What's the best way to archive email?


Active Member
My ISP, as for many others, limits my storage on their servers. I have opted for an IMAP account as I like to use several devices to access email and I value the single storage space concept. However, my ISP will remove ("archive") my email from my webmail once it gets over a certain size. Basically, what I have to do is reduce the amount of email that I have on their server ...and soon!

I am a hoarder and find it very useful at times to be able to interrogate my email and pull out some old but important communication. Now, I know that I need to spend some more time getting rid of the junk and be a bit more strict about what I keep. However, this alone will not solve my problem. What I want to do is to store my email on a hard drive so it can be deleted from my webmail. I've tried doing this in the past by just copying email and moving it to a hard drive. However, viewing and searching in the files stored in this way was not easy as it was just a huge stack of folders on my hard drive. An email client such as Outlook has the functionality that I can, for instance, group emails by the sender at the click of a mouse, and this is what I would like to have.

Is there a good way to download my email from my ISP (given that it's an IMAP account) and store it in a way that I can interrogate it like on an email client? Could I download it and still use my email client to search within it?

Any information, ideas, or explanations would be very useful.


Distinguished Member
emclient has automatic archiving built in, the messages will be moved to a local folder after a set period of time.

See their manual, look at settings->automatic archiving.

I'd imagine Outlook has such a feature but I dont use it.


Active Member
emclient has automatic archiving built in, the messages will be moved to a local folder after a set period of time.

See their manual, look at settings->automatic archiving.

I'd imagine Outlook has such a feature but I dont use it.
It does, a pretty good one too I should add.

It is very easy to set up rules in outlook that can act on date, folders, senders address, subject, or indeed an enormous number of variations to achieve messages automatically... and of course you can manually archive files and folders to .pst if you wish.


Active Member
Thanks for the reply. What I did (being a cautious fellow) was to do a test. What I did was:

  1. I created a folder in Outlook as a test and moved some old unwanted emails into it.
  2. I created a folder on my HDD to store the test folder.
  3. I manually archived the Outlook test folder to the folder on my HDD.
What I found was a .pst file in the folder that I had created on my HDD. However, clicking on the .pst file brought up an error message telling me that I can only open .pst files in Outlook!

OK so I've misunderstood this somwhere! What should I have done?

My objective is to store some chosen emails (a lot of them!) on a hard drive and to be able to open them and see things like the date received etc. so that I can group them like in Outlook when I need to or do a search for a particular email. I will then delete the corresponding emails from my webmail and reduce the server space I am using at my ISP.


Active Member
Yes it is a common misunderstanding about opening .pst files with outlook. you cannot open them by double clicking on them as you would with a normal file, it will give you the error you have received.

You have to open outlook first, i.e. open them from within outlook. Then go to File - Open and Export - Open Outlook data file - navigate to where your .pst file is and click open. it will then be opened as a seperate mailbox with all the subfolders etc in the left hand pane.

This may vary very slightly depending on your version of outlook but that is the process to open a .pst file.

You can then simply drag your messages or folders there to move them, or you can also right click, drag and select 'copy' to copy them there too. Once you've finished you can close the .pst file manually by right clicking on the mailbox if you wish, that way it wont be opened automatically again once you reopen Outlook.
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Active Member
OK so I've had a go but I still seem to be getting it wrong somewhere!

Creating an Archive:
What I'm doing in my version of Outlook is:

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. File>Cleanup tools>Archive>Find my 'dummy' folder.
  3. A mailbox called 'Archive' appears in Outlook. I've managed to add several of these in Outlook and don't seem to be able to delete the ones I don't want (See image 03 showing Outlook).
Opening Archive Files:
  1. Open Outlook.
  2. File>Open>Open Outlook data file. Unfortunately, when I do this I just get the message that the folder is empty. I've attached images 01 and 02 to show what I see in Outlook.
I'm missing something!


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Active Member
I see.

I tend not to archive this way since it can be problematic. I suggest you try this.

Open Outlook

File - Open & Export - Import Export

Select "Export to a file" which is the second option from the top. You will get another screen open

Select "Outlook Data File (.pst)

Select the Outlook folder you want to export. If you want subfolders for that leave tick box selected. "Filters" allow you to do a very granular selection, but by default everything in the folder will be exported (though not archived). Click Next

Navigate to where you want to save the file, or accept default which is backup.pst Click Finish.

The next screen gives you the option to password protect the file, that way if you have it stored somewhere and someone comes across it (a nosey spouse or jilted ex for example) it is password protected.


Click OK.

An new .pst file with the name you defined (backup.pst is default) will appear in the directory you specified.
Go through the opening process I described in an earlier post.

When you open the file, it will by default say, "We didn't find anything here" this is because you are in the folder ROOT! where no files exist.

If you look in the left hand pane of outlook you will not see a new outlook instance called "Outlook Data file"
If you click the little triangle you will see it opens the mailbox (.pst file you just created) with the folder you elected to export in it. You will also notice however many files were in the original have also been exported here. This is why I've said it exports but not Archives, because the files still also remain in the original location. You can of course delete them from the original location if you wish (since this is what you wanted to do in the first place.

You can now set rules against your mail box to archive messages to your newly created .pst file.

You can also copy, move, files from your main mail box by dragging them here directly. You can also create folders inside this new mail space by right clicking on it.

Hope this helps.
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Active Member
Hi that looks like Outlook 2003 there are slight differences. What version are you using? Sorry been a while since I've used it. But hit the import option I think that should do it. Not sure why it doesn't have export as well since the icon suggest it is both import and export, see the comparison with outlook 2013 below.

Let me know if that does it, but let me know what version you have and I will find out for definite.

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Active Member
Correction, I think that I have cracked it! This is where I went:

  1. Opened Outlook.
  2. Selected green/blue opposing arrows 'Import'.
  3. Selected import from another programme or file.
  4. Selected Outlook data file.pst.
  5. Browsed for my storage folder.
  6. Clicked the small black triangle which showed my 'dummy' file.
  7. Clicked finish and the content of my dummy file came up.
Thanks for guiding me through this. I wish that Microsoft wouldn't keep changing the pathways and names through this stuff!

Noted about then deleting stored messages from the server but as you say this is where I wanted to go anyway.
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Active Member
I've run into a problem! When I try and open a newly created .pst file with my email in it I can't get it to work in Outlook. What I've done is:

  1. I created a new file with a load of emails in it that I wanted to keep. I can see it on my HDD and it's about 17Mb in size.
  2. I opened Outlook and did: file>open>selected green/blue opposing arrows "Import".
  3. Selected "import from another program or file".
  4. Browsed for my new .pst file.
  5. The process started illustrated by a green bar creeping across, presumably as it worked through the data in the .pst file.
  6. I got a "Your IMAP server closed the connection" error message up.
  7. Clicked OK and there was a further error message "Some items cannot be copied, they were either moved or deleted or access denied."
  8. Clicked OK.
  9. My newly created .pst file did not appear under "Outlook data file" in Outlook?
Looks like I have done something wrong!

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