Monday, May 1, 2006

What to do when reminders go kapooie

Using old .pst files

Phil tells us his reminders are pretty much broken. We've got some potential fixes for that in a moment. But he also tells us he's running a .pst file he's moved forward from upgrade to upgrade, for nearly a decade.

That's one seriously old file.

You know how, after running Windows for a year or two, the creeping crud seems to catch up with the system and after a while, it's just time to do a fresh install? Yeah, me to.

Well, in Phil's case, I'm thinking it might be time to freshen his .pst file. Lord knows what nasty digital rot is clinging to the edges of that file!

Here's what I recommend. First, be sure Outlook's closed and make a backup of your .pst file. Heck, blank DVDs are cheap and you can't use them to copy movies any more, so you might as well put them to some use. Make one, two, or even ten backups of your .pst file.

Next, go back into Outlook 2003 and create a brand new .pst file. If you select File->New and then choose Outlook Data File, you'll be on the right track. You'll have a couple of choices for Outlook's file type. I'd recommend creating the Office Outlook format, which supports more data.

Once you've done this, you should have two Personal Folder trees in your Folder List. The first, of course, contains all your stuff. The second is going to be mostly empty. Go through, folder by folder and/or item by item, and right click and drag the item from the older Personal Folder file to the new one. By right-clicking and dragging, you'll have the option to copy, rather than move.

Do this for everything, making sure all your stuff is moved over. Double and triple check the two Personal Folder trees to be sure they match.

Then, from the File menu, select Data File Management and make sure your new Personal Folders file is designated as the mail delivery folder.

Quit Outlook, and then find and trash your old Personal Folders file. Uh, don't go deleting the trash just yet, in case something goes horribly wrong.

You should be able to reopen Outlook and it should now run, feeding mail to your new, fresh Personal Folders file.

Why good reminders go bad

Let's now return to the general question of why reminders go kapooie. Microsoft lists four primary reasons:

  • Outlook isn't running. Don't forget that Outlook must be running in order for reminders to display. There are some third party hacks that give you tray-based reminder pop-ups, but they're more pain than they're worth. Buy more RAM and keep Outlook running.
  • The reminder is not in what Microsoft calls a "primary" folder. Reminders will only work if you set them in one of the default folders: Inbox, Tasks, Calendar. If your reminder lives in any other folders, they won't trigger. There's a third party add-on that'll fix this. Read on to find out more.
  • The Delivery option for your email is set to none. You must set a delivery location for reminders to be processed. This relates to what I discussed in the previous section. Make sure to double check that Data File Management menu option.
  • The reminders folder is damaged or contains corrupted data.