If you use Microsoft Outlook, this article will show you how to better organize
your email files to help prevent corruption and speed up how Outlook accesses
If you save a lot of email, you could end up with one, very large email data
file. In Outlook, your email is stored in one file, usually called Personal.pst.
Over time, this file can become so large that it will not only cause Outlook
to take longer to open and close, but there's a chance that the file could become
corrupt if it's too large. If it does become corrupt, you could lose all that
valuable email you've been saving! So it's important to take steps to protect
those files. One way is to set files to be archived, thereby compressing and
managing older emails in an archive file. The other way is to locate your PST
file(s) and save a copy of it to another directory, drive, computer or CD as
a backup. But there's another way you can help to reduce the risk of losing
email. You can create several smaller PST files from that one large file.
In this article, I'll show you how to do this and suggest ways to better organize
Locating Your Email Files
One of the first things you should do is to search your hard drive for *.pst
to make sure you only have two files. One called Personal.pst and one called
Archive.pst. If you have more than that, you should open these files to see
what is contained in them, so you can better organize these files, too. When
I decided to organize my mail, I did a search and discovered I had three personal.pst
files. One was an old backup from a previous computer that had died. Another
was from my desktop computer, back when I used it as my email center. And the
third from the current file from my laptop. So the first thing I did was rename
the other two so I could then move them all into the same directory for further
To open a PST file to see what's in it, open Outlook. Click File/Open/Outlook
That will bring up a dialog box pointing at the default file location for Outlook.
This path is usually: C:\Windows\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.
If you didn't already move any additional PST files into this path, then ferret
around from this dialog box to find the path where those files are currently
located. When you find the file you want to open, click it and click OK.
As you can see from the image below, I have several different PST files.
When the new file is opened, you'll see it now listed in your Folder List.
Click View/Folder List to display the Folder List, if it's not already
displayed. As you can see in the image below, I currently have three separate
PST files open. One is for my current email, this would be the file currently
called Personal.pst. The other is one I've saved to contain email related to
technical issues and a third one related to email about the web sites I maintain.
And as you can see in the above image, you can easily match the names of the
Web Sites file up with the Web Sites PST file. Same with the Tech Mail PST.
Create a New Email Folder
Let's assume you're dealing with just one large personal.pst file. You want
to organize it better. So you're going to need to create a few separate PST
files to which you can move the email around.
Click File/Data File Management. This will bring up the Outlook Data
Files dialog box.
As you can see, it shows that I'm currently working with three PST files. You
can also see that new mail delivery is defaulted to arrive in the Dians
Current file. Click Add in this dialog to add a new PST file. A dialog
box will appear confirming that you want to add a new personal.pst file. Click
That will bring you again to the dialog box that defaults to your PST files.
If this is not where you want to save these files, then select another directory.
Give your new file a name and click OK to save this new, empty mail folder.
Tip: Since this is the default path that will appear whenever you save
or open a PST file, I'd suggest you just save it here. I attempted to better
organize my files by creating a Dian Email directory and saving all my files
there. But I found I was wasting a lot of time having to locate that path over
and over again. It's much faster to just accept this default path!
If you're planning this new folder to be used for, say, storage of all the
email you send/receive from family members, then I'd suggest you save this file
as Family.pst. After you give the file a name and click OK, you'll be
presented with another dialog box. This one allows you to customize the configuration
of your new folder.
As you can see in the image above, I have named the file the same as the name
I used to save the file. The name you enter into this dialog box will be the
name that will be displayed in the Folder List in Outlook when this file
is open. So it only makes sense to give it a similar name. That way you will
more easily know which is which.
Also in this dialog box, you can set your compression preferences, as well
as whether you'd like the folder passworded. If you give it a password, be sure
you use a password you won't forget. If you do forget it, you'll be locked out
of all the email you put in this folder. When you're finished making your selections,
After clicking OK, you'll be taken back to the previous data file dialog.
As you can see in the image above, the new file is now listed among my open
PST files. At this point, you can also highlight your new PST file and click
You'll be presented with a dialog box that will allow you to compress the folder,
if necessary and also to add any comments as notes to yourself so you won't
forget what information is contained in this file. After you back out of the
open dialogs, you'll notice that your Folder List now also shows this
new file. It's now available for your use. Also notice that it also has it's
own Deleted Items default folder.
I can now expand one of the other, larger folders and choose email
from that file to click and drag into my new file. If I had created this
file to hold all my Family related mail, I first would have obviously saved
the file as Family.pst. Then I would have named it Family. And now I would go
through all my email folders in that one large folder and pull out all email
related to family issues and move it into this folder. You can drag over individual
emails. You can click on one item, then hold down the Shift key, move
your cursor to the end of the list of files you want to move, click on the last
item and all items between will be selected. Then you can move the file in masse.
You can also use the Ctrl key to selectively click to choose emails to
move in a group. Or you can click and drag a whole folder into this new file.
Closing Email Files
Because I don't need to have this new folder opened all the time while in Outlook,
I can now close this file. Highlight the folder, right click and
click Close. This will keep all my email in this folder safely stored
away in the Outlook directory.
However, should I later need to locate an important email from Uncle George,
I would simply click File/Open/Outlook Data File, as we did in the beginning.
I'd locate the PST file I'd need to search and click OK to open it. Then it
would again be listed in my Folder List of open and available files.
Saving Backup Files
After I have created all my new PST files for each category that I need and
I've taken the time to move all the email from the large personal.pst file into
the separate files, it's important to make backups of these files. Then, should
any individual PST file become corrupt, I'll have a backup to move over into
my default directory.
After you close Outlook, open your Windows Explorer (hit Windows + E
or right click the Start button and click Explore). Navigate to
the directory where all your PST files are currently located. Select them all
and hit Ctrl/C to copy them all. Then move to some backup directory,
select it and hit Alt/V to paste a copy of all these files into
your backup directory. Just be sure to do this now and then so you know you
have a current copy of your files.
Note! Although you can copy files while Outlook is open, you will not
be able to copy all the PST files because some will be in use. So
it's best to wait until you've closed Outlook so all the files are available
to be copied at one time.
During my normal use of Outlook, after I receive and read email, any email I
want to keep, I put into a central directory called Mail To Sort. I keep this folder handy by putting a shortcut to the folder on my Outlook bar. (NOTE! To learn how to take advantage of the Outlook shortcut bar, read this article: Looking Out Through Outlook.) Obviously,
these emails are a mix of all the various mail categories. But rather than taking
time every day to sort out my email by opening and closing all the PST files,
I wait until the end of the month and do it all at once. I can click on the
Column Titles to sort by Sender or Subject to group your
email. Then I can grab chunks at move them all off into their respective PST
files. This way I can keep my In Basket from becoming too cluttered between
sorting, yet I don't have to spend time each day opening and closing all my
files just to sort a few pieces of email.