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February 10, 2006

You have exceeded the size limit on your mailbox - MS Outlook

MS Outlook sucks. Of this, we can be certain. According to an article titled When Microsoft's Outlook Stops Looking Out for You

The problem is this; Outlook 2000 and 2002 (Office XP) only allows a stated maximum data file size of 2gb but the actual limit size is smaller – only 1.82gb.

So, if your Outlook.pst file gets to 2 gig in size, you're apparently running into the brick wall of Microsoft incompetence. I'm running Microsoft Outlook 2003, but it looks like Outlook 2003 has the same 2 gig limitation on the .pst file. The .pst file is a proprietary file format that the dolts at Microsoft use so that no one else can read or write to their files. It's a miserable little format written by liberal geeks and mental cripples that stores everything in one file. Your contacts, tasks, calendars, and emails are all shoe-horned into one poorly organized file. If it gets larger than 2 gig, then you're pretty much hosed. There are some tricks to allow the file to get larger than 2 gig, and some more tricks to repair the .pst files larger than 2 gig, but this seems pretty dicey.

As it turns out, the best option is probably to create a new .pst file, as described in this article about how to create additional .pst files. This is basically a work-around for Microsoft's incompetence, but when you're dealing with incompetence on the scale of the crew at Redmon, Washington, the "great" is often the enemy of the "good".

So, I first created a new .pst file and named it 2004-2005.pst. (File - Data File Management - Add then select the "Office Outlook Personal Folders File (.pst)"). Once the new .pst has been added, it appears on the left side of Outlook as a high-level folder. You can then move around and copy folders as needed. Each of these .pst files can be up to 2 gig. So, I created two sub-folders "Inbox" and "Sent Items" and moved in all of my emails from 2004-2005 into these folders. You can still search this new .pst using outlook, although you apparently have to specify to search each .pst separately.

I had some old "Archive" .pst files which I'd never used so I deleted them.

Somewhere in here, 4 emails got stuck in my outbox. So, I opened each one and selected an action of "Resend" and each one resent in turn and, after I deleted the 4 mails from my outbox, everything seemed to be working fine.

Finally, I looked at my default Outlook "Personal Folder" and convinced myself that it was formatted as the older Outlook 97-2002 format. I wanted it to be the new 2003 format, so I created another new .pst file named Current.pst and copied my Inbox and Sent Item folders from the default "Personal Folder" under the new Current(.pst) folder. I also copied my Contacts folder, as I didn't want to lose my Contacts. Then, I tried to delete the "Personal Folder", but it wouldn't let me, as it was my default folder, set up to receive and send emails. So, to change this, I went to Tools - Email Accounts - View or change existing accounts and then, where it says "Deliver new emails to the following location", I selected my new "Current" pst file. Then, I went back and deleted the "Personal Folder". Now, it seems to be working. My plan now is to just create a new .pst file and archive my Inbox and Sent Items every year or so when the .pst file hits the 2 gig limit.

Note: If you want to get tricky, you can technically, exceed the 2 gig limit, but if you do, and it crashes, it isn't pretty. Here's an article about repairing a .pst file larger than 2 gig.

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Posted by Peenie Wallie on February 10, 2006 at 09:00 AM


Or, you could get rid of some of your mail...PST files were designed for a reason to be limited to 2gb. You shouldn't have 2gb of mail on your profile, unless you want a very slow outlook. Putting it into multiple pst files is the way to go - you put one or two files on a DVD (although why someone would have 4gb of personal email saved that they need to go through, I don't know...)
This way, you have the advantage of having files in backup - yes this means outside of the physical computer - and a faster loading outlook.

Posted by: Mike on February 26, 2006 at 10:42 AM

Mike's comment is sort of typical of the IT mentality. They don't get why anyone wants to save their email. The problem is that the bitheads in the IT department aren't really concerned with your business requirements. (Surprise, surprise.) They have a fixed amount of disk space available, and they could care less if you do your job at all. All they know is that, if you go over their 10 Meg limit, the world will come to a screeching halt. This is unfortunate, but it's the nature of the IT department.

