Keeping Your Box Cleaned Up

Written By: The Lowdown - Jun• 29•13

front cover small This article may not be pertinent to users of personal web based email accounts like gmail, yahoo, and hotmail but if you have your own private ‘proper’ email address, this information might just be relevant to your sanity.

Running a business can be difficult at the best of times, but what happens when your email programme crashes? That niggling memory of thinking about backing it all up but having too much else on your plate and putting it off!

Many people use Outlook for their emails, and while I am not experienced in dealing with full mailboxes with the other email programs, I do know a little about the problems with Outlook. Outlook stores all your emails in a .pst file. Your .pst file limit varies between the different versions of Outlook, however more modern versions of Outlook have a size limit of 20 GB to 50 GB. When you reach that limit … well, let’s just hope you don’t.

So, you may have noticed the your Outlook lags, takes a long time to load the email you just clicked on or takes a long time to load when you start it up in the mornings.

Time for a cleanup.

The first step in cleaning up your mailbox, is checking the size of your mailbox. There are a couple of ways to check the size of your mailbox, but the easiest is to go: Tools > Mailbox Cleanup > View Mailbox Size. This helps because it gives you a better idea of where the larger parts are. So, now you know what’s stored where, what do you do now?

The Mailbox Cleanup tool can be useful. It gives you the option to ‘View Deleted Items Size’, empty the trash, always a good place to start. Mailbox Cleanup has a button for that, ‘Empty’.

Unless you are obsessive when it comes to getting rid of emails after they are no longer of any use, this won’t do too much for your .pst file size, after all, what do most people delete? Invitations to LinkedIn, Spam, those chain mails that promise something good will happen if you forward this email within 10 minutes, Facebook alerts, and bounce messages. Surely you have more emails you could hide away or get rid of.

Don’t forget the Junk mailbox, though this one needs checking, sometimes Outlook puts emails in there that it shouldn’t. Have a brief scan through, who knows, you may find that invoice you said you never received. Delete the rest.

What about the long emails, the one you received, responded to, then got a response from, then responded to, then got a response, then responded to. You get the point, instead of keeping the first five responses, why not just keep the sixth, as long as all the other messages are quoted in there. This is time consuming though, so it’s best to do it while you’re in the midst of responses and responding.

Archiving – Who knew that Outlook can be quite clever when it comes to this! Outlook has an AutoArchive feature which will help to keep your mailbox nicely clean if you learn how to use it correctly. But you really must understand it properly otherwise without intervention it may end up archiving emails you’re still trying to deal with.

So let’s assume you have folders in your Outlook. Outlook always automatically has your Inbox, Deleted Items, Drafts, Junk E-mail, Outbox, RSS Feeds, and Sent Items, but these aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about the folders you created, an Accounts folder maybe, or To Do, Newsletters, Follow Up, Mum (yes I have one of these), or maybe you have folders for clients or suppliers you deal with regularly. What do you want Outlook to do with the emails in these? Well Follow Up and To Do you don’t really want Archived, but emails from your Mum and Newsletters folder you really don’t need to access all the time.

Setting up AutoArchive; Tools > Options > Other > AutoArchive. It’s fairly self explanatory from there, ‘Run AutoArchive every’ Choose how often you want AutoArchive to run, this really depends on your volume of emails, the more emails you receive daily, the more often it should run. ‘Prompt before AutoArchive runs’ – no thanks, I don’t have time to click the silly button, but maybe you do – don’t put it off though. ‘During AutoArchive:’ Make sure ‘Delete expired items’ is not ticked unless you actually want to delete all emails when they reach a certain age. ‘Archive or delete old items’ – yes, we want to archive our emails. ‘Show archive folder in folder list’ – for simplicity and being able to find emails later, tick it, it will show up in the left hand ‘Mail Folders’ bar. ‘Default folder setting for archiving’; ‘Clean out items older than …’ Again, this is your choice, dependant on how many emails you receive each day, the more you receive, the more often the better, you don’t really want your Inbox to have to load the 15,000 emails you received in the last 6 months every time you open it. ‘Move old items to:’ this is the option you will want to use unless you want to delete all your old emails. Outlook should automatically create its own path and Archive.pst file, it will put it in the same place as your Outlook.pst file (that’s the one we’re trying to clean up). It is possible for your Archive.pst file to get too big as well, so maybe, when you find you are struggling to search your archives, it’s time to set up a new Archive.pst file. To do this, click ‘Browse’ type in a new name like Archive 2013 and click ok. We’re done with setting up the AutoArchive.

Now, we did discuss not letting Outlook move those sacred emails in the Follow Up and To Do folders. Right click on each folder in turn and click ‘Properties > AutoArchive’ Select your settings. ‘Do not archive items in this folder’ for your Follow Up and To Do folders. ‘Archive items in this folder using the default settings’ this uses your AutoArchive settings. ‘Archive this folder using these settings:’ set custom settings for a certain folder. You can also use this option to create separate archive.pst files for each folder, sometimes it’s easier not to mix up mum’s emails with the Accounts emails.

Now you have deleted emails and archived others, you may notice that it still says your .pst file is the same size, don’t worry, all you have to do is Tools > Account Settings > Data Files > Personal Folders > Settings > Compact Now. This removes all of the spaces from your Outlook.pst file that were left when the emails were moved.

One last thing. And this one is a big one. If you use IMAP, this is not relevant. Tools > Account Settings > select your account > Change > More Settings > Advanced. It is possible for your mailbox to fill up on the server side. Emails are stored on a server, for example, if your email address is, the email account is hosted on a Zamnet server. When someone sends you an email, it gets delivered onto the Zamnet server. Then when you do a ‘Send and Receive’, the emails waiting on the server are downloaded into your Outlook. Depending on your settings, Outlook either leaves the email on the server, deletes the email off the server, leaves the email on the server for however many days then deletes it, or deletes the email from the server when you finally get round to deleting the email from your deleted items folder. By default, leave the email on the server is ticked. This means, if you only have a limited size mailbox on the server. When that mailbox fills up, emails start bouncing and the sender will receive a message saying something along the lines of ‘Message would exceed quota for ’. Now, which option to select? If you have multiple computers or devices (iPads, phones, etc) and want all emails on all devices, ‘Remove from server after # days’. This gives you time to make sure you download your emails a couple of times and everything is everywhere (on each device). My suggestion is to avoid ‘Remove from server when deleted from ‘Deleted Items’. If you only have one computer, deselect ‘Leave a copy of messages on the server’.

Keeping your box cleaned up will not only reduce your frustrations but also the panic which seems to set in when emails are not flowing. It will also save you downtime and multiple calls to either the company IT person or your service provider and the aggravation that that can also bring.

So keep your box cleaned up – you will be glad you did

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