Tuesday, November 1, 2005

More thoughts on huge .pst files (and what to do about them)


By David Gewirtz

Last week, we ran "What to do when your .pst file is too big". In it, our OutlookPower Answer Team guru Francine Otterson gave guidance about .pst files growing to about 2GB. Our own editorial staff decided to add some "knowledge" to the article by pointing out that a Microsoft Knowledge Base article showed how Outlook 2003 could take your .pst file to 20GB.

Ah, but a little knowledge is dangerous.

Fortunately, we've got access to some fabulous Outlook experts, who were able to set us right. Mike Sperry, owner of Sperry Software, makes some fabulous Outlook add-ins and knows more about the inner workings of Outlook than just about anyone. He told us this:

As a producer of an Outlook add-in that cuts down Outlook PSTs by as much as 90% (see http://www.SperrySoftware.com/Outlook/Attachment-Save.asp), I wanted to let you know about one more gotcha with the PST sizes.
We all know that Outlook 2003 supports the much larger Unicode PSTs -- but if you operate Outlook 2003 on a file system that is not NTFS based, then you run the risk of running out of room at 4GB, because that's the max size any file can have with FAT32. This is something to keep in mind when the PST file becomes too big, because there's no PST4GB.exe!

Ya know, I never even thought about FAT32, but Mike's so right. If you're running an older OS, or a smaller hard-drive that's still FAT32, be careful of how big you let your Outlook 2003 file get.

Mike gets special marketing kudos for sticking a shameless plug into his Letter to the Editor. I've always been a bit weirded out by attachment save plug-ins, figuring that if you move the files, for instance after a rebuild of the OS, everything could go to heck. He had a good answer, so we figured we'd leave both the shameless plug and the very useful answer in the article:

There's a search and replace utility, to go from say, "C:&#92My Saved Attachments&#92..." to "D:&#92My Saved Attachments&#92...".

Finally, we thought of another gotcha when it comes to large .pst files. Don't assume that you can just open the old .pst file in Outlook 2003 and it can now grow to 20GB. Oh, no. That'd be too easy. Instead, you'll need to create a new Unicode .pst file in Outlook 2003 and then, from within Outlook 2003, copy folders from one .pst file to the other. You'll do this by dragging and dropping the folders within the old .pst file's Personal Folders tree into the Personal Folders tree of the new file.