Backing up my old emails
February 22, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

At work I'm using a Macbook Pro with OS X 10.7.4, running Outlook 2011. Today, I have to ship off this computer to get an upgrade and security update, and they will be wiping out the contents of the hard drive. They've left us very minimal instructions to back up any files we need. For me, the absolute most important thing is having access to all of my old emails and their attachments. So, QUESTION: how do I backup all of my emails in Outlook so that I'll be able to access them on my newly-wiped computer? Where are email files stored on my computer? How can I back up the attachments on the old emails? How do I avert total disaster?
posted by naju to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Note: my work doesn't have a backup server or anything for emails and files. If they're gone from my computer, they're gone. (Yes, this is the first place I've worked without those kinds of measures, and it seems rather odd.)
posted by naju at 8:37 AM on February 22, 2013

Best answer: I was going to type up the procedure, but then I decided to crib these succinct instructions instead:

Backing up Outlook 2011 for Mac information using Export Feature

This techinique has the advantage of storing your Outlook 2011 for Mac data into a single file for safe keeping or transfer to another Mac.

To make a local file archive of your Outlook 2011 for Mac information:

Select the File menu and Export...
Select the option for "Outlook for Mac Data FIle (.olm)" and check all items to save everything.
Select "No, do not delete items".
You will prompted with a file name (Outlook for Mac Archive.olm) and to save.
Your Outlook for Mac data will be saved into the file.
You can then copy the exported file, Outlook for Mac Archive.olm, to a network share or external drive.

Backing up Outlook 2011 for Mac information using drag and drop to desktop

If one or more email folders are extremely important, you can drag all the messages of a particular folder from the Outlook 2011 for Mac folder list (left side) to a folder on the Mac's desktop. You will need to create a folder of the same name on the desktop using the Finder. Select the desired folder in Outlook 2011 for Mac in the folder list. Select all the messages in the folder using Command-A (Edit menu, Select All) and drag the messages to the folder on the desktop to make copies.

The disadvantage to this technique is that the folder hierarchy is not retained in the backed up files and it does involve using the Finder to create folders with the same name to organize the messages.

Back up Microsoft User Data

A quick backup method to back up all your Outlook 2011 for Mac data is to drag the folder "Microsoft User Data" from your "Documents" folder to an external drive.

Offhand, I'd think that the .OLM or MS User Data folder methods are more likely to preserve attachments than the drag-and-drop.

HTH. Hugs.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:38 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would burn the entire contents of your Documents folder (inside your home folder) to a DVD or portable hard drive. When you restore it onto the new computer, that will restore your emails as (cf. snuffleupagus' 3rd method) Outlook stores all its data in a subfolder of Documents.

Though to be honest, if you can find a portable hard drive of sufficient size, you should just back up your entire home folder (/Users/yourusername) and restore that. It will preserve a lot of preferences, settings, and other stuff that will be a royal PITA to rebuild on the "new" machine.

Before Time Machine, I used to back up my user folder to a portable HD on a regular basis; very little outside that folder (if you've used the default locations for everything) matters, but lots of stuff inside it does.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:51 AM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alright - I've created a .olm archive, backed up Documents, backed up Microsoft User Data, and backed up my entire home folder. Everything except the drag-and-drop method. Hopefully it'll work!
posted by naju at 9:41 AM on February 22, 2013

Do you have a portable USB disk that is larger than your used disk space? If you can get your hands on one, download SuperDuper and use their free trial to make a duplicate of your disk on the USB disk.

When you're done, you can restore (again using SuperDuper) on your new disk and pick up as if nothing happened. Or you can just copy over whatever files you need afterwards. Either way, you'll have peace of mind. I can't recommend it strongly enough!
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:04 AM on February 22, 2013

When you're done, you can restore (again using SuperDuper) on your new disk and pick up as if nothing happened.

This is not, in general, bad advice (although you could accomplish much the same thing with Time Machine on a modern Mac) but it would have the side-effect of completely undoing whatever it is that's being done to the computer when it's taken away. They might not appreciate that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:14 AM on February 22, 2013

This is not, in general, bad advice [...] but it would have the side-effect of completely undoing whatever it is that's being done to the computer when it's taken away. They might not appreciate that.

Yeah, I thought of that as I wrote that line - so I added the "copy over what you need" line. Personally, I'd appreciate having the possibility of a fallback if something was royally screwed up, but obviously respect your corporate IT policies blah blah...
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2013

There is no upgrade or security procedure that I can think of that would require wiping the HD. Obviously you have Windows techs playing Macintosh. I would really question why they are doing it that way. The amount of extra work they and you will be doing to reinstall apps and docs is not cost effective. Even if they are going from PGP to FileVault II it does not require wiping.

That being said simply copy your user account documents folder, downloads folder and desktop folder to a 2nd HD.
posted by Gungho at 12:49 PM on February 22, 2013

Response by poster: They are going to FileVault II, and it doesn't surprise me at all that the wiping is unnecessary. Macs are an option but aren't even officially supported by our tech support, who have no idea how to deal with Mac issues. There are parts of our corporate intranet that only support Internet Explorer on a Windows machine. And we're a major Fortune 500 company! Insanity.
posted by naju at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2013

OK FVII requires Lion or Mountain Lion. You can easily upgrade from Snow Leopard. Anything before that requires an upgrade to snow leopard before going to Lion or Mountain Lion.

Most IT departments have no frikkin clue about Macs, and could care less, but all it takes is a few loud voices to get that changed. Unfortunately these voices have to be coming from the corner offices. Even then they still have no clue what they need. E.G. a major Wall Street firm decided they needed to support Macs because someone High up said he wanted something like a Mac Genius in house. They advertised for a Mac tech with Genius experience. (I have yet to meet a Mac Genius with any corporate or enterprise experience)... With 12 years Mac support experience in business I was asked if I was ever a Mac (Apple Store) Genius. Nope, (because I couldn't afford to work so cheap.) they passed...In another case I was interviewed for a "desperately needed" Mac tech position and handed a 6 page test...on Windows.
posted by Gungho at 9:10 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Aside from being computerless for a few days, everything worked out great. Yay!
posted by naju at 4:34 AM on February 28, 2013

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