Why Compact Outlook Data Files?

Since you’re reading this article, you’re probably wondering what the phrase, “compact Outlook data files” means, or you already know that, and are looking for the procedures you need to follow to do it. You’ve found the information you need. But let’s start at the beginning.

Every bit of information you see in Outlook is either stored in a Microsoft Exchange server someplace (like your corporate data center) or on your computer hard drive. If everything is stored on your hard drive, it is stored in one or more personal folder files. These files are generally referred to as .pst files, because .pst is the file extension for these kinds of files on your hard drive. As you might expect, every item stored in a .pst file uses up some space on your hard drive.

Here’s what happens when you delete an Outlook item. First, the item will go to the Deleted Items folder, where it remains available to you and continues to take up space in the .pst file. If you’ve ever looked in Deleted Items, it is like a holding area for unwanted items. They’re still available there and you can recover them if you wish.

Now what happens when you empty the Deleted Items folder? From our point of view, the item is completely gone. It can’t be recovered using any normal means. And the item is deleted from the .pst file too. But the amount of space occupied by the .pst file doesn’t decrease just because you delete items. This means that, unless something happens, your .pst files will just keep on growing in size.

This is why you need to occasionally compact Outlook data files. As the .pst file gets bigger, it takes Outlook longer to do virtually everything. And the larger the .pst file gets, the smaller the amount of free space on your hard drive becomes. Compacting Outlook data files reclaims the space that was unavailable because it used to hold an item that was deleted. Doing this will reduce the amount of space taken up by .pst files, and let Outlook work efficiently.

Deciding How Often to Compact

There are no firm requirements or guidelines for this. If you feel that Outlook is running slowly, you should try compacting the files to see if it clears up the problem. But if you’re not having problems, you should try to compact Outlook .pst files once or twice a year. It’s not hard to do, although the exact details do differ a bit depending on whether you are using Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2007. Just follow 4 or 5 steps and you’re done.

Are you ready to compact your data files now? Just follow theinstructions on this web page. It provides the exact steps needed to compact the files for both Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007. And once you’re done compacting your data files, I strongly suggest you explore the rest of the site. It’s full of information on making life with Outlook easier and more fun.

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