Backing up your emails

Emails have become a major form of communication and if you are like most people, they most likely contain a lot of important information you will need to refer back to at some point, which is why backing up your emails is important.

In the April 2015 issue we explained how emails work and how they are transmitted through the servers of your email provider. Depending on your email provider, a large quantity of your emails may be stored on these servers, for example Gmail can usually save 10s of thousands of your emails, but other providers may only provide enough storage space for one month’s worth of emails. How many of your emails get stored on these online servers depends on your settings and your provider, so it can’t really be considered a reliable backup of your emails.

Your emails, tasks, calendar items and contacts in Outlook are all stored in a single file, called a PST or Outlook Data file. To check where your PST file is stored on your computer, go to Outlook and right click the very top folder. Select Data File properties and next click the advanced button.

To open the folder where your Outlook file is stored, select the address that appears in the Filename box, without including the file name, which is the part after the last backslash (). Copy this text by pressing the CTRL and C keys together, then press the Windows and R keys together, to open the “Run” dialogue box.

Press the CTRL and V keys to paste the address into the “Open” field and press the Enter key to open the folder. If you have set up multiple email accounts, there may be a PST file for each one. The weight of the Outlook Data file is an important consideration when backing up. To display the size of your PST file, right click it and select Properties.

If you are using Carbonite to back up your files as explained in the August 2014 issue, it will take around 2 hours per 1000mb to back up the PST file and Carbonite can only do it while Outlook is completed closed. If your PST file is larger than 4000MB (4GB) you will need right click the file and select ‘Back this up’ from the Carbonite menu to include it.

It is recommended you use an external hard drive as explained in the July 2014 issue and copy your PST file across to the hard drive on a regular schedule. If you are using Outlook 2007 or an earlier version, you will also need to copy a file that stores the suggested emails you see as you start to type an address in the address field.

These email addresses are stored in a file called an nk2 file. Copy this text %USERPROFILE%Application DataMicrosoftOutlook and paste it into the Run dialogue box as explained in steps two and three. Locate the nk2 file in the list of files, or if in doubt, back up the entire contents of this folder.

In the event of disaster striking and you need to restore the information you backed up, if you need to restore the entire contents of your Outlook file, repeat the operations explained above in reverse. Copy the PST file from your backup into the folder where it was originally stored in, making sure Outlook is closed.

If you need to browse your backup file and retrieve individual emails, from Outlook, click on File > Open (& Export) > Open Outlook Data File. Next browse to the location where you have stored the backup copy and open it. Outlook will add this PST file to your list of folders and you will be able to browse through them just as you usually would.