PC backup - Outlook archive

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Fig 1. Typical listing of archive in Outlook

About this article

This article provides instructions for making a copy of your Outlook archive files. It is useful for supporting routine backup and preparing for a laptop exchange or re-image. It is intended for employees who use the Outlook desktop application as an email client.

Who needs to archive and why?

As part of our Microsoft Office 365 service, all student WSU email is stored off campus in the cloud and students use a browser-based tool called the Outlook Web App to access it. All employee WSU email is still stored on dedicated, campus servers and most employees use the old familiar Outlook desktop application to access it. Although some employees use the Outlook Web App and all students are free to use the desktop version of Outlook, their email is located in two different places and this has consequences for employees. Whereas student email storage space is essentially unlimited, employees have a 2 GB limit on their local mailboxes. If that fills up, employees will not be able to send or receive mail. Archiving allows employees to move a portion of the email from the server to their laptop's hard drive in such a way that they can continue to act on it through Outlook normally. When you archive all or portions of your mailbox, a .pst file is created on your laptop. You want to back up that file for safe keeping and for transfer to your new or re-imaged laptop.

How do I know if I archived?

If you archived your mailbox in Outlook, you will have Archives listed on the left side navigation bar (Fig 1), somewhere below your main mailbox listing. Not that you could have multiple references to archives. If you see archives listed, but don't remember ever archiving your mail on your current laptop, it's possible that you simply forgot or that you moved an archive from your old laptop when you set up your current one.

How do I find my archive file?

To find an archive file, search your laptop for .pst files or right-click on the word Archives and select Open File Location. This will open up the folder in which the .pst file is stored. Just save that file to your backup location. Do this for every instance of Archives on your left side navigation bar in Outlook.

Pro tips

  • 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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