Deleting my email is just absurd. It's a stupid, knee-jerk suggestion. I don't want to delete it. Redesign the application to do what I want it to do. I'm not alone on this. This is what everyone wants, but the programmers just haven't caught on yet.

Today, a 300 gig hard drive costs $100.00. Each photo I take occupies approximately 4 Megs of space. So, why on earth would my Outlook email .pst file have a maximum size of 2 gig? It's a joke.

Just for the bitheads who still need to be convinced that my business requirements are legitimate, once you make another .pst file, true, you can move email into it. But you can only search one .pst file at a time. So, you can't say I want to find that email that some random guy sent to me about my DUKW two years ago and search your inbox for it. It doesn't work. You have to search each .pst file separately. Now, that's not very convenient, is it? No. It's not. It's stupid.

You've got companies like Oracle looking for new markets to push their database into. Why not create a robust email application like Outlook, but with Oracle RDBMS or SQL Server on the back end? Then, you don't have to make excuses for the laughable limitations of the embarassingly under-engineered .pst architecture.

It would be like someone building an interstate highway system and making bridges that could support vehicles up to a maximum of 2,000 pounds. The engineers are kicking the tires of the Suburbans and the dump trucks and saying 'Why does your truck need to be so big?' They just don't get it.

As far as product design, Microsoft Outlook hasn't figured out yet that people want to keep their email, and they want to keep it forever, and they want to be able to keep it in one place. (Horrors!)

Some day, someone will figure this out. They be like...'Hey! I've got an idea.' What if we let people keep their email, in one convenient place, so that they can keep it in perpetuity! Instead of telling them to delete it, or it parse it into little inconvenient arbitrary folders, we'll redesign the application to fit their needs!'

In the mean time, I'll be subject to scorn and ridicule by the IT department for daring to want to keep my email. How stupid am I?

Posted by: Peenie Wallie on February 26, 2006 at 02:43 PM

I had to seperate my emails into differnet pst files also. But to get around the search limitations I installed LookOut (free download at www.lookoutsoft.com/Lookout/download.html) for Outlook 2003. It has been working great. I can now search all my pst files.

Posted by: Dave on March 08, 2006 at 08:53 PM

I'm no expert, but from what I understand the 2gig limit went out with Office 2003. Outlook XP still has the 2gig limit, and if you upgrade your Outlook XP installation to 2003 you actually retain your older XP PST format data file and the same 2003 limit. If you either do a clean install of Office 2003, or create a new PST file or profile, you'll end up with the new 2003 PST data file format, which alledgedly has a 30 gig limit. Using Office 2000 and XP I've run into the 2 gig wall a couple of time ... it isn't fun!!! I haven't exceeded that with 2003 yet, but I'm close, so we'll see soon enough. :-)

Posted by: Bob on May 18, 2006 at 09:40 AM

If you think outlook sucks because of something that effects .01% of Outlook users, then don't use it.

I know this might be hard for you to comprehend, however features are designed for a reason within the limits of current technology. Would you rather outlook used the current file system of windows, allowing for limitless storage yet email search times of minutes in length? This is just one example of the benefits of a .pst file - which provides a database like structure to Outlook.

Given time this will change. A future version of Outlook (or Windows Mail) will have no limits on the size, because it will no longer use a .pst file due to enhancements to the underlying windows architecture.

Besides, Outlook can currently work with multiple .pst files (it may be just 2003) so you can effectivily have an unlimited store - just break out a new pst file.

Take a breath of fresh air and try to think of ways around your so-called 'problem' rather than attack MS because you hate them. To write off outlook due to such a minor issue is more like a symptom of anti-microsoft predjudice than any real problem.


Posted by: Andrew on October 31, 2006 at 06:13 PM