Outlook Could Be Losing Mail

Outlook Archive

Image Credit: Danny Sullivan

Did you know that not all versions of Microsoft Outlook were created equal, and that this inequality could be causing you to lose old emails?

Older versions of Outlook, particularly Outlook 97-2002, had a limit on the amount of data the Personal Storage Table (PST file) could hold. The PST is what controls how Outlook stores your information. In older versions of Outlook, the PST was built on ANSI, and could only hold up to 65,000 items per folder, with an overall PST size of 2 Gig.

In plain English, this means that older versions of Outlook would automatically over write old emails once the PST file became larger than 2 Gig, causing those emails to be permanently deleted.

Outlook 2003 fixed all this, by introducing what is known as Unicode PST, a file type that has no limit to the size of the PST or the number of items in each folder.

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However, Outlook 2003 and 2007 could still be impacted by ANSI PST, depending on how the software is setup. Additionally, newer versions of Outlook can get “stuck” in ANSI mode and overwrite emails despite being newer.

So how do you know if your Outlook is affected?

There are a few telltale signs. You may notice that your archived folders are now missing old emails. If your

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archives are too large, you may receive the message that your archive is at its maximum permissible size, yet you can’t delete old archived folders to reduce the size. Or you may get a message saying that you exceed the 2 Gig limit. These are just some of the common signs.

If this happens to you, know that you aren’t stuck. There are a few things that can be done to convert to the new Unicode PST file.

Update Outlook

If you’re running into this problem because you’re using an old version of Outlook it’s time to upgrade. Not only will you receive peace of mind knowing that your email is stored safely without the possibility of being overwritten, but you’ll also get your hands on some useful new tools and features. (The new versions of Office are loaded with great new tools that older versions never had before.)

Create a New PST

If you are running into this problem and you are using a newer version of Outlook, try creating a new data file, and then importing your items into the new file. Many users have reported this as a quick fix to their issue.

Take care when setting up your new PST file, to ensure you are selecting the proper format. Despite the change in file type, Microsoft will still let you create an old ANSI PST file, so pay attention when selecting which type of PST to setup.

Also, remember to backup any data prior to importing, just in

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Use 3rd Party Software

There are companies that have created software to solve this very problem. The software automatically converts your PST to the proper format, and also ensures your data isn’t corrupted in the process.

Please note however that software like this isn’t free. There are also mixed reports as to which software works best, although most users report success with SysInfoTools, which costs $39. (TechQuility does not endorse this product, and is merely providing it as information based upon forum user success stories. Your mileage may vary. TechQuility is not responsible for any data loss that may occur with the use of 3rd party conversion products.)

If you are concerned about Outlook losing your email, give us a call today. We can look at your settings to ensure that your email is running correctly, optimally, and is backed up properly, so that you never lose another email again.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who likes to help ensure your email is safe from harm. Website: