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Thursday, March 10, 2011

9 tips to keep your Outlook 2007 Kicking

Everyone knows that Outlook 2007 is slow, it freezes, it hangs, and it basically sucks. Yet, there are a lot of people out there who use it on a daily basis. I am one of these people. There are a few tips to minimize the pain here. However, to make sure that the pain stays away, you need to perform regular work. Here’s what I do regularly (or whenever I start seeing a performance dip in my Outlook).

First of all, let me mention that I use a stand alone instance of Outlook and pop my email to my computer (no MS Exchange).

* Tip 1: Clean Your Email: DELETE * FROM OUTLOOK WHERE EMAIL != NEEDED_IN_FUTURE. I delete all email that I know I will not need in the future. There is a good reason for doing this even if you have a lot of hard disk space. As new email arrives, Outlook allocates more disk space by expanding the size of your PST. Over time, your PST can become fragmented and very large. However, if you delete an email, Outlook doesn’t free up that space and reuses it for more incoming mail.
* Tip 2: Archive Emails: This also helps keep the size of your PST small. Archiving is basically removing your older emails from your active PST file into another PST. There are auto-archiving options available in Outlook and you can set them up. I like to do this manually. I create a new PST and move anything that I know I might need in the future, but I don’t foresee needing in the near future. Then I close the PST (remove it from my Outlook).

* Tip 3: Multiple PST Files: Outlook manages all emails, contacts, etc. in a Data File (PST file). It allows you to have multiple PST files open at a given time. Through experience, it has become very clear that the sluggishness of Outlook is directly compared to the size of the PST files it is working with. So, after deleting and archiving, if the size of your PST is still more than 600-700 MB, then break it up into multiple PSTs. I have 3 PSTs open: Personal Mail, Project Mail, and Everything Else.

* Tip 4: ReIndex: After you have carried out your deleting, archiving, and moving around of the email, rebuild your search index. With Outlook 2007, you get Windows search integration which help in lighting fast searches. However, since you just moved everything around, the index is out of sync and though it will get in sync over time, it’s best to delete the old index and make a new one. This ensures that you get right search results after maintenance.

* Tip 5: Compact your PST: Through the Data File Management menu option in the File menu, you can compact your PSTs. As I mentioned, when you delete email, Outlook doesn’t free up space. You need to manually fire the command to compact it. Compacting not only frees up space, it can also help when you defragment the PSTs (next tip).

* Tip 6: Defragment your PST Files: This always gives a big boost to Outlook performance on my computer. You can either defragment the whole disk using the Disk Management Tools in Windows XP. Or you can defragment the individual PST files using the great tool from SysInternals that is mentioned at the article I linked to at the beginning of this post. Note: Outlook should be closed when you are doing this.

* Tip 7: Rules Maintenance: If you use rules to filter your emails and move them around, now is a good time to review them. There can be many old rules that probably are not relevant anymore, and you might want to change the rules to work with you new PST structure.

* Tip 8: Maintenance Mode Tip – Turn off Search Service: while carrying out the maintenance, turn off the Windows Search Service. As you move around large number of emails, it can slow things down as it will try to update the index (which you will rebuild anyway, if you follow my advice).

* Tip 9: Maintenance Mode Tip – Turn off Preview Pane: Since you will be clicking and selecting a lot of email, you don’t want to waste time for a preview being generated each time. This will help reduce overall time for the maintenance task.

If you have any tips for Outlook 2007, then please leave a comment. Also, if you have any questions.

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