Manually archiving Outlook folders – any gurus out there?

I’m having this really peculiar problem using the manual archiving functionality in Outlook (2007) and I’m really wondering if there’s something ridiculous I’m doing wrong, because I can’t imagine Outlook having such a horrendous bug. So if there’s anybody out there who can shed some light on the problem, I’d be grateful.

What I really want to do is simple: I have this enormous amount of mail in my Exchange account, collected over the 13–odd years I’ve been doing e-mail. I do throw mail away, but nothing that has ever been addressed to me directly, and so the volume has been ever increasing. Of course I have some folders in my hierarchy that I use for archiving purposes, and I regularly (once a year) used to move my old mail into these archive folders manually. I never wanted to trust any automatic functionality to do it for me.

Now I looked into automatic archiving functionality in Outlook and Exchange. First I was surprised that Exchange basically doesn’t have such functionality – it seems pretty stupid to me that as soon as mail is being archived on my machine, it leaves the secure environment of my server. Anyway, I made plans to have Outlook archive my mail once a year into separate mailbox files that I could then copy to the server for backup purposes (and keep a copy on the workstation as well, for indexing and searching).

Before I can start to rely on an automated process to do this for me, I have the current situation to take care of: lots of years of mail combined in one mailbox need to be split into multiple files. I was glad to find that Outlook seems to have a special dialog to do this precise thing – I had already seen myself change the archival settings for all my folders to each of the required timeframes in one enormous mouse click orgy. The dialog I found is under FILE | ARCHIVE and it appears to allow manual archiving, even of single folders, even with conflicting archival settings on the folder itself, for content of arbitrary age. Great!

Now, here comes the problem: this functionality doesn’t seem to work. Not at all.

I created a test folder in my hierarchy and copied some mails into it. Some of these mails are new (2006), others are older (2003). I brought up the archive dialog, selected the “Archive this folder and all subfolders” radio button and selected the test folder from the tree view. I set “1/1/2006” as the date in the “Archive items older than” edit field and checked the “Include items with ‘Do not AutoArchive’ checked” option. I entered a name for a new archive file and hit OK. Outlook started working and the status bar told me that my test folder was being archived. A short while later the process ended.

The result was… well, absolutely nothing. Okay, nearly nothing – certainly nothing useful. The content of my test folder is unchanged. The new archive file has been created and opened in my Outlook folder list. In that new file, the hierarchy has been partly recreated, as far as needed for the test folder I was archiving. But the test folder in the archive file is completely empty.

So, that’s it. I’m writing this down to remind myself at a later point of what exactly I did and how it didn’t work. If there’s anybody out there with an idea what I’m doing wrong, please do let me know. Thank you!

2 Comments on Manually archiving Outlook folders – any gurus out there?

  1. Hi Oliver,I can’t comment on the archive feature, but I periodically use the File/Import and Export function in Outlook 2003 to backup email. It allows you to choose a folder and backup to a few different file formats. I prefer unencrypted pst files so I can easily open them in Outlook later without looking for the password.After the backup using export, I manually filter and delete old emails from the main pst file. This process ends up with some duplicated emails, but that’s fine with me. I like some redundancy in the backup.Hope that helps, D r e w


  2. Hi Drew, good to hear from you! Thanks for the hint, I hadn’t seen that before… I mean, I had seen the export functionality, but not the fact that there’s advanced filtering in place for pst file export. So this seems like the more comfortable variant of that archive function I was trying to use, even though for some reason a filter like "all mails that have been written last year" is pretty complicated to configure.Now, the bad news is that I spent about a day last weekend to get that whole mail archival thing sorted out, manually… now I have a pst file for each year, which is just fine. And the current file is down to about 1GB, from nearly 7. Probably wasn’t a bad thing for me to go over all the stuff that had accumulated over time, but I could have saved a lot of time with your suggestion :-DSee you in Barcelona, maybe?


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