Outlook .pst file crashes and burns
September 21, 2011 7:01 AM   Subscribe

How should I handle a POP 19.6GB Outlook 2007 .pst file that is bugging the heck out and crashing daily? I believe I need to: a) Reduce the file size now, and b) implement a better strategy for the future

My boss has tasked me with clearing up his email crashes, sluggishness, and hang ups while he's out of town on business. It takes him 45 minutes to launch Outlook in the morning, as it tries to launch, and then crashes, so it does an automatic database check/rebuild 2-3 times ("Outlook was not closed properly...") before it will finally stay running for the day. The issue as I see it, is the fact that his file size is coming up on the 20GB limit for 2007. (It's a newer Vostro with above avg. specs)

I looked in various FAQs, and in older Ask Mefi questions, but I couldn't find a good protocol for email hoarders. He archived "everything he could" but he still needs 2+ years of emails. I see that there are 3rd party programs which remove and file separately any attachments (of which he probably has many), or those that may split the .pst file (which terrifies me, frankly) into smaller .pst files. But there's got to be a good, "free" way to do this, I believe.

I can't really make a "delete this!" or "buy this!" decision with him out of town. But I kinda have to get this functioning at least a bit better by the time he gets back. While I am going to compact his .pst file once I'm done backing it up, I want to be able to get this going better now, and also give him some trusted info on how to better manage his emails in the future (archiving by annually or bi-annually, install 3rd party software, etc.) that people here have used successfully, whether it be in a personal or professional capacity.
posted by Debaser626 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Clarification: Running Windows XP SP 3... (and his chair is much much more comfortable than mine....)
posted by Debaser626 at 7:04 AM on September 21, 2011

Even for an absurdly heavy user, 2 years of emails should not even come close to 20GB.

Start by weeding out the messages with large attachments.

Oh, and I'd start beefing up the RAM on this PC.
posted by schmod at 7:09 AM on September 21, 2011

those that may split the .pst file (which terrifies me, frankly) into smaller .pst files

Don't let random software do this, but do it yourself. I have three different .pst files that I set up myself: Current, Project and Archive. Current is where my mail is delivered and holds only Inbox, Sent and Drafts (and calendar, I guess). The others have those folders, but I don't use them. Project has three folders that hold tons of messages about my ongoing projects. Archive has all the other folders I need but each one holds far fewer messages.

I never have issues with the smaller files, even though the exceed the "recommended" size.
posted by soelo at 7:28 AM on September 21, 2011

Best answer: Run ScanPST from the Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office## directory (where ## is the biggest number you have) against the PST file. Then for all that is holy, split the thing up into several PST's.

See here for a more picturesque approach to what I said above.

Also, use this utility to strip out attachments and throw them in folders. It works rather well.

If you want something to strip attachments and not be inside Outlook when it does it (which might be your best bet), try this as well.
posted by deezil at 7:28 AM on September 21, 2011

Oh, and Compact the PST after you can get back in Outlook to do so.
posted by deezil at 7:31 AM on September 21, 2011

> This is so not true. I've done plenty of commercial support for
> manager types who e-mail 40MB PowerPoint presentations back
> and forth and save every single thing. We had a guy once who
> would go through 2GB in about a month.

I'm sure he means the text portion of a user's e-mails.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:23 AM on September 21, 2011

I'm aware they aren't separate in the world of Outlook e-mail storage.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:43 AM on September 21, 2011

I was in the same situation with the boss(es) on my last job. There are a couple of approaches to moving older emails to separate PST files. The one that worked for my guys was to break the message archive files up by calendar year.

That said, getting the software that strips attachments is a good idea as well, and results in less of a training issue when it comes to building new archive files.

But first and foremost, make sure you save a backup copy of the original PST file before you mess around with it. At that size it's really easy to corrupt the file without trying. And finally, make sure that boss has a regular backup of his email files, no matter which route you take. It could be a lifesaver.
posted by SteveInMaine at 8:43 AM on September 21, 2011

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