We encourage our users to enable AutoArchive in Outlook 2007 as a way to manage their mailbox sizes. However, we frequently end up running in to problems with the archive.pst file that is generated. The two main problems we have are:

  1. The archive.pst file is located in the user's local profile directory and is never backed up. A dead hard drive or stolen laptop could result in months or years of missing email. All other personal data is stored on network shares, but we can't do that for Outlook PST files.
  2. Without some sort of manual intervention, the archive will grow to enormous sizes. Although Outlook 2007 SP2 handles the large files better than before, it still results in slow response times from Outlook and an increase likelihood of a corrupt PST file.

To mitigate these problems personally, I move the archives to a c:\Outlook folder and manually back that up to a shared drive every month or so. Additionally, I rotate archive files every year so that I have one file for each year (archive2008.pst, etc).

Obviously, asking our users to do this same wouldn't help much. We need some sort of automated solution to take care of points 1 and 2.

I have to imagine this is a common problem for Exchange organizations, so what is the best method to handle this?

  • Hello David, Can I please have a copy of the scripts you have, both for desktop as well as laptop user's? We are also looking at implementing such strategy to minimize our user's PST issues. Will really appreciate your feedback and your vbs files. Thanks Ash – user69336 Feb 3 '11 at 11:21
  • Ash, the only way David will notice this (if at all) is if you post it as a comment to his answer. Since he was last online half a year ago, it's unlikely he will see it at all. – Sven Feb 3 '11 at 11:21

Through the use of GPOs, you can manage what happens to .pst files. We auto-archive ours to the network where they're backed up regularly and it's easy enough to bypass them being saved to the local disk.

Archiving email is no panacea for problems endemic to users. That is their need to save everything. You have to practically beat it into their heads that there generally isn't a need to save everything. To that end we have Exchange delete everything in the Deleted Items folder (users were in the habit of using this as another folder and NEVER emptying it.)

Small reminders about cleaning up their email and how it results in efficiencies throughout the organization is helpful, etc., etc.

Edited to add:

Red-gate also has an exchange archiver and based on their other tools, this one should be top-notch.

  • 1
    The problem is that storing PST files on the network is not supported by Microsoft. Also, we use offline folders to make home directories portable, but offline folders will not synchronize PST files. I do agree on the reminders though. – Doug Luxem Sep 16 '09 at 15:23
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    We've had no issues in the 5 years we've been storing .pst files on the network. As an aside, what support would you be looking for from Microsoft with regard to storing your pst's on the network? – GregD Sep 16 '09 at 15:28
  • I never had issues storing on the network either, its just one of those Microsoft no-nos. – DanBig Sep 16 '09 at 15:35
  • +1 for the bit about actually [gasp] deleting something. – squillman Sep 16 '09 at 16:21
  • I'll chime in on not having issue storing pst's on the network -doesn't work for mobile/traveling users though. The business needs to decide on retention to guide how much stuff people keep and, if deemed necessary, what is an acceptable investment for a server based archival solution(GFI, RedGate, etc). – Jeff Hengesbach Sep 16 '09 at 16:32

I just went through this, and you are entering a world of pain. Microsoft says not to put them on a network drive, ntbackup sucks (You will need admin rights to use volume shadow copy, there is a backup users group, but that doesn't actually work), there is an outlook plugin but then the users have to close outlook for it to work.

In the end, I just stuck them on the network drive. The only real solutions I found were to delete the emails, or spend money on a storage array.


In my experience, many people over-use auto-archiving and PSTs, which does more harm than good. Forcing your users to manage PSTs and archive their mail themselves will require constant manual intervention, and is guaranteed to fail.

Newer versions of Exchange and Outlook handle large mailboxes quite well (# of items in a single folder is more of a problem than mailbox size). As long as your Exchange server is configured correctly, with decent storage (size and performance), and you running a recent version of Exchange, large mailboxes are not much of a cause for concern.

If you are having problems managing PSTs, take a closer look at how you got into that mess in the first place. Ask yourself if having everyone archive to PSTs is really necessary.


I'm not sure how many mailboxes you have, or if you are intent on sticking with some built in tools to manage this. Are you open to 3rd party tools? If so, check out GFI Mailarchiver. I haven't personally used it, but i've worked with folks that have had great results.

There is also the PST backup tool, but it can be dodgy at best, and only does the backup when a user actually closes outlook, but that would get them up to your servers.


I think what GregD is saying is that putting archive.pst files on the network is fine, whereas commenters below him may be thinking (quite correctly) that hosting PST files for non-Exchange accounts (i.e. POP) on network shares is disasterous.


If i could leave a comment or vote up GregD and SHolsh, i would.

In addition, i've found that the root of the problem is just because we know how things work, most assuredly doesn't mean they do. So for the last few days, i've been going to each user in our office, selling the idea of archiving their emails older than 3 months to our file server (using archive.pst). Which, incidentally, works fine (as you know).

I've also put forward to them this analogy: "Would you file this document (something important) in the trash beside your desk? So why file this important email in the Deleted Items folder?". Asking them why then gets them to understand that the trash at their desk is emptied every day, and so should their deleted items.

With this, i've seen a reduction in the amount of time/tape it takes to backup our exchange server, and with our file server, due to the fact that the archive is compressed somewhat, there hasn't been an increase in proportion to the reduction on the exchange server.


We use a vbscript at login to handle our user's PST. The script reads through the user's Outlook Profile in the registry and identifies the PSTs in the same way that Outlook will identify the PSTs that it should open. The script checks the path of each PST to see if it is located in a correct "network" location - if not, it moves it to the network location and changes the location in the registry so that when Outlook opens it will automatically go to the new location to open the PST file. If the user is prompted to "autoarchive" and a new archive.pst is created, when the script sees the new pst, if renames it and moves it to the network location automatically. For laptop users, we manage the pst in a similar fashion, but we do it locally on the box and then use a separate vbscript to backup the pst to the network location at the user's discretion.

Let me know if you want to see the script.

  • I would like to see the script. Could you maybe post it to pastebin.com or somewhere similar? – jftuga Feb 4 '11 at 0:43

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