Summary: Backing up Outlook data is a wise thing to do even if your profile is configured with an IMAP mailing server which anyways maintains a copy. That is because some folders you create on your local Outlook profile are specific to the machine on which it is installed, meaning that they don’t exist on the mailing server. In the event of any disaster befalling your local Outlook profile, you could end up losing the data you may have saved in any such folders.
Microsoft Outlook when configured with an IMAP mailing server maintains a local replica (copy) of the mailbox data residing on the server. This local copy is a data file having the OST (Offline Storage Table) extension and it is this file that lets users continue working on their mailboxes even if the machine’s connection with the mailing server gets disrupted. One of the key techniques of ensuring the safety of the OST file is to back it up regularly.
Outlook 2013 & 2016 Backup Troubles
Backing up IMAP configured Outlook accounts was relatively simple until Outlook version 2010. The emails were saved within one PST file and the Contacts and Calendars within another. Users could backup and maintain each PST separately thus isolating the threats to data security. However starting with Outlook 2013, things have become a little messier with significant changes being made in the way IMAP accounts are handled. Instead of using two data files, one for email and one for Calendar and Contacts, the recent Outlook versions use a single OST file to store appointments, tasks, contacts, calendars, and notes. That means that at the storage level, everything (emails and other stuff) is saved within a single file. The only place the data is segregated is in the user’s view of it. Within Outlook’s interface Contact, Calendar, and other non-email data are stored in folders labeled “This computer only”.
This kind of storage mechanism essentially points to the fact that while an automatic backup IMAP email operation is performed, automated backing up isn’t performed for Calendar or Contacts. This data resides only on the local machine. So in case some disaster like accidental deletion, virus infection, unplanned hard drive format, or hard drive crash strikes, users could end up losing their critical Contact, Calendar, and other mailbox information for good.
The only solution to this predicament is finding a way to manually backup the local folders. If you have been looking for the technique to backup IMAP OST file’s Contact, Calendar, and other folders, the solution is described in the next section.
How to backup IMAP OST File Manually
The most feasible way to backup and IMAP OST is to convert it to PST format. Exporting non-email data to PST regularly ensures that all your critical folders are backed up and your OST file stays light and away from the risks of corruption.
Note: Converting an OST file to PST brings another significant advantage with it – it enables you to move your mailbox data to another computer. Moving an OST file to another machine isn’t supported, but that restriction doesn’t apply to PST files. Thus, if you export your mailbox items from OST to PST, you can make your mailbox mobile and easily transferable between machines.
Here’s the procedure to convert OST file data to PST format through the Outlook 2013 / 2016 inbuilt Import-Export wizard:
Launch Outlook and from the top menu select File -> Open & Export -> Import/Export
From the wizard the opens up, select Export to a file
Click Outlook Data File (.PST), and then click on the Next button
Select the name of the email account to export. Only information for one account can be exported information at a time
Make sure to check the Include subfolders checkbox. This way everything in the account will be exported: Calendar, Contacts, and Inbox
Click on the Next Thereafter pick a destination to save the exported file and you should be done.
Note: This procedure will export all your folders and folder structure, however, meta-data such as folder properties won’t be exported.
What to do if this doesn’t work
Although it is rare, this kind of manual OST to PST conversion might experience issues sometimes. While the operation might omit to export the contents of certain folders in some cases, in others it may fail entirely. There shouldn’t however be any reason to panic. An automated OST to PST converter tool called Stellar Converter for OST can help you out with the task at hand. Utilizing advanced scanning and conversion algorithms, this reliable third-party software, which comes with a completely DIY interface, quickly exports all OST file data to PST format and allows you to save it at a location of your choice. In addition to the conversion capability, this product also lets you search & save individual email messages, convert encrypted OST files to PST, and fend off many Outlook errors that originate in the OST.
Wrapping it up
Be it to backup or archive local OST folders, move OST file from one computer to another, open an orphaned OST directly, or get rid of a nasty error, converting OST file to PST format helps users in a lot of situations. If the free manual method doesn’t work, you can place your trust in the reliable and efficient Stellar Converter for OST for the purpose.
Eric Simson is an Email Platform Consultant and is associated with Stellar Data Recovery from last 6 years. He writes about the latest technology tips and provides custom solutions related to MS Outlook, MS Exchange Server, Office 365, and many other Email Clients & Servers.