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PST Files

This article will describe what a PST is and what it is used for.  It will also describe the best practices for PSTs.

What are PST files?

PST files are created by Outlook when the “Auto Archive” function is used or when a backup of the mail is taken.  They are also known as Outlook archives or personal archives.  

PST is an acronym for Personal Storage Table, but is more commonly referred to as a personal archive.

Why can PSTs be a problem?

  1. Easily corrupted
  2. Misplaced
  3. Not Backed up (if on a system that does not have a backup running)

Since users can create a PST with no IT support, they can become overlooked by IT.  This would mean that the files can become lost easily or never backed up properly.  If a PST grows to a very large size and gets corrupted all the data could become lost.  Running a repair on a large PST could freeze the repair tool.  

Where to find PSTs

In Outlook 2010+ you can find your Archived PSTs from these steps

  1. Open Outlook and select File
  2. Choose Account Settings drop down and then choose Account Settings
  3. Select Data Files tab

From here you can see your Outlook Files that you currently have in your Outlook.  You can also add more if needed by clicking the Add button.

If you want to open the location of the archive you can click the file name in the list to highlight it and then click Open File Location

Where to find PSTs

Where to store PSTs

PSTs can be stored anywhere.  If they are stored on a flash drive then you need to point Outlook where to find the PST.  If the flash drive is removed then access to the PST will be removed.  

Storing PSTs on a Network Drive is not the best decision. The use of a PST file over a network connection may result in a corrupted PST file if the connection degrades or fails, and writing to a PST can take 4 times longer than read actions. Outlook can also freeze if trying to open a PST that is stored on the Network and the connection is poor.

Storing PSTs best practice is to store them locally on the system that is running Outlook.  This way the location never changes and Outlook does not have to go through separate variables to access the Data File.

PST File Size

The larger the PST file the more prone to corruption it will become.  You will start to experience Outlook issues overtime.  There are a few options you have to try and minimize the size of the PST file:

  • Compress the PST file
  • Remove duplicate items
  • Empty the Deleted items folder
  • Archive PST file

Compress a PST:

If you delete items from an Outlook Data File (.pst), the file is automatically compacted in the background when you’re not using your computer and Outlook is running. You can also manually start the compact command immediately. It might take several minutes to compact an Outlook Data File (.pst).

  1. Delete any items that you do not want to keep.
  2. Open the Folder List view. At the bottom of the Navigation Pane, click the Folder List icon or press CTRL+6.
  3. In the Navigation Pane, right-click the Deleted Items folder, and then click Empty Folder.
  4. Click the File tab.
  5. Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings.
  6. On the Data Files tab, click the data file that you want to compact, and then click Settings.
  7. Click Compact Now.

Remove Duplicate Items:

  1. In Outlook 2010, select the folder for which you want to delete duplicate items.
  2. Click the View tab in the Ribbon, click Change View in the Ribbon, and then click to change the folder view to a table type view. For example, click the List icon.
  3. Right-click a column heading, and then click Field Chooser.
  4. From the list at the top of the Field Chooser, click to select the All <item name> fields .
  5. Drag the Modified field to the table heading.
  6. Verify that the duplicate items have a unique date from the original set of items. If it is unique, click the Modified heading so that the items are sorted by this field.
  7. Click the first item in the set that you want to delete, scroll to the last item in the set that you want to delete, and then click the last item while you hold down the SHIFT key.
  8. Press DELETE to permanently delete all selected items.

Archive PST File:

  1. Click on the File tab and click on Options.
  2. Click on Advanced then the AutoArchive Settings button in Outlook Options window.
  3. Now configure AutoArchive feature in AutoArchive window.
  4. Check the option of Run AutoArchive every x days.
  5. It's optional to click the Browse button behind the Move old items to: box, and specify a new destination folder for older items.
  6. Click the button of Apply these settings to all folders now.
  7. Click all OK buttons to finish the configuring.

Note: If you select the Permanently delete old items option, mails will not be archived.

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