Tip #4 of 8: Split your Outlook data into more than one file

By: standss , Jun 19th, 2014

We are back this week to continue with the 8 simple tips for email management in Microsoft Outlook.

In the last tip, I showed you where the Outlook Data file is stored by default and why you should regularly back up the data file. But did you know…

Outlook is configured (by default) to eventually corrupt itself and lose
some or maybe even all your data?

Backing up your Outlook data is one way to avoid data loss but there is an even better way to avoid this disastrous incident…

Tip# 4: Split your Outlook data into more than one file
This technique will stop your e-mail file from getting bloated, slow and eventually corrupting itself and dying.

Outlook by default saves all its e-mails into one file.

Prior to Outlook 2003, there was a limitation of 2 GB to your Outlook data file. Although 2 GB seems like a lot, this space can be filled quickly particularly if you receive a lot of attachments.

Once you reach that limit, there is no real warning. Outlook just slows down, e-mails start getting lost and in some cases Outlook just stops opening altogether. Retrieving your e-mails from this corrupt PST is a nightmare.

In Outlook 2003, you have the option of using the new Unicode format of Outlook data file which can hold much more data. However if you upgraded Outlook from an earlier version then chances are that you are still using the older format with the 2 GB limitation.

Irrespective of whether you are using the new or old format data file, you should split your Outlook data into at least 2 files.

Your main PST file should not be used like a filing cabinet for old e-mails. Create a separate PST file to save e-mails that you want to keep for future reference. This leaves your main Outlook data file lean and mean so that Outlook is able to open up quickly.

To create a new Outlook data file:

For Outlook 2013/2010:

  1. Click on Home tab
  2. Select New Items > More Items > Outlook Data File…
  3. Outlook suggests a default location for the file. I recommend that you change this to a folder that you backup regularly, possible a sub-folder in your My Documents.
  4. Enter a filename and click OK to create the file.

For Outlook 2003/2007:

  1. Click File > New > Outlook Data File
  2. Outlook 2003 Only: Outlook 2003 uses two types of Outlook data files. If you will be using the data only in Outlook 2003 or later, choose MS Outlook Personal Folders File. Otherwise choose the Outlook 97-2002 option.
  3. Outlook suggests a default location for the file. I recommend that you change this to a folder that you backup regularly, possible as sub-folder in your My Documents.
  4. Enter a filename and click OK to create the file.

You can create as many Personal Folder files as you need. Most users only need to create one in addition to the one that Outlook creates by default.

PST 1: Default Folder created by Outlook
PST 2: Use to store Project, Case or Client E-mails

You will be moving e-mails from PST 1 to PST 2 as I will show you in the upcoming tips.

If you have a very high volume of e-mails (particularly with large attachments) you may want to have 2 PST files for your Project E-mails, one for Active projects and one for Completed projects.

What’s Next?

By now I’m sure you have started backing up your Outlook data file regularly and following today’s post, I would recommend that you create the multiple data files and prepare for the upcoming posts in which we start organizing our emails and filing them in an efficient way so that it is easy to find and retrieve for future use.

Till next time… have a better Outlook.

Time to join the conversation – what do you think?

I hope that you found the tips so far useful in our quest for a better email management system.

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below. Feel free to share your own experience and the filing system that you use to keep your inbox clean and organized with our readers.

If you have not subscribed to our blog yet, JOIN US today so we can notify you when we post the tips on our blog.


Here are links to the earlier tips we have discussed so far in case you missed out:

Tip #1: Turn Off Auto-Archiving in Outlook
You should archive e-mails as projects are completed. Don’t disorganize yourself by archiving based on dates.

Tip 2: Think carefully before using Outlook Rules
Rules can cause you to miss taking action on certain e-mails and also filing them into incorrect folders.

Tip 3: Find out where your Outlook data file is and backup regularly
How can you be sure that your Outlook data is being backed up if you don’t know where it is?

2 Replies to “Tip #4 of 8: Split your Outlook data into more than one file”

  1. hi – I think you absolutely right about removing the default settings in Outlook for auto archiving, and for file locations. (In many ways, Outlook seems the worst of the Microsoft Office products, with bloated files and poor default settings, which is a pity).
    I am currently trying out your EmailTags product and have a question: will searching by Tag work if emails are filed in different .pst files? (At the moment, Search by tag seems to bring up a lost of buckets which are folders, can these folders be in different pst files?). Also, I disagree that emails shouldn’t be put in different pst files by date – for clients (or projects lasting several years) I prefer to have different files for each calendar year, e.g. ClientA2013.pst, ClientA2014.pst, and similarly for ProjectA to avoid having to re-back up very large .pst files just because a small number of emails have been added to them. (With online backup, you only want to have to upload the most recent .pst files). I welcome your thoughts on this. Thanks

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