How to Backup Outlook (All Versions)
Here is the information about Microsoft Outlook supported file formats and how to backup Outlook email database. Outlook is a desktop email client that can be purchased as a standalone application or as a part of an Office 365 subscription or as a part of a Microsoft Office Suite. It is the most popular email client on Windows platform with a large userbase.
In this post, we will discuss about backing up your Outlook emails for various purposes, most commonly for future-proofing your data so you can restore them anytime you want.
Difference Between Archiving and Backing Up Outlook Emails
Note that backing up your Outlook emails is different than archiving them. Exchange and IMAP servers automatically archive your emails that you can access anytime, anywhere. But they are stored on the servers of your email client themselves, as opposed to be stored locally on your computer.
Backing up data to a local file has many advantages, especially if you are leaving your company, in which case you also leave your corporate email account. Taking your data with you in a file is what you need. A local backup file also lets you restore data in future in case it’s deleted from the servers.
Another benefit of archiving/exporting or backing up emails to a file is to migrate data to another Outlook installation on another computer. You cannot use that file in other email clients unless you convert the file to the appropriate format, but you can use it in Outlook in any computer.
Last but not least, one of the most common needs for backing up data is to free up space from the servers. Every email provider allows a limited space on their servers (for example: Gmail offers only up to 15 GB for a free account), and by downloading all your emails into a local file, you can delete them from the servers, thereby freeing up space.
Introduction to Outlook Data files – PST and OST
Outlook uses PST file to store data, which is short for ‘Personal Storage Table.’ It’s an open proprietary file format controlled by Microsoft, to be used only in Outlook and Microsoft Exchange client. Before Outlook 2003 versions, PST file was limited up to 2 GB because of their ANSI/ASCII encoding. However, from Outlook 2003, PST files are compatible with UNICODE system, allowing it to use 64-bit instead of 32-bit, thereby extending the capacity from 2 GB to up to 20 GB.
About OST and PST
Another variant of PST is OST, but it is not of relevance to the topic in hand. OST is an offline cache mode of PST allowing users to work with data even offline. However, you cannot either manually export data to OST or even import data using OST. It’s an internal functional file that Outlook uses automatically to store data that it downloads from your email servers.
NOTE: There exists third-party tools (like “OST Extractor Pro”) that can convert OST to PST, in case you do have inaccessible OST files. But that’s beyond the scope of this article.
For the purpose of backing up Outlook emails, you are going to need to export your emails to PST. And its high data capacity (up to 20 GB) makes it a perfect format for storing your data as a backup that you can anytime restore back into Outlook using the ‘Import’ function.
Note that you can password protect PST files but it’s just a basic layer of protection and doesn’t guarantee full safety, and the password can be bypassed. Which shouldn’t be a problem because PST is supposed to be a personal file. This means you don’t need to share it or make it public.
With the above introduction now out of the way, let’s jump into the actual process of backing up your Outlook emails.
Outlook “Export” to Backup Emails, Contacts, and Calendar data to PST files!
Here are simple 7 steps to back up your emails from Outlook into local PST file. You can also back up your contacts and calendar entries to PST.
The 7-step approach below is for Outlook 2016 and Office 365 latest versions. However, the steps are almost similar for older versions. In Outlook 2010, you can find the “export” feature inside ‘File’ → Options → Export.
- Launch Outlook
- Go to ‘File’ → Open & Export → Import/Export
- Select “Export to a File” → “Next”
- Select “Outlook Data File (.pst)” → ‘Next’
- Select the mail folders or the email account you want to back up. Make sure to check “Include subfolders” which will also include any folder that is within a parent folder.
- Choose the location to save the PST file and choose the desired action for the duplicate items
- Enter the password for the file (optional) and click “OK”
Congratulations! You’ve got all your selected folders into a local PST file.
Can import PST int Mac Outlook and Windows Outlook
You can import this file to other Outlook editions in different machines too. PST format is even compatible with Mac Outlook. However, if you want to import the data to other email clients, like Thunderbird or Apple Mail, you are going to have to convert the file to the appropriate format. Which is when you are going to need third-party email migration tools.
You can also delete the folders on the servers that you export to PST (if your objective was to clear up space). If you have been using Outlook 2003 version or later, please note that due to the encoding standards used in Outlook 2003 and later versions (UNICODE), you cannot use this file in any of the editions that came before Outlook 2003.
Also, it is worth mentioning that PST files are not immune to corruption. Especially in versions before Outlook 2003 and especially if they cross over 2 GB limit, they can be corrupted. You can use the scanpst.exe program offered by Microsoft to scan for any corruption and repair them.