Home > Articles

Managing Outlook Folders

This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Understanding How Outlook Stores Information
  • Using the Navigation Pane and Folder List
  • Using and Managing Folders
  • Understanding Folder Properties
  • Managing Data Within Folders
  • Using Multiple Personal Folders Files
  • Folder Home Pages and Web Views
  • Troubleshooting
  • Improving Your Outlook

Understanding How Outlook Stores Information

Email has become one of the most popular communication mediums for its ease of use and almost instantaneous delivery. The rapid growth of email has lead to a new phenomenon: email glut. It's easy to become overloaded with information and not be able to find any of it. The medium that was supposed to make us more efficient and save time can turn against us if we don't manage it effectively. This chapter introduces you to the basics of storing Outlook information, as well as teaches you how to manage that information so that email becomes a time saver instead of a time waster. You'll learn how to navigate in Outlook's new interface, create folders, move and copy information between folders, and manipulate folder properties to fine-tune your folders.

Where Does Outlook Store Information?

Outlook stores information in folders. These folders aren't the same type of folders that you use in Windows to store documents, spreadsheets, and pictures. These folders are either stored on an Exchange Server, or in the file system in a Personal Folders file. If you're not using an Exchange Server, your Outlook data is always stored in a Personal Folders file. This file has a file extension of .pst and can be stored on your local machine or on a network share. A Personal Folders file isn't quite the same as a Word document or Excel spreadsheet. It stores all of your Outlook folders, email messages, calendar entries, contacts, tasks, journal items, and notes within its structure.

Using a Personal Folders File

You'll use a Personal Folders file whenever you don't store your email on an Exchange Server. If you use Outlook to access POP3, IMAP4, or HTTP accounts, you'll definitely make use of a Personal Folders file. However, even if you use Outlook to access an Exchange account, there are still circumstances in which you'll use a Personal Folders file.

If you don't know whether you're using a Microsoft Exchange Server or a Personal Folders file, you can check your default delivery location. Select Tools, E-mail Accounts, View or change existing email accounts to display the E-mail Accounts dialog box (see Figure 3.1).

If your delivery location is set to Personal Folders, you're using a Personal Folders file. Account types of IMAP, POP, and HTTP all use a Personal Folders file as their default delivery location.

If you're using an Exchange Server, you can still specify your delivery location to be your Personal Folders file, but doing so will remove all Outlook items from the server.


Check with your system administrator before changing your default delivery location from your Exchange Server to a Personal Folders file. Doing this can prevent some server-side content scanners and anti-virus products from scanning your email. It can also prevent you from viewing your messages using Outlook Web Access.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 An IMAP account uses a Personal Folders file as its default delivery location.

By default, your Personal Folders file contains the following folders:

  • Calendar—Stores meeting requests, appointments, and events.

  • Contacts—Stores contacts and distribution lists.

  • Deleted Items—Stores items that have been deleted from all other Outlook folders.

  • Drafts—Stores items that are in process. You can compose an email message and save it to Drafts if you want to come back to it and work on it later.

  • Inbox—Stores all received email.

  • Junk E-mail—Stores all email Outlook marks as junk.

  • Journal—Stores various types of journal entries.

  • Notes—Stores items that operate much like a sticky note.

  • Outbox—Stores messages that have been queued for sending.

  • Sent Items—Stores all sent email.

  • Tasks—Stores tasks and task requests.

Outlook's new interface is designed to show you only the types of items you're interested in based on the type of folder you choose. When Mail is selected in the Navigation Pane, only folders that contain mail items are shown in the folder list (see Figure 3.2). Those folders are Deleted Items, Drafts, Inbox, Junk E-mail, Outbox, and Sent Items, as well as any custom mail folders you've created. You can select other types of folders, such as Calendar, Tasks, or Contacts, by clicking their banners in the Navigation Pane.

Outlook's default Navigation Pane displays banners for Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks. Below the banners, you'll find buttons for Notes, the Folder List, and Shortcuts. By default, the Journal icon is hidden. Click the Configure Buttons icon at the very bottom right of the Navigation Pane and then select Add or Remove Buttons to control the look of your Navigation Pane.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.2 This figure shows a default Personal Folders mail view.

Using Exchange Server

If you're part of a large corporate network, you might use a Microsoft Exchange Server to store your mail. An Exchange Server offers several benefits. It serves as a central location for all messaging items, it's usually backed up on a regular schedule, and it can provide the capability to share Outlook folders among other individuals on the Exchange Server. An Exchange Server also offers a public folder message store that's accessible to anyone with an account on the Exchange Server as well as a Global Address List.

As previously shown in Figure 3.1, you can check your delivery location to determine whether your emails are stored on the Exchange Server. If your delivery location is set to Mailbox - Your Name, you're using an Exchange Server. Otherwise, you're using a Personal Folders file.

Storage Limits

The growth and availability of high-speed Internet access and popularity of digital cameras have greatly increased the amount of data people want to store in their email. When Aunt Irma gets her new digital camera and sends you daily pictures of her cat, you can easily consume multiple megabytes worth of space in your Personal Folders file or Exchange mailbox. PowerPoint presentations have been known to be more than 50MB if they contain a large number of pictures. To keep email access relatively quick and keep network administrators happy, both Personal Folders files and Exchange mailboxes can have storage limits.

In prior versions of Outlook, the size limit for a Personal Folders file was 2GB. Outlook 2002 introduced a warning message when a Personal Folders file reached 1.82GB in size, informing users that if they didn't immediately clean up their folders, they would likely lose data.


Although the official limit for a Personal Folders file was 2GB, the functional limit was actually 1.82GB. A Personal Folders file that grew much beyond 1.82GB would cease to function.

If you can no longer access your Personal Folders file, see "Errors in Personal Folders Files" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of the chapter.

Outlook 2003 supports two different Personal Folders file formats, the older Personal Folders file and a new Unicode-compatible Personal Folders file format that's capable of growing to around 33TB (yes, that's terabytes). The ANSI Personal Folders files still have a size limit of 2GB.


Even though the new storage limit is so large, it still isn't wise to store very large amounts of data in one Personal Folders file. After a Personal Folders file grows to around 10GB, Outlook usually starts to run very slowly. I recommend keeping most Personal Folders files under 5GB to keep Outlook running smoothly.

The main drawback to the new Unicode file format is that previous versions of Outlook cannot read information from Outlook 2003 Unicode Personal Folders files. Luckily, Outlook enables you to choose your Personal Folders file format when you create a new Personal Folders file. You can choose from Outlook 2003's Unicode format or the older Outlook 97/98/2000/2002 compatible format.

When creating a new Personal Folders file, your system administrator might dictate the maximum allowable size. For example, when performing an administrative installation of Outlook 2003, the default size limit for a Personal Folders file is 10GB. This size limit can be changed by the system administrator.

Other Storage Locations

In addition to storing Outlook items in a Personal Folders file, Outlook uses several other locations to store information. Some information, such as Most Recently Used (MRU) lists for meeting locations and files, is stored in the Windows Registry. Other Outlook information, such as exported rules and toolbar customizations, is stored in files found on your hard drive.

For more information on rule storage, see "Creating Rules."

For more information about toolbar customizations, see "Creating a Custom Toolbar."

For more information about Outlook and the Windows Registry, see "Outlook's Files, Folders, and Registry Keys."

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020