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5 Ways to Reduce Your Microsoft Outlook Mailbox Size

Outlook tips, reduce mailbox size, large inbox, tips for Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003Are you getting weekly or even daily messages from your system administrator saying that you need to reduce the size of your Microsoft Outlook mailbox? This can lead to a lot of wasted time, and frustration, cleaning up your mailbox. What are the best ways to trim down the size of your Inbox, stop those annoying reminders, and save time managing your Outlook e-mail messages?

Try these tips for a faster, more organized approach to keep your mailbox (Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2003) smaller and easier to work with.

Note: Although these techniques are most valuable to Outlook users running under Microsoft Exchange, you can still cleanup your mailbox if you are running Outlook as a stand-alone (POP3) version.

1. Mailbox Cleanup

The best place to start in Microsoft Outlook is with the Mailbox Cleanup tool. To find this option in Outlook 2010, go to File > Cleanup Tools (under the Info tab) and then pick Mailbox Cleanup. In Outlook 2007 or 2003, Mailbox Cleanup is found under the Tools menu.

  1. outlook tips, microsoft outlook inbox, outlook 2010, reduce mailbox size, outlook 2007, tips for outlook 2003First, choose the View Mailbox Size option which scans the size of your mailbox and all of the subfolders. You'll see a listing of the size of your Outlook folders. This is a great way to target which folders are the biggest contributors to your large mailbox so you can clean these up first.
  2. Next, pick the options to Find older or larger items which you can delete directly from the results.
  3. Depending on your archive settings (see Archive Older Messages below), you can also run an AutoArchive to move older messages to a location which isn't counted against your mailbox size.
  4. Finally, check the size of the Deleted Items folder and Empty the folder if you want (specific options detailed below as well). If available, another option is to view and delete multiple versions of items in our mailbox.

2. Move Messages to Your Personal Folders

Another way to reduce the size of your mailbox is to move Outlook items to your Personal Folders. Even though the messages 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 stand alone version of Outlook your e-mail, calendar, tasks, and notes are all stored in the outlook.pst file which has a size limit of 20GB.

3. Archive Older Messages

A useful maintenance step is to periodically archive your Outlook folders. 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 mailbox 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.

To setup archive preferences in Outlook 2010, click on File > Cleanup Tools which is under the Info tab. Choose Archive from Cleanup Tools.

For Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2003, setup your archive preferences under the File > Archive menu option.

4. Empty Deleted Items

Quickly clean up your deleted items by automatically emptying the Deleted Items folder when you exit Outlook.

To set this option in Outlook 2010, pick File > Options and then choose the Advanced category. Under the section labeled "Outlook start and exit", check the option, Empty Deleted Items folder when exiting Outlook. To manually clear deleted items in Outlook 2010, right-click the Deleted Items folder and then pick Empty Folder or go to File > Cleanup Tools > Empty Deleted Items Folder.

To apply this option in Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2003, select Tools > Options > Other tab. Under the General section, check Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting and OK to apply. To manually clear deleted items, right-click the Deleted Items folder and click Empty “Deleted Items” Folder on the shortcut menu or click Empty “Deleted Items” Folder on the Tools menu.

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] instead of just the [Delete] key. Then, just confirm the delete process.

5. Save and Remove Attachments

Attachments in e-mail messages are responsible for a bulk of the space used in your Outlook mailbox. Depending on the communication, one option is to save the attachment and then to remove the attachment from the original message:

  1. Open the message.
  2. In Outlook 2010, right-click on an attachment and then left-click Save All Attachments. In Outlook 2007, choose Other Actions from the Task tab. Then pick Save Attachments. In Outlook 2003, pick the File menu and then Save Attachments.
  3. Once you have saved the attachment, delete the message if it doesn’t need to be retained. If you need to keep the message, you can remove attachments from a message by right-clicking them and choosing Remove (Remove Attachment in Outlook 2010).

Start applying these mailbox clean up actions to grab greater control over the size and contents of your mailbox.

© Dawn Bjork Buzbee, MCT, The Software Pro®

Dawn Bjork Buzbee is The Software Pro® and a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) as well as a certified Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) Master Instructor, certified Microsoft Applications Specialist (MCAS) Instructor, and a certified Microsoft Office expert. Dawn shares smart and easy ways to effectively use software through her work as a software speaker, trainer, consultant, and author of 8 books.

This article and more can be reprinted at no charge in your publications and website with copyright and attribution.
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Hot Outlook Tip
Press [Shift] + [Delete] to bypass the "Deleted Items" folder  and to delete a message directly.
Did You Know?
Press [Ctrl] + [Shift] + M to create a new mail message from any location in Outlook.
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