not Outlook is running. To access the settings and other features for Safe PST Backup, right-click its System Tray icon and select the appropriate option.

To check on the backups, open the backup destination folder you chose. You'll find log files with information on each backup as well as the backup PST files. If you ever need to restore an entire PST file or specific data from a backup, right-click the program's System Tray icon, select the option on How To Restore, and follow the suggested steps.

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