Today, I’m going to show you how to use archive email on Outlook to clean up your mailbox (FAST)
All of us rely on emails one way or another, but these emails take up space as they pile up, everything is slower, emails don’t get through to you and one day you open your mailbox and you will get a message saying, “Your mailbox is full, you may not be able to send or receive items.” What do you do? How do you clean up an overflowing mailbox, especially after years of collecting messages? Fortunately, it’s not difficult once you know a few tricks.
Determine the mailbox size
- Let’s start by finding out what your current mailbox size is. To do that, just click at the file on the top, this is going to take you to the account information. Under mailbox settings, you will see the overall size.
- You need to right click on the mailbox and select file properties, then click on folder size.
- The interesting number is the total size, including the subfolders.
- This is how big your mailbox currently is. If it’s over 5 GB, you should consider working on it.
Delete Trash Mails
How can you reduce your mailbox size? Well, let’s go through the options. Option one is to use manual cleanup. A good way to start is to always empty your trash. Just right click on your deleted items and select empty folder. It will permanently delete the items in there. This can’t be reversed, so obviously, make sure you don’t need those items anymore. In my case, I’m sure.
Clean Up Old Items: Manual Archiving
The next step is to archive old messages that you may need access to at some point. Often, you need to keep items for a certain number of years for tax and legal reasons so you don’t want to delete them, but you also don’t want them taking up space in your mailbox. That’s where archiving comes in. Archiving physically removes old items from your Outlook mailbox to a separate data file or PST file, on your local computer.
- Let me show you how you can do that. Let’s go back to File on the top, and from the Tools dropdown, let’s select “Clean Up Old Items” from the dialog box.
- We will select the second option to archive this folder and all subfolders. You can select individual folders like Inbox or sent items, but I usually just click on the mailbox on top, which means it’s going to go through everything.
- The main setting is the cutoff date so all items older than the days that you select are going to be moved out and to the archive file.
- You can change the location and name of the file with browse. I will just go with the default, then hit a key and archiving will get to work.
- Now, let me show you where you can find the archived messages again in case you need them. You will see a folder called Archives.
- All the folders the messages were in before will be available so it doesn’t dump everything in one big folder. Of course, you can use search to find what you need. This way, you still have access to the old emails in Outlook, and they don’t take up space in your mailbox. But keep in mind, they’re not going to be available in Outlook online or on your mobile.
Create personal folders
Some don’t like the idea of letting Outlook decide what to move. So let me show you another manual way you can offload items from your mailbox, and that’s by creating personal folders. Technically, it’s very similar to archiving because personal folders are also data files on your local computer. Except here, you move the items yourself and you can create your own folder structure to create a personal folder.
- Go to “File” at the top and then in the dropdown for “Account Settings,” select “Account Settings.“
- Let’s go to the “Data Files” tab and click on “Add.”
- You can give the data file a name or change the location. I recommend keeping these data and archive files in the same location. I’m going to tell you why at the end of this post. When you’re done, click OK, and that’s it.
- Now you’ve created your own personal folder. We’re going to see this folder show up in the folder pane.
- You can structure this folder as you want. I will just create a new folder called Contracts by right-clicking on the personal folder and selecting “New Folder.”
- Now, you can select messages or entire folders and move them out of your mailbox into this personal folder.
- This way, you have full control over what’s being removed and archived. These are the manual cleanup options in Outlook. Just remember that manual archiving and personal folders are based on local files and your computer so whatever you move into these files is not going to be available to you on another computer or online.
Archive old items automatically
- Now, let’s take a look at another option you have, which is auto archiving. Having to do this manual approach over and over can get quite annoying. A more efficient way to get this done in Outlook is to use auto archiving.
- This feature has been there forever. I think it was introduced in Outlook 2003, based on your defined settings.
- It runs in the background and goes through all your mailbox folders. It then physically moves old emails out of these folders to a separate data file, or PST file on your local computer, just like manual archiving. Except once it’s set up, you don’t have to think about it anymore.
