GUIDE

How to Backup Outlook: Essential Steps You May Not Know

How to Backup Outlook: Essential Steps You May Not Know

Do you know how to backup Outlook? If you use Microsoft Outlook for your email, or for its calendar and contact functionality, you must read on and make sure you do!

If you’ve put an online backup system in place (check out our recommendations for Mac or for Windows if not), you may think your work is done, and that you can relax in the knowledge that all your data is being safely copied up to the cloud. However, if you use Microsoft Outlook, there are a few more steps to be aware of before you can rely on a complete backup of your Outlook data, including your emails, calendar and contact entries.

Outlook

This is because Outlook basically stores everything in one big database. If this database is “open” while your main backup runs (which if often will be, because Outlook is the kind of program we tend to leave open all the time) many backup systems will fail to correctly back it up – this means there’s a risk that your Outlook data won’t form part of your main backup. With emails often a key way of tracking communications and historical business decisions, they’re not something you want to omit from your backup – and the same applies to your calendar and contacts.

While, in some circumstances, your backup system will manage to backup Outlook sufficiently without any action on your part, the best thing to do is learn how to backup Outlook properly – and this means learning how to export all of your Outlook data to a single file, known as a PST file on Windows computers and an OLM file on Macs.

All you have to do is periodically export your data to one of these files, and ensure that the backup file (PST or OLM) is included in the files you back up to your online backup provider. That way, you have a reliable export of all of your Outlook data, ready for restoration should disaster strike.

So, how do you create one of these files? Thankfully, it’s nice and easy, and we shall show you how now:

How to Backup Outlook: Mac

1. Within your Outlook window go to “FILE” and then “EXPORT.”

How to Backup Outlook

2. Choose “Outlook for Mac Data File (.olm)” from the next menu, and select which data types you want to include (i.e. mail, calendar, contact entries etc.)

3. Click “Continue” and then choose where on your Mac you’d like to save the archive file. This should be somewhere that’s included in your main system backup(s).

4. Click “Save” to begin the backup. Depending on how much data you have, this could take some time.

How to Backup Outlook: Mac

1. Click the “File” menu within Outlook, then click “Open and Export.”

Windows Outlook

2. Click “Import/Export,” then “Export to a File.”

3. Choose “Outlook Data File (.pst).”

4. Select the data you wish to export. Usually, it’s best just to click on your main mailbox and tick the “Include subfolders” option.

5. Click the “Browse” button and choose where on your Windows PC you’d like to save the archive file. This should be somewhere that’s included in your main system backup(s).

6. Add a password to the archive should you wish.

7. Click “Finish” to begin the backup. Depending on how much information you have, this could take some time.

How to Backup Outlook: Important Considerations

  • Some people use Microsoft Outlook as part of a Hosted Exchange cloud-based system. This means all of your Outlook data is kept in the cloud, which is in itself a form of backup. However, following this process regularly still has some value. The golden rule is “the more backups the better.” If something goes wrong, it’s good to have options.
  • How frequently you backup Outlook in this way in up to you – just remember that your PST or OLM file is essentially a snapshot, so once you have lots of new emails and data, it makes sense to complete the process again. For some people, monthly is sufficient – others may want a new backup more frequently.
  • For further information on exporting Outlook data, check out this Microsoft article.

Published on: February 3,2016.
Ben Taylor Ben was a geek long before "geek chic," learning the ropes on BBC Micros, before moving on to Atari STs and IBM compatibles. He was "online" using a 1200bps modem before the Internet was even a thing. Now, after two decades in the industry, he writes about technology for various publications, operates a few websites of his own, and runs a bespoke IT consultancy based in London.

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