How do I create a backup file for Outlook?

How to backup Outlook

If you use Outlook for email you already know how important your Microsoft Outlook emails are. They’re how you communicate with people and they may also be how you get business. You want to make sure and back up the information in your Outlook account so you don’t lose any vital information.

Many Outlook users don’t think about how much information they actually store in their email system. They don’t think about how to save Outlook emails until it’s too late and they’ve already lost some information.

It doesn’t have to be like that for you. If you need to learn how to backup Outlook emails, this tutorial is for you. You’ll learn different Outlook backup methods ranging from how to export emails from Outlook to how to save an email in Outlook PST format and more. We’ll also discuss how to back up other MS Outlook data such as contact information and more. Finally, you’ll learn about a few MS Outlook add-ins that can help you backup Outlook emails.

1. Why You Need Outlook Backups

You may not think about backing up your MS Outlook email messages, but you should. What if you lost access to your email account? All the email information stored in your account would be gone. If you use Outlook email you don’t want that to happen

Most commonly, people lose access to their email accounts when they forget the password. Of course, there are usually steps you can take to regain access to your email, but those can be time-consuming.

The other reason people lose access to their email accounts is because their account has been hacked. If your Outlook email account was hacked, it may be difficult for you to gain access again. If this happens and you’ve got a current Outlook backup file, at least you’ll have your email data that you backed up.

Don’t forget to back up your most important emails separately. Some emails contain information that’s vital your business: a contract, a proposal, or even an invoice. You’ll want to take extra measures to make sure that you’ve got an extra backup of any emails with crucial business documents or discussions. I’ll show you exactly how to do that in the steps that follow.

2. How to Backup Outlook Emails Quickly (Video)

Learn how to backup Outlook Emails quickly using PST Files: How to Backup All Your Microsoft Outlook Emails

3. How to Backup Outlook Email: Six Methods

Now that you’ve learned the importance of backing up your Outlook email information, it’s time to start learning how to do it. In this section I’ll show you six methods to back up your Microsoft Outlook email:

Method 1. How toiles in this short video:

How to backup Outlokk

Export Emails from Outlook to PST format

The first way of backing up your MS Outlook email is by exporting email messages to Outlook PST format. Before we learn how to export Outlook information to this format, you may wonder: what is the Outlook PST file format and how is it different from an Outlook OST file format?

A file with a .pst extension (PST format file) is an information file used by Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange. Examples of the types of Outlook email data you can save to a PST format file include:

  • Email folders
  • Contact information
  • Address information
  • Outlook Calendar information

You can access an Outlook PST file from the computer or server where the file is saved. You can also copy a PST format file to another location.

A PST file is different from an .ost extension file (OST file). The Outlook OST file format allows you to work offline with a copy of a file stored on your Microsoft Exchange account. The file is synched up when you go back online.

Step 1. Access the Import and Export Wizard

Now let’s learn how to create a backup Outlook PST files manually. Start in your Outlook inbox, and click the File tab. The Account Information screen appears:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

Access the Import and Export Wizard

Click the Open & Export option:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

Click the Open & Export option:

Next, click the Import/Export button. The system returns to your inbox and the Import and Export Wizard displays:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

The Import and Export Wizard gives you a variety of import and export choices.

Step. 2. Use the Wizard to Export Emails From Outlook to PST File Format

Select the Export to a file option and then click the Next> button at the bottom of the wizard. The Wizard prompts you to select a file type:

outlook backup file%20(4a)

Choose the Outlook PST File format.

Choose the Outlook Data File (.pst) option. Click the Next> button. Next, you’re prompted to select an Outlook folder that you want to export data from:

outlook backup file%20(5a)

Choose the Outlook folder that contains the data to be exported.

Use the scrollbar to move up and down to see all your current Outlook folders. When you’ve selected a folder, click the Next> button.

Note: You can also choose to backup Outlook contacts, calendar information, notes, and tasks from this prompt.

Step 3. Select the Path Where You Wish to Store Your PST Backup

outlook backup file%20(6a)

Choose where to save your file.

On the next prompt, browse to find a path to export the Outlook data file to. Or, you can save the file in the default path. If you save the file in the default path, you’ll need to specify whether you want to allow duplicate items. You can also change the file name on this prompt, which is a good idea, because the file name default is: backup.pst. Remember the file name and Outlook PST file location you selected so that you can find your Outlook PST file later.

When you’ve made your selections, click the Finish button at the bottom of the prompt. You’re prompted to create a password. This is an optional step, but it could be important if the data you’re backing up is sensitive and needs to be protected.

After you’ve exported your selected folder to a PST file, you can check to see whether the file is there by opening the folder in File Explorer.

Step 4. Find the Outlook PST File and Copy or Move It to a New Location

After you’ve created your backup email file, you can open File Explorer and find the Outlook backup file you just made. You’ll recognize it because the file Type will be Outlook Data File:

outlook backup file%20(7a)

Go to the Outlook PST file location to find the backup file you created.

  • To move a file, simply click on it and drag it into the folder where you want it to be.
  • To copy a file, click on the file you wish to copy and press CTRL + C. Open the folder where you wish the file to be and press CTRL + V.

In this case, let’s move some files to a new folder I just created called Testing. After you’ve moved the file to a new Outlook PST file location, open File Explorer to see your Outlook backup file:

outlook backup file%20(8)

Backup Outlook PST Files copied to a new location.

Step. 5. Access Your Backup Email File From Outlook

It’s great to be able to create backup files, but they won’t truly helpful to you until you can open them again in your email account. For this exercise, I’ve created a backup email file called XYZProject.pst using my other Outlook email account. I’m going to open that file from my work Outlook email account.

