For some time my PC was ludicrously slow, and Outlook 2003 seemed to have something to do with it. Outlook would take forever to download email, and it would often crash, prompting even more delays when it decided to “Check my Personal file” because it was not closed properly. Arrghhhhh!
Not quite knowing what the problem was I decided to remove as many files from my PC’s hard disk as possible, and do a defragmentation. And that’s when I found the problem. The Windows defragmentation program was able defrag everything on my hard disk except for one file – the Outlook PST file (in my case personal.pst) which was an incredible 11 GB in size. No wonder my four-year-old computer was struggling.
The Outlook PST file basically holds all the Outlook data, that is, all the emails you get. As you can imagine, over time this can build up, and become a monstrous file.
Luckily, it’s not too difficult to cut your Outlook PST file to a reasonable size. Here’s what you need to do.
First, delete any unnecessary emails. This might sound obvious, but I for one, for example, had year of emails from WordPress installations telling me someone had commented on a blog somewhere or other. If it’s not needed, delete it. And don’t forget to empty the trash, which you can do by can do by right clicking the “Deleted Items” folder and selecting Empty “deleted Items” folder.
Second, and this was the big break through for me, archive all your older email. What this does is to transfer old emails (before a date set by you) from the Outlook PST file that you use for your daily work, and transfer it to an archive PST file (often called archive.pst). This takes a lot of pressure off Outlook. You do this by selecting File –> Archive. In my case I archived all email more than 3 months old.
Third, and this is critical, you need to compact your PST file, so that all deleted and archived emails are actually removed from the PST file. You can do this by selecting File -> Data Management
Be aware that archiving and compacting a large PST file can take some time. In my case the computer crashed when I tried compacting the PST file the first time, but I was able to get it to work by disconnecting the Internet, ensuring no other applications were running, and letting it work through the night.
Ultimately, I was able to cut the size of my personal.pst file from 11 GB to 1.6 GB.
Now, Outlook takes much less time when downloading emails, and crashes less often. As a result my computer feels much snappier, and I’ve been able to yet again delay upgrading my computer (the thought of it feels me with dread, but that’s another story).
Oh, and if you need to access emails in your archive, it’s as easy as going to File –> Open data.