Backing Up Outlook Email Archives on a PC

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All of the emails that you receive through your email address is automatically saved on a server in a special folder or "mailbox" called [your StarID] You can use Outlook to connect to this folder and view and manage its contents (e.g., organize messages in subfolders, delete messages). When doing this, nothing is stored on your laptop permanently. When you move from one WSU laptop to another, you simply reconnect to this mailbox through Outlook on your new machine and all of your messages and mail folders appear. An important exception involves the Archive function of Outlook. This function allows you to create copies of your server mail folders on your laptop and actually move, not copy, mail from the server to these local folders. This will remove the messages from your server folders and store them in a special archive file on your laptop. If you use this archive function, you must back up these archive files to protect your data and to transfer your archives to a new laptop.


  1. Email archive files have a .pst extension. When you archive your mail in Outlook, it creates a .pst file on your laptop. Identify the location of this file by opening Outlook and selecting File|Archive. This will open the Archive window. The location of your current archive file is listed in the "Archive file:" field. Note that there will be a default location and file name in that field even if you have never archived your mail.
  2. Select Start|My Computer and go to the folder that contains your current email archive. Copy that file to external, network, or web-based storage.

Other Considerations

  • Although most people maintain one archive file and migrate it from one laptop to another, it is possible to have multiple email archive files on your laptop. You may have .pst files from other laptop exchanges that contain email from years ago. Search your laptop for *.pst files to see a list of any archives other than your current one that you may want to retain.
  • Email archive files can be extremely large. They can contain thousands of messages, including all file attachments.
  • Many people archive their mail because their server mailbox is full. Technically, there is no reason why you can't save every single email message that you ever sent or received. Psychologically, this may be a sign of a deeper issue. Now is not a bad time to consider whether you have an email hoarding problem. Admitting it to yourself is the first step. Contacting TLT for help is a good second step.

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