To access your Outlook backup file, start from the Outlook Account Information screen. Click Open & Export > Open Outlook Data File

outlook backup file%20(9)
How to backup Outlook Email 2024 1

File Explorer opens to the default location. If you’ve saved your outlook backup file elsewhere, you’ll need to navigate to the location where your backup PST file is stored. For this example, I need to navigate to the Testing folder I created earlier:

outlook backup file%20(10)

For this example, the Outlook PST file location is in the Testing folder.

Click on the file, then click Open. The system returns to your inbox.

outlook backup file%20(11)

The restored backup file(s) appear at the bottom of the Navigation Pane.

In the navigation panel on the left, you’ll see a new category at the bottom of the panel, below the archives: Outlook Data. This category contains the information from the backup folder you just opened. To open the file and access your data, click on the arrow to the left of it. Since the folder I archived was a subfolder of my Inbox folder when I archived it, that structure was preserved. I also have to click the arrow to the left of the word Inbox.

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

Now you can see the restored folder.

You can now open the folder to see the emails inside. You can also drag-and-drop the messages to other email folders.

Method 2. How to Drop and Drag Emails to File Explorer Folders

A fast and easy way back up a single email message is to drag it from your Outlook inbox into a File Explorer folder.

Start by opening your Outlook folder that contains the message you want to back up. Then open File Explorer to the folder where you want to store the backup email message:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

You can drag-and-drop email messages to move them from Outlook to File Explorer.

Click on the email message and drag it into File Explorer to create a backup email copy:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

The Outlook backup file you created with drag-and-drop is an Outlook Item file, not an Outlook Data file.

As you can see, the email we copied into File Explorer is now in my folder as an Outlook Item (not a PST File). If you double-click the item from within File Explorer, the message opens in Outlook.

Method 3. How to Save Outlook Emails as HTML or TXT Files

Another method of backing up an Outlook message is to save the email as an HTML or TXT file. This file can then be stored in the cloud. You can even attach the file to an email message, if you want to.

Start by opening your Outlook inbox, click on the email message you want to back up to open it. In the example below, I’m backing up an email about an invoice:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

Here is the Outlook email to be backed up. The attachment should be backed up separately.

Note: The invoice attachment won’t be backed up using this method. To back up the attachment, download it, make a copy, and rename the copy.

Click on the File tab at the top of the screen. The following screen displays:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

You can save an Outlook email in HTML or TXT format.

On the left, click the Save As option. File Explorer appears. Select the path where you want to store your back up email message. At the bottom of the screen, click the arrow to the right of Save as type. You’ll see the following drop-down menu with file type options:

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

The drop-down menu allows you to choose the type of file you want to save the email as.

Select the file type you want to save the email in.

Method 4. How to Forward Email to Another Email Account

If you’ve got another email account, a quick and convenient way to create a backup copy of an email is to forward it to your other email address. One advantage of this method is that the attachment will also be forwarded.

Start by opening the Outlook email you want to back up.

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

You can forward an Outlook email message to back it up.

Click the Forward icon in the Ribbon.

how to backup outlook

how to backup outlook

Choose an email to forward your message to.

Type one or several email addresses where you want to send the backup email copy.

Method 5. Back Up Outlook Email by Screen Capture

If you’ve got screen capture software loaded on your computer, you can take a screenshot as backup to show that you received a particular email (and what that email said).

This method of email back up can be particularly helpful when dealing with technical support if you want to reference an email you received from them.

Method 6. Use an Email Backup Add-In

We’ve given you a lot of Outlook email backup methods. But, there are also a lot of software tools that can help you with Outlook email backups. Here’s a description of just a few of them:

  1. Dropbox Add-in. If you’ve got the Dropbox add-in installed, you can share attachments as Dropbox links. You can also save or back up incoming email attachments to Dropbox. Since Dropbox is secure cloud storage, your information will be secure even if something happens to your computer.
  2. Evernote Add-in. The Evernote add-in lets you clip any Outlook email thread (including attachments). This means that you can access those emails on any device where you can access Evernote. You can also use Evernote to organize your stored emails.
  3. Microsoft OneNote. Microsoft’s notebook and file system, OneNote, can also help you to manage your Outlook messages. If you’ve got it integrated with Outlook, you can save emails (and their attachments) in folders with any associated files.
  4. TechHit MessageSave. The MessageSave Add-in for Outlook has a number of helpful Outlook backup features including the ability to meet government standards for email retention. You can also store email messages with other related documents. Store backup Outlook emails in MSG or PDF format.

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Does Outlook automatically backup?

Outlook itself doesn’t automatically back up your data in the traditional sense. However, it does have features and settings that can help you keep your emails, contacts, and calendar safe in case of accidents or technical issues. Here’s a breakdown:

Exchange accounts:

  • If you’re using Outlook with an Exchange account (often used for work email), your mailbox is already stored on the server and regularly backed up by your organization’s IT department. You don’t need to do anything further!

Other accounts (POP3, IMAP):

  • For personal email accounts like Gmail, Yahoo, or (POP3 or IMAP), Outlook doesn’t automatically back up your data to your local computer. However, you have a couple of options:

  • AutoArchive: This feature automatically moves older emails to a .pst file on your computer. You can configure how often and which emails are archived. While not a true backup (since the .pst file can be corrupted or lost), it’s a good way to free up space in your inbox and keep older emails accessible.

    Image of AutoArchive in Outlook
  • Export: You can manually export your entire mailbox or specific folders to a .pst file at any time. This is a good option if you want to create a complete backup of your data that you can store in a safe place, like an external hard drive or cloud storage.

    Image of Export in Outlook