Archive Email in Outlook 2011 for Mac

Getting those emails stating your mailbox is full? Not getting mail because of it? Tech Support urging you to archive but you aren’t sure how to because you use Outlook 2011? Fear not! There’s a solution. It takes a bit of diligence, as there are a few steps involved, but if you follow them you’ll not only accomplish the intended goal, you’ll effectively create a backup of your archived mail as well. Solutions I’ve found online do not protect you in this manner and leave open the possibility of losing everything. Yes, I’m sorry, the Internet is not as kind as we’d like. Fortunately for you, I am.

To best proceed let me outline the major steps we’ll be going through, then I’ll delve into detail on each.

Firstly, we need to discern which emails will be labeled as those we are to archive

Secondly, we need to process these emails and export them from Outlook

Lastly, after importing this mail back into Outlook, we need to delete the mail from your inbox to free the space.

Determining what mail needs to go into the archive involves a bit of planning. There’s a few guidelines I can offer on how to best tell which mail is suitable for archiving, but this will vary from person to person. Most will choose to archive their oldest emails. Makes sense, no? The problem is there are some of us who create subfolders in the inbox. If you want to do this by date in Outlook 2011, you need to touch every folder. The more folders, the more painful this becomes. If this is the case you’ll need to devise another archiving schema. Some things to think about are archiving folders that are for past clients or defunct projects or perhaps archiving large emails.

Once we know how we are going to archive, we can actually get to the archiving bit. This involves categorizing the mail we want to archive, then exporting it out of Outlook. To categorize mail, simply highlight the messages then click the categorize button on the toolbar. From here add a new category and name it something that describes the mail you are categorizing. Doing this will make things easier later. If you’ve highlighted many messages (say, 15,000 from all of 2010) expect this to take a little bit.

Once you’ve gotten this taken care of, we can get to exporting. To do so follow these steps, again, use the screenshots to guide yourself through:

1. Click the “File” menu dropdown then click “Export

2. On the screen that appears, deselect all check boxes except mail, then click the radio button for “Items that are in the category:”. Choose one of the categories you created earlier.

3. On the next screen make sure that “No, do not delete items” is selected.

4. Next we need to choose the name of the file we will be saving. Whatever you save the file as here will reflect the name of the archive once we import it back into Outlook later. I recommend using the category name. Save it in the location shown below for easy retrieval later. The Archived Mail folder probably doesn’t exist, so create it if need be.

5. Click save to begin the export.

Repeat this for each batch of categorized mail. Note this might be a few minutes depending on the amount of mail being exported.

Now that the export is done, we can import the archived mail. Go back to the “File” menu and click import. Leave “Outlook Data File” selected, select “Outlook for Mac Data File”, then browse for the archive file you would like to open and it will import it. In the left folder pane in mail view you’ll see the “On My Computer” section. Within will be a folder labeled “Archived Mail”. In that will be the name of the archive file. In here you’ll notice the folder structure of the mail we’ve exported is retained. This keeps things as tidy as they were before you exported.

Once you’ve verified the archive file has opened successfully, we can now go ahead and delete the categorized mail. Use the filter toolbar button to filter by category, then delete it all. Don’t forget to empty your deleted items folder when done!

Future mail archiving may not require this. Dragging and dropping emails into an existing archive folder will put that mail into that specific file (where it’s safe). It also auto-removes the email from your inbox, which frees space. I strongly advise to incorporate your new archive folder[s] into they way you organize your emails. Moving a few a day can save time and more importantly, frustration, in the future! EDIT: The above is false. Future emails can be removed from your mailbox by dragging them into the opened archive, but all it does is drop the email into your database file in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/Main Identity and deletes if off your mail server. Opening the .olm file merely copies the messages to your database. It in no way affects your .olm file.

Should Outlook ever break and require a setup from scratch, you can safely re-import your archived mail using those files without fear of loss.


Getting those emails stating your mailbox is full? Not getting mail because of it? Tech Support urging you to archive but you aren’t sure how to because you use Outlook 2011? Fear...

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