Outlook Mailbox Maintenance and Search Troubleshooting

November 29th, 2012 by Charles Edge

How to keep an Outlook Database tidy. From the get go, it’s important to lay the foundation for Outlook and the user so that their database doesn’t grow out of hand.  This is done by:

  1. Organizing Folders the way the user would like them
  2. Creating Rules for users (if they need them)
  3. Creating an Archive Policy that moves their email to another database (PST).
  4. Mounting the archive PST in Outlook so that it’s searchable.
  5. Checking the size of the archive PST every quarter or half year to ensure the size hasn’t grown above it’s maximum.
  6. Creating a new archive folder for every year.

Organizing Folders the way the user would like them.

Sit down the user, and see how they would like to organize their folders.  If they don’t know, them revisit this with them in a couple of weeks / months.  Speak to them regarding their workflow and make recommendations to streamline their productivity as necessary.  Creating folder is as simple as right clicking the directory tree in Outlook and clicking on “Create Folder”.  It can also be done to create subfolders.

Creating Rules for users (if they need them).

Some users use rules, others don’t, some don’t even know they exist.  Start up a conversation with a user and see if they know what Outlook rules are, and see if they would like to know more about them, use some, or give it a test run for a day or so.  In a nutshell, Outlook rules move email from the Inbox to any mail enabled folder based on a set of, well rules.  You can move by sender, subject, keywords, etc.  Where to create rules is a little different depending on the version of Outlook you’re using:

Creating Rules in Outlook 2003: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/intranet/LSEServices/itservices/guides/softwareAndTraining/microsoftOffice/outlook/email-rules.aspx

Creating Rules in Outlook 2007: http://uis.georgetown.edu/email/clients/outlook2007/outlook2007.createrule.html

Creating Rules in Outlook 2010: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/manage-email-messages-by-using-rules-HA010355682.aspx

Try to create rules that run from the Exchange server when possible.  This will allow the rules to run on the server and organize them before they hit the Outlook mail client.

Creating an Archive Policy that moves email to another database (PST)

NOTE: If autoarchiving from Outlook, the e-mail will not be available in Outlook Web Access / Active Sync.  If archiving in Exchange 2010 for a user, the Archive databases can be available in Outlook Web Access.  Proper licensing on Exchange and Outlook apply: http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/en-us/licensing-exchange-server-email.aspx

There are some defaults that Outlook uses.

  • Generally, it will automatically auto archive to an archive pst called archive.pst.
  • By default, it will tend to run every 14 days, and tend to archive all messages older than 6 months.
  • The archive.pst will be on the local workstation.
  • Microsoft best practice is to NOT store the PST file on the network due to it being fragile and if it receives any incomplete data it will get corrupt.
  • You cannot put the PST in read only mode, if you do, you will not be able to mount it until you take it out of read only mode.

Setting up AutoArchive, or manually archiving for Outlook 2003: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/back-up-or-delete-items-using-autoarchive-HP005243393.aspx

Setting up AutoArchive, or manually archiving for Outlook 2007: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/automatically-move-or-delete-older-items-with-autoarchive-HA010105706.aspx

Auto Archive Explained for Outlook 2010: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/autoarchive-settings-explained-HA010362337.aspx

Turning off AutoArchive, or manually archiving for Outlook 2010: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/archive-items-manually-HA010355564.aspx

Outlook PST Size limitations:

Outlook 2003 default is 20GB, but it can be changed: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/832925

Outlook 2007 default is 20GB, but it can be changed: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/832925

Outlook 2010 default is 50GB, but it can be changed: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/832925

Searching PSTs

For Outlook 2003 with latest updates:

  1. Open PST in Outlook
    1. File > Open > Outlook Data File
    2. When using Advanced Find make sure the archive.pst file is select to be searched.

For Outlook 2007:

  1. Ensure Windows Search is installed
  2. Go to Control Panel > Index Options and ensure your achive.pst is selected to be indexed.
  3. Now when you run a search, ensure “search all Outlook folders” is selected.  This will now allow the user to search ALL folders in Outlook at once, including the archive.pst.

For Outlook 2010

  1. Ensure archive.pst is open in Outlook
  2. Search using Instant Search in Outlook or Windows Search

Searching  doesn’t work in Outlook2007 and 2010: Troubleshooting steps you can do:

  1. Check the Event Logs for anything unusual with Office, Outlook, or Windows Search, and troubleshoot the errors that you find.
  2. Ensure that the pst file has been marked for being indexed:
    1. Outlook 2007:  Tools > Options > Search Options
    2. Outlook 2010: File > Options > section Search > Indexing Options > Modify > Microsoft Outlook
    3. Ensure the pst hasn’t gone over it’s maximum limit, if it has you will need to run scanpst.exe to repair it (you will lose some data within the PST, and there’s no way to control what will be removed).  If not, skip to  Step #4. Scanpst.exe can be found in different places depending on the version of Outlook you have:
      1. Outlook 2010

i.      Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14

ii.      Windows 64-bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14

iii.      Outlook x64: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14

  1. Outlook 2007

i.      Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12

ii.      Windows 64-bit: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12

  1. After the repair has completed, open Outlook again and allow it to index (how long depends on how big the PST is).  If you check the Indexing Status, you should see it update at least every half hour.

i.      Check Indexing Status in Outlook 2010: Click in Search field > Click Search Tools button > Select Indexing Status

ii.      Check Indexing Status in Outlook 2008: Click on Tools > Instant Search > Indexing Status

  1. Proceed to Step #4.
  2. Disable and then re-enable the file for indexing.  Go to Search Options and remove the checkmark for the PST that is giving you issues.  Close Outlook and wait a couple of minutes.  Open Task Manager and ensure Outlook.exe is not running anymore. Once you’ve confirmed it’s stopped running on its own, open Outlook again and go back to the Search Options and put a check mark back on the PST that was giving you issues.  Leave Outlook open and alone and allow it to index until that Indexing Status says “0 items remaining”.
  3. If after indexing, it still doesn’t go down to “0 items remaining”, or isn’t even close, or the search STILL isn’t working properly, it’s possible the search index is corrupt.  To rebuild it, go to: Control Panel > Indexing Options > Advanced > Rebuild.  This is something that would best be done overnight as it will not only slow down Outlook, but slow down the computer as well.
  4. If rebuilding the Search Index still doesn’t work, then you may need to “Restore Defaults” .  On Windows 7, this can be done by clicking on the “Troubleshoot search and indexing” link under Control Panel > Indexing Options > Advanced.  Then click on “E-mail doesn’t appear in search results”.
  5. If after all of that, it still doesn’t work, it’s possible you have a corrupt PST.  In which case, follow through with step #3.
  6. If that still doesn’t work, consider patching up Microsoft Office to it’s latest updates.
  7. If that doesn’t work, consider repairing Microsoft Office by going to: Control Panel > Uninstall a Program > Microsoft Office 2010 > click on the Modify button > Click Repair.  Proceed to Step #4.
  8. If that still doesn’t work, create a new PST and import the data (using the Import function, or drag and drop)  from the bad PST into the new PST.  Proceed to Step #3.


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