- The challenge with auto archiving is understanding the settings, it’s important to get them right, but unfortunately, it’s not really intuitive.
Don’t worry, though, just follow along here and we will have you up and running in no time to access the auto archive settings.
- Go to the “File” menu and select “Options” and then select “Advanced,” and you will see AutoArchive.
- In case you don’t see it, you’re either in a corporate environment and your administrator has disabled this feature or you have an Exchange account and Microsoft 365 online archive has been enabled for you. In these cases, Outlook will archive according to your corporate policies and you can’t use auto archive otherwise.
- You will see auto archive settings when you click. With the first checkbox, you turn on auto archive and you can specify how often you should run it. If you want to be notified before it starts to process, select the prompt before auto archive checkbox. This way, you will be able to cancel it if you need to delete expired items, which only refer to emails that have an expiration date. This is sometimes used for time sensitive messages.
- You may want expired emails to disappear. If so, check the box that says, Delete expired items (email folders only).
- We want to archive or delete items keep it enabled.
- Show archive folder in folder list should be checked. Archives will be easily accessible to you in the folder pane.
- You can specify the default age at which you want items to be archived. I’m going to go with 12 months but check to see what works for you. We want our items to be moved, not permanently deleted.
- It already has a default folder, which is fine for me. If you want to use a different folder, click “Browse.”
- Only check permanently delete if you’re sure you really want to get rid of these items because it’s going to bypass the deleted items folder.
- Finally, we get the option to apply these default settings to all folders. This is important to understand before clicking this button. These default settings we just changed are going to be applied to all your folders. This way, you don’t have to make changes for each folder individually. If you have a lot of folders you want to archive the same way, this may be the right choice. But if you want to have more control over the process, then don’t use this button.
- For example, let’s say you have several folders that you want to archive after three months, others maybe after six months, and some not at all. For some, you may want the content deleted after a certain time. If that’s the case, it’s better to apply the settings at the folder level.
- Let’s do that. I’m not going to click the button “Apply to All,” instead I’m just going to hit a key to change the safety settings.
Folder specific auto archive settings
- Let’s say you want to define specific archiving options for the sent items. Just right click on the folder and select properties, then go to the auto archive tab.
- You’re going to see three options. Do not archive this folder, archive items according to the default settings. That’s the setting we just looked at. When you click on default archive settings, it’s going to take you back to that window for folder specific settings.
- Third option. Let’s say we want the sent items to be moved after three months so I’m going to change the time period to three months. A default archive folder is fine for me. When you’re done, click OK.
- Let’s also set the options for deleted items. I don’t want to archive all the items; I want them permanently deleted.
- Right click on the folder, go to the default archive settings and select the third option again, let’s say for deleted items. I want them to be cleaned out after four months and because I don’t want to move, but rather delete them, I select the last option, permanently delete old items.
- Just go through your folders that you want to archive and make your changes.
- I admit that getting started with auto archiving in Outlook is not the most intuitive experience but once you get it set up the way you want, it’s going to work quietly in the background, freeing up space for you.
Backup Outlook PST Files
- Now, let’s quickly talk about backup. Regardless of whether you go with personal folders, manual archiving, or auto archiving, all of these solutions move all the messages to a local file on your computer.
- The risk is that hard drives may fail and files may get corrupted, so it’s really important that you backup these files to an external hard drive or any other storage solution. That’s why I recommend keeping all your files in one place. This makes it easier to back them up.
- One last piece of advice. I often see people putting the archived PST files on a company network drive to access them directly with Outlook. Now, I know it may be tempting to take advantage of a central backup, but don’t do that. Connecting to a PC over the network can result in poor performance or even data corruption. Microsoft also states on their website that this is an unsupported configuration.
These are the different ways to use archive email on Outlook to clean up your mailbox.
Now I want to turn it over to you:
Which strategy from today’s guide are you going to try first? Or maybe you have a question about something that I covered. Either way, I’d like to hear from you. So go ahead and leave a comment below.