Is your mailbox full? Are you getting weekly or even daily messages from your system administrator saying you need to reduce the Microsoft Outlook mailbox size? This can lead to a lot of wasted time cleaning up your mailbox. Try these tips for a faster, more organized approach to keep your mailbox smaller and easier to work with.
Note: Although these techniques are most valuable to Outlook users running under Microsoft Exchange (including Office 365), you can still cleanup your Outlook mailbox size if you are running Outlook as a stand-alone (POP3) version. Reducing the size often improves performance.
Caution: Before starting these steps, take the time to backup your Outlook.pst file (stand-alone version) which is usually found under the Outlook Files folder in Documents.
The following steps apply to Microsoft Outlook 2016, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2010:
The best place to start is to open the Mailbox Cleanup tool. In Outlook, choose File > Info > Cleanup Tools > Mailbox Cleanup.
If you’re accessing Outlook from Exchange, another way to reduce the Outlook mailbox size is to move Outlook items to your Personal Folders. This option may not be available to you as many organizations have moved away from supporting Personal Folders.
Even though the messages you move to Personal Folders are no longer counted in the size of your mailbox, the Personal Folders file (outlook.pst) is stored on your local hard drive and is not accessible remotely. You should also backup this file to prevent losing these Outlook items if your computer goes down or is updated. If you are running a standalone version of Outlook your email, calendar, tasks, and notes are all stored in the outlook.pst file which has a size limit of 50GB (Outlook 2010 & 2013).
Another useful maintenance step is to periodically archive your Outlook folders. If you are accessing Outlook from Exchange, you may not be able to change archive options as archiving is often controlled by system administrators or a third party program.
Setup your archive preferences under the Info > Cleanup Tools > Archive option. The archive.pst file can be created and updated at any location you specify, usually your local hard drive. Archived items are removed from your Outlook mailbox size and moved to the archive file based on the settings you determine. Just as with the Personal Folders file, your archived items are not accessible remotely; the file should be backed up on a regular basis.
Quickly clean up your deleted items by automatically emptying the Deleted Items folder when you exit Outlook. To apply this option choose File > Options > Advanced tab. From the Outlook star and exit option, check Empty Deleted Items folder when exiting Outlook and OK to apply.
To manually clear deleted items, locate and right-click the Deleted Items folder and click Empty Folder on the shortcut menu (Empty “Deleted Items” Folder for Outlook 2010). Once you clear deleted items, it cannot be reversed. If you feel confident that you want to delete a message forever, you can bypass the Deleted Items folder by pressing [Shift] + [Delete] for a selected item instead of just the [Delete] key. Then, just confirm the delete process.
Attachments in email messages are responsible for a bulk of the space used in your Outlook mailbox size. Depending on the email communication, one option is to save the attachment and then to remove the attachment from the original message:
Note: This tip only applies to Outlook running on a stand-alone computer.
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).
NOTE: You do not have to exit Outlook after you compact an Outlook Data File (.pst) file.
Start applying these mailbox clean up actions to grab greater control over your Outlook mailbox size.
Discover more Outlook shortcuts, tips and tricks here.
By Dawn Bjork, MCT, The Software Pro®
Microsoft Certified Trainer, Technology Speaker, Software Consultant