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Guide to housekeeping in Outlook 2007 to help reduce mailbox size

Updated on October 13, 2012

Introduction

Welcome to my hub on Outlook housekeeping. Whether you work in a firm that restricts the size of your overall mailbox, if you just use Outlook at home, or if you work in a small business it is a very good idea to keep your Outlook mailbox size as small as possible.

For many years, I was a Microsoft Exchange administrator and the question of how to reduce their mailbox size was the second most popular question users would ask me behind “why hasn’t my email arrived”.

Housekeeping is important for two reasons

  • In companies with mailbox limits, when you breach the limit you will be restricted from sending emails
  • The more emails you have in individual mail folders and your mailbox overall, the more sluggish Outlook can become.

Finding the size of your Outlook mailbox

The most common mistake people make when housekeeping their mailboxes is deleting hundreds of small emails and then expecting this to fix the issue long term. This may well temporarily resolve the issue, but as an email with no attachment may only be a few KBs this will not help for very long (as well as being very time consuming). You could then receive one email with an attachment and go straight back over your limit.

The first step in finding out how big your mailbox is is to determine the exact size of your total mailbox as well as the size of your individual folders.

To do this, right click on your mailbox in the Mail Folders pane in Outlook. It will say Mailbox - <Your Name> and click Properties. I have highlighted this using a red arrow in the picture below.

Step 1 of 2 in determining the size of your mailbox in Outlook 2007.
Step 1 of 2 in determining the size of your mailbox in Outlook 2007. | Source

Next click Folder Size (again illustrated with a red arrow below)

Step 2 of 2 in determining the size of your mailbox in Outlook 2007.
Step 2 of 2 in determining the size of your mailbox in Outlook 2007. | Source

The next dialogue box lists all of your folders and their size in KB

Illustration of mailbox size in Outlook 2007, allowing me to see my biggest folders.
Illustration of mailbox size in Outlook 2007, allowing me to see my biggest folders. | Source

Cleaning out emails from your biggest Outlook folders

You can see from my example above, that the two folders that I should concentrate on are the Calendar and Inbox folders. To begin housekeeping,

  • I switch firstly to my Inbox.
  • To identify the largest emails in your folders, you first need to display the size of your emails in the folder pane.
  • To do this right click on the blue line containing the From / Subject and Received column headers (shown below)

Showing where to click on Outlook 2007 to invoke Field Chooser.
Showing where to click on Outlook 2007 to invoke Field Chooser. | Source
  • Next, select Field Chooser and then select and drag Size to the row of column headers (I put mine next to Received as you can see above).

To quickly identify the largest emails you can sort either by attachment or by size. Simply click on either in the column header to sort by that attribute. To quickly reduce the size of that folder, begin by archiving or deleting the biggest emails first and then work towards the smallest ones.

Deleted Items

When you checked the overall size of your mailbox as well as the size of individual folders as outlined above, you will notice that your deleted items folder contributes to your over all mailbox size. To housekeep your Outlook deleted items folder

  • Whenever you can, empty your deleted items folder.
  • Or, turn on the Empty Deleted Items folder upon exiting option
  • To turn on this option, click on the Tools menu, then the Other tab and select Empty Deleted Items folder upon exiting

Housekeeping your Outlook calendar

One thing that often surprises people is that your calendar can get very large over time. One thing that is not well known is that once a meeting has occurred, it is not deleted, it is kept forever. If your meeting had a presentation attached, that presentation is stored in your mailbox until it is deleted. There is, however, a way of finding these meetings and deleting them if they are no longer required.

  • Firstly, open Advanced Find in Outlook 2007 via the short cut keys CTRL+SHIFT+F
  • Next, change the Look For drop down to Any type of Outlook item
  • For the In field, select only the Calendar
  • Click on the More Choices tab
  • Finally, select Only items with and then one or more attachments

The screen will look as mine does below

Use Advanced Find in Outlook 2007 to find Calendar items with attachments.
Use Advanced Find in Outlook 2007 to find Calendar items with attachments. | Source
  • Click Find Now and Outlook 2007 will display all appointments and meetings in your calendar that also have one attachment
  • Click on Received to sort by the date the calendar item was received and delete any meetings and appointments you no longer require

Using Mailbox Cleanup in Outlook 2007

The mailbox cleanup tool is accessed via the Tools menu in Outlook 2007. It is a convenient one stop shop for all the clean up methods I outlined above. It also contains two ways of identifying emails that you may wish to archive to PST file or delete.

  • The first is Find Items older than xx days
  • Secondly, you can find all items over a certain size using Find items larger than xx kilobytes (1024 kb to a Megabyte)

Use Mailbox Cleanup to identify old or oversized emails quickly in Outlook 2007.
Use Mailbox Cleanup to identify old or oversized emails quickly in Outlook 2007. | Source

PST files in Outlook 2007

For those emails that you would like to keep indefinitely but don’t want in your Outlook 2007 mailbox, a PST file allows you to store emails and have them available in Outlook 2007 but in such a way that the emails do not count towards your overall mailbox limit.

To add a PST file,

  • navigate to the Tools menu
  • then select Data File Management
  • click Add and then select Office Outlook Personal File (.pst) then click OK
  • finally give your PST file a name and then click OK and then Close to return to Outlook 2007.

Tips on using PST files.

  • Always store PST files on a network share if possible; they will be backed up on a server. If you store them on your local PC drive and that PC dies your PST file is lost
  • PST files can become corrupt if they get too big. Limit their size to around 2 – 3 GB
  • If you password protect your PST file, do not forget the password or no-one will be able to get in to assist you
  • Do not use your PST file to store all emails that won’t fit in your mailbox. Archive only emails that you will genuinely need in the future

Conclusion

With the rapid and continual increase in the volume of emails we all receive on a daily basis, housekeeping your mailbox has for many become a very time consuming task. By focusing on the emails that take up the most space, it does not have to be an impossible task. In this hub I have outlined some tips I have picked up over my time as an Exchange Administrator. They include, housekeeping your calendar, concentrating on emails with attachments, using PST files to archive emails you need to keep long term and using the Mailbox Cleanup tool.

I do hope you have enjoyed reading this hub as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I also hope that as a result of reading this hub your Outlook 2007 mailbox size is under control and you are enjoying a nice clean Inbox.

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      Russell Smith 4 years ago

      Hi Wilson,

      I would like to add one more tip regarding PST file management. Outlook users can move to compaction method to compress ovesized PST file which reduces the size of mailbox. For this purpose several software are available and one of these is offered by stellar known as compact PST software. It performs these changes by extracting the large attachments.

      Regards :

      Russell Smith