Sunday, October 1, 2006

How to backup your rules


By David Gewirtz

I am religious about backing up my Outlook .PST file. This is the file where all my mail lives, and because I conduct so much of my online (and offline) life via email, it's also the file that contains a huge amount of important information I rely on.

Everytime I reinstall Windows or move to a new computer (two tasks I find myself doing far too often), I'm always very careful to move my .PST file, configure the mailing services, and get back online.

Unfortunately, I've had a tendency to forget moving my rules. Your rules are not stored in your .PST file. If you want to move your rules from one install to another, you'll need to back them up.

Backing up

Fortunately, backing up rules is pretty simple. From the Tools menu, select Rules and Alerts. When the Rules and Alerts dialog box pops up, click the Options button, as shown in Figure A.


Click the options button. (click for larger image)

Because a number of my rules have email addresses that aren't really meant for public consumption, I've grayed them out in the figure above. Just remember to click the Options button and you'll be fine.

Clicking the Options button will get you the Options dialog box shown in Figure B.


This dialog is pretty self-explanatory. (click for larger image)

As you can see, the dialog is pretty self-explanatory. Click Export Rules and Outlook will export your rules file. Make sure you save it somewhere you'll find it and move it to the new machine.

Restoring rules

To restore your rules, just do the opposite. Once again, from the Tools menu, select Rules and Alerts. When the Rules and Alerts dialog box pops up, click the Options button.

This time, though, when the Options dialog shows up, click Import Rules, select your file, and Outlook will bring your rules back in.

Turning off "on this machine only"

Often, you'll have one other (annoying) step to get your rules running again. By default, when Outlook 2003 creates a rule that's has an action specific to the computer you're using, Outlook adds "on this machine only" to your rule.

Obviously, when you import your rules back into the new machine, you're no longer on the "this machine" the rule was initially created for, and the rule won't work.

To fix this, you'll need to go back into Rules and Alerts. Now, find the first rule you need to change, click Change Rule, and then click Edit Rule Settings. Then turn off the "on this machine only" checkbox.

Repeat for all the rules. Yep, that's where it gets tedious. Nope, there's no way to make it faster.

Live with it. Such is Outlook.