Mailbox cleanup

How to show users how to clean up their mailbox (PST) files.

Having a personal store (PST) on a user's hard drive can help reduce storage space on an Exchange server. Users should be aware, however, that when the personal store file exceeds 2 G bytes, this increases the chance of having corrupted email. In fact, Outlook will not be able to open the PST file at all. So if your users have PSTs, you'll want to make sure they know how to manage them.

In this article I will look at how to do some house cleaning of the PST file using Outlook 2000 and a new feature introduced in Outlook 2002 that can make PST file maintenance much easier.

Saving mail with file attachments is one sure way to increase the size of the personal store. To see how large the file attachments are in the personal store file, you need to add the size column to the message view. This can be accomplished by performing the following steps:

  • Select the View menu then go to Current View
  • Select Customize Current View
  • Select the Fields Button
  • Choose add 'size' field from the Available Fields window

You can now click on the size column heading to sort by message size. This gives you a quick way to see which are the most obese files. After examining the size of messages stored, users may want to move some or all of the attached files to a directory on the Hard Drive, and remove them from the message itself. Here is how this is done:

  • Open the message with the attachment, right-click on the attachment, and choose 'Save As' from the pop-up menu. Or open the message, and choose Save Attachments from the message's file menu. A dialog will open to allow you to choose the attachment(s) you want to save.
  • Navigate to the location where you want to save the attachment, and click the save button.
  • The attachment is now saved and can be cleared from the message by selecting the attachment and pressing the 'Delete' key on the keyboard, or by right clicking and choosing Remove.
  • Close the message screen, and click on yes when prompted, "Do you want to save changes?"

If however you feel that the attachments stored in the personal folder does not warrant moving to another folder you can always use the Auto Archive option.

Outlook 2002 includes a utility that performs clean up operations on not only the exchange server mailbox but also the PST file as well. To perform clean up operations of your mailbox perform the following:

  • From the Tools menu, select Mailbox Cleanup.
  • The Mailbox Cleanup dialog shows you how much disk space each folder or box occupies.
  • To search for messages by size or age select the "Click Here button".
  • Enter your search criteria and click Find.

The search engine tracks down the messages meeting the criteria specified and displays them in another window. You can then examine each item and decide what you want to do with that is, you can save the attachment as a file and then delete it from Outlook.


Adesh Rampat has 10 years experience with network and IT administration. He is a member of the Association of Internet Professionals, the Institute For Network Professionals, and the International Webmasters Association. He has also lectured extensively on a variety of topics.


This was first published in June 2002

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