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Don’t lose your email! Here’s how to export and import your Outlook inbox

For many professionals, Microsoft Outlook is the center of their workflow. That being the case, it’s important to make sure that the application’s files — your emails records, contacts, and calendars — are periodically backed up to a safe location. Likewise, if you’re moving to a new PC, it’s a lot easier to re-load a single file than to go through the tedious process of setting up your email accounts again. Luckily, Outlook makes it simple to manually back up your account and settings, and to re-import them for easy setup. The guide below applies to Office 2010, Office 2013, and Office 2016.

Related: Want to link Outlook with other email accounts? Here’s how

Backing up your files

Step 1: To start backing up your files in Outlook 2013 and 2016, click the File menu and select Open & Export from the left-hand menu.


Step 2: Click the Import/Export button to open the Import and Export Wizard, which will also kick you out of the touch-friendly menu system — it’s best to have a conventional keyboard and mouse or touchpad for the following steps. In Outlook 2010, click File, select Options, and click Advanced.


Step 3: Click Export to open the wizard. The following steps are identical for all three versions of Outlook.

outlook export to a file

Step 4: Select Export to a file from the action list and click Next, which will result in two options. Select Outlook Data File (.pst), and click Next again. On the next screen, select which files and folders you want to back up. Most of the time, you’ll want to create a complete backup of the files for one account. To do this, simply click the email address associated with the account, the first item in the list, and  click Next. Make sure that Include subfolders is checked so that you capture all the information.

outlook select folder

Step 5: If you want greater control of what’s backed up, click an individual mail folder, the Contacts or Calendars section, or any of the other options in the list. By default, all of the folders within a selected folder will be backed up as well. To disable this behavior, uncheck the box marked include subfolders. To remove specific email messages from the backup, such as mail sent to or from your personal address, click filters. On this screen, you can create a search by word, subject or body field, to or from address, or time. More advanced filters, including size, flags, and importance ratings, are available via the More Choices and Advanced tabs. When you’re finished setting up your filters, click OK to return to the export menu.


Step 6: The next screen allows you to select the location and name of your backup file. Click Browse, then navigate to the folder you want, name the file, and click OK. The browser window will then close.

outlook desktop

Step 7: Click Finish. You can add a password to this file for extra security, or leave both fields blank if you don’t want to assign a password. Then, click OK to create the backup file. Keep in mind that it may take a few seconds if you have a ton of emails stored in Outlook.

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