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An Outlook data file is the main file on your computer that houses all of your Outlook information, including your Inbox, your Contacts, your Calendars and even you various e-mail setups. Although most Outlook users just have one data file, there might be times when you need to access and manage multiple data files. And we are going to take a look at our Navigation bar, and right now I actually have two data files opened. I have one for my Business account, email@example.com, and I have another one for my Gmail account, which we see down here.
So we're going to take a look at some of these data files by going up to the File tab and clicking on the Open item in the Navigation bar. From there, I'm going to open an Outlook data file. Now there's two types of Outlook data files. One ends with the extension PST, which means it's a personal data file. That's for those of you that might not be using an Outlook Exchange Server, or maybe you are using the Outlook Exchange Server for some of your data, but then you also have other accounts that you want to pull in to your Outlook, as well.
So in this case, I have a couple of files. I have an archive that I've made of my data file, and I also have my Outlook data. Now if this was a brand-new computer, the first time I opened up Outlook, Outlook would automatically create a file called Outlook.pst. And you would run over to Outlook and look in that data file, and you would see nothing: no Email, no Contacts, no Calendar - nothing. So if that's the case, what your job is is to copy that Outlook data file, that Outlook.pst, from your old computer and just overwrite that new Outlook.pst on the new computer.
And that's how you're going to get all that data from one computer to the other. Now to open that file, you simply click it and click on OK. Now you notice, if we look at our Navigation bar, that we now have another data file showing, which again was that Outlook file, and if I expand it a little bit, I notice that it contains my Calendar, and my Contacts, and all my old Email. Now once we have our data files open, let's look at them a little bit more carefully. Now I'm going to go back to that File tab, give it a click and go to the Account Settings icon, give that a click, and choose Account Settings.
I'm going to click on the Data Files tab, and I'm going to expand this just a little bit so we can see it better. So once again I have three data files open, and you notice one of them ends with that extension OST; that's because it's a file that came in from the Exchange Server. And the good news, I have no maintenance to do whatsoever on that OST; in fact, if I move to a new computer and my information doesn't follow me, I get to blame the IT guy and let him take care of the problem.
But you're also seeing that we do have my PST that I just opened. Now you notice that one of these files has a check mark in front of it. What that means its default location. And that means it's going to appear at the top of my Navigation bar. I could change the one that appears at the top simply by clicking it and setting that one as the default. One final thing that you might want to do from time to time, and that is to do a little maintenance on your PST file. And again, we don't have to do maintenance on the OST because that's that job of the computer guy.
In this case, I'm going to select my PST, and I'm going to click on Settings. Now I can do something called Compact the data, which means as I enter more and more information into my data file, it gets larger and larger and more importantly, as I remove information from my data file, it doesn't get a whole lot smaller, but instead it creates a number of little air pockets. So if I click on this Compact Now button, what's going to happen is Outlook is going to crunch through that data file and remove all those air pockets, making my data file much smaller and consequently much faster.
But I do want to warn you: if you've been using Outlook for awhile, this compaction process can take quite awhile. I recently had a data file that was almost a gig and a half large. And it took me eight hours for the compact procedure to complete; however, once it completed, my data file was cut literally in half and weighted in at about 750MB. Unless you purchase a new computer, or you find yourself inn urgent need of a backup, you probably never going to have to deal with the Outlook data files; however, should something wacky happen, it's nice to know that you can always use the data files to help you out in a pinch.
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