How do I manage and reduce Exchange mailbox sizes?

Having an extraordinarily large Exchange mailbox has quite a few side-effects, especially heightened chances of data corruption. Thus Exchange users must understand and adopt techniques to manage and reduce their Exchange mailbox sizes to keep it safe.

Microsoft Exchange enables users to access their emails as well as attachments through their Outlook accounts. Emails and attachments can be dragged and dropped into the ‘Documents’ folder of the Exchange account which is located in the Microsoft Outlook client. Additionally, with Exchange users can save log-in details, chat conversations, and other important attachments in their user accounts too.

If you use Microsoft Exchange regularly, you must know how to manage Exchange mailbox sizes. That’s because there are many downsides of having a huge Exchange mailbox.

Why a large Exchange mailbox is dangerous

Your Exchange mailbox is home to all your business and personal information. Keeping a check on its size is essential since, there are quite a few potential drawbacks of having large Exchange mailbox sizes.

  • By default, each Exchange user is entitled to a fixed mailbox space on the server. Maxing out this capacity with unnecessary emails and heavy attachments can consume all allocated space easily, increasing the risk of data damage and corruption.
  • When the size of the items in your mailbox starts hitting its threshold, you might start facing connection issues in your Microsoft Outlook account.
  • If older emails are not deleted and still stored on the cloud, you might not be able to access them from individual folders.

How you can keep tabs on growing Exchange mailbox size

Before you begin clearing out your account, first check your Exchange mailbox usage. Depending on your usage, you can undertake one of the following procedures.

1. Set up a personal folder

The personal folder sits on your local machine, which means it doesn’t use up the space that has been allocated in your Microsoft Exchange account. You can save all old and unneeded items of your mailbox in the personal folder. The advantage of this folder is that you can access it straight from your Microsoft Outlook account.

Here are the steps to achieve this:

  1. Launch Outlook and click File -> New -> Outlook Data File.
  2. In the ‘New Outlook Data File’ dialog box, select ‘Office Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst)’ and click OK.
  3. Select a location where you wish to save the PST and give it a name. Click OK.
  4. In the ‘Create Microsoft Personal Folders’ dialog box, select ‘No encryption’.

Note: If you set a password here, you will not be able to reset it later.

After setting up the personal folder, you can view its contents through Outlook by clicking on File -> Open -> Outlook Data File and then browsing to your personal folder.

2. Set up Auto-Archive in Microsoft Outlook

By moving your old emails and attachments to an archived folder, you can ensure that the allocated space on your Microsoft Exchange account is saved. While you can archive data manually, the following procedure describes an easy and automated way to archive older emails.

  1. Launch Outlook and click Tools -> Options.
  2. In the Options window, open the ‘Other’ tab and click AutoArchive.
  3. In the AutoArchive window, select the ‘Run AutoArchive Every’
  4. Select the number of days. The default is 14
  5. Select the ‘Prompt before AutoArchive runs’
  6. Clear the ‘Delete expired items (e-mail folders only)’
  7. Click Browse and select the location on your local drive in which you want to save the archived data.
  8. Click OK.

Lastly click OK to save the setup.

3. Reduce the size of the PST / OST file

Often, when you delete all old emails and attachments from your account, the change in the size of the outlook data file (PST) is not considerable. Thus, while archiving your older data and saving them locally are efficient ways to optimize the capacity provided to you, regularly reducing the PST file size is also an excellent way to manage Exchange mailbox sizes.

Here are the steps to reduce PST file size:

  1. Launch Outlook and click File -> Data File Management.
  2. Select the PST file that you want to compress, and click ‘Settings’.
  3. Click ‘Compact Now’.

The OST file is the offline storage file provided for all Microsoft Exchange accounts. It saves an exact replica of your Exchange mailbox on your local system so that you can continue to work without interruption even if the Exchange server is unavailable. By reducing the size of the OST file, you can boost the performance of your Microsoft Exchange account.

Here are the steps to reduce OST file size:

  1. Start with deleting the items that are no longer required, and empty the Deleted items folder.
  2. Open Outlook and click File -> Info.
  3. Click Account Settings -> Account Settings.
  4. From the list, select ‘Microsoft Exchange Server’, and click Change.
  5. Click ‘More Settings’.
  6. From the Advanced tab, click ‘Offline Folder File Settings’.
  7. Click ‘Compact Now’.

A more efficient method

While the techniques discussed so far are great, nothing beats a good backup. Backing up all essential data in redundant copies and then purging your mailbox of it in addition all non-essential files keeps a check on growing mailbox size. Moreover, having a regular updated backup eliminates the chances of data loss when you’re deleting old mailbox items in a hurry.

The safest and quickest way to backup Exchange mailbox data is by converting it to PST format and then saving it safely. We recommend using automated third-party utilities like

  1. Stellar OST to PST Converter exports OST data to PST format
  2. Stellar EDB to PST Converter exports EDB data to PST format.

The converted PST files can then be saved on different physical / network locations as well as different storage media.

A few final words of advice

While performing the above mentioned procedures regularly is a good practice to keep your data protected, you might also want to keep in mind these few tricks that will help you avoid a crisis:

  • Keep emptying your ‘Deleted items’ folder regularly.
  • When emails have very large attachments, save them locally and then delete them from the mailbox.
  • Use the Mailbox Cleanup tool to regularly monitor the size of your mailbox.
  • While using the ‘Cached Exchange’ mode, take care to synchronize your account with the public folders.

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