It’s no secret that E-mail has replaced the telephone as the most frequently used business communication tool. And as most of our ‘instructions’ are received via mail, we end up using it as our task list as well. Indeed it is a powerful tool – but how many of you ever received training to properly use it / understand the dangers?

I’m no Outlook expert and the tips I’ll be sharing in this blog have been accumulated purely through lessons learnt and built on pain and suffering. I’ve lost a lot of emails and spent way too much time looking for old emails. On a daily basis I get a glimpse of how users archive their old mails – and deleting mails because of the “exceeded your mailbox maximum size” message. It’s the type of thing that keeps me awake at night….

Microsoft Outlook is a software application that acts as an email client and an Outlook PST (Personal Storage Table) file is used by Outlook to store email messages, contacts and other information. This blog is based on Microsoft Office 2010 on Windows 7, but can be applied to other versions as well.
Below are the maximum recommended sizes for PST files:
Outlook 2003 =2GB
Outlook 2007 and 2010 = 20GB
Microsoft Outlook 2010 and 2013 = 50GB
“It is important that you do not allow your PST file to exceed the maximum supported size for the version of Outlook you are using. Exceeding the limit can cause the file to be corrupted, resulting in lost data.” – eHow

So lets have a look at the type of folders you can create in Outlook:
A: Folders created directly underneath you Inbox.
CONS: These folders still add up to the size of your mailbox as it is still stored on the server.
PROS: These emails will still be backed up and are available for recovery if something goes wrong with your pc.
B: Creating folders as subfolders in existing PST folders or Archive files
CONS: Users don’t understand that even though they have separate folders – it still adds up to one PST (size). Also – if the PST becomes corrupt – you will lose ALL the folders.
PROS: None whatsoever
C: My preferred method of ‘archiving’ mails. Separate PST files. I use years as I can (kinda) remember when I sent / received a mail. So trying to store it by person / company would drive me crazy. Why do people do this – because they’re scared they won’t be able to find mails. But did you know that you can search in your inbox and tell it to search in all folders, including PST’s? See the second image to illustrate.

I still limit my PST size to 2GB each, and even though I send and receive a lot of mails, I only have one inbox and one sent items PST for each year.
CONS: None whatsoever
PROS: Lower risk. You can open the specific year you’re looking for, no need to have all the PST’s open in Outlook all the time as this slows your Outlook down.

Outlook Folders

When searching and the wrong results are returned – click on “Try searching again in all mail items”. It will now search all folders and PTS’. It even shows you in which PST you stored the filed.
Search in Folders

Where are the PST files created / stored?
The easiest way to determine that is to go through the process of creating one – there you’ll see the location. Follow the steps below:

Creating a new PST:
1. Home Tab
2. New Items
3. More Items
4. Outlook Data File
5. Give the PST a name
6. Click OK
NOTE: This is where you can see the location where your PST’s are saved. Good to know – as you’ll want to make backups of these on a regular basis.
Create PST

Opening PST’s that’s been closed:
You might leave old PST’s closed (not open in your Outlook). How do you open an existing Outlook Data File (PST)? You would follow the same process if you’ve made backups of your PST and want to open them on another PC.
1. File Tab
2. Open
3. Outlook Data File
4. Choose the file
5. Open
NOTE: Keep in mind that once you’ve opened a PST it will take a couple of minutes for your PC to index the files. So wait a while before you start searching for files in it.
Open PST File

Moving mails to the PST
I use the flag status on my emails to mark the ones I’ve completed already. Every Friday I sort my mails by flag status and then just move that group of mails across to the corresponding PST file. Sent Items gets moved on Fridays as well.
See the image below:
1. Click on the flag in the column headers, mails will now be sorted by status
2. Select the “completed” mails by clicking on the flag status header – it will select all the emails in that grouping.
3. Drag this selection across to the correct PST – keep left mouse button in while dragging – release button when you’re ready to drop it in the PST folder.
NOTE: wait until the PST expands (opens) or you might accidentally drop it in the deleted or search folder.
Sort by Flag
Select and drag mails to PST

How to make backups of your PST’s (please do this on a regular basis in two different locations):
1. Close Outlook.
2. Navigate to the location found when you created the PST (3rd image in this post).
3. Copy the files and paste to external hard drive.

And that’s it!! Easy Peasy.