How do I make an Outlook PST file smaller?

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My Outlook PST file is huge! It takes forever to back up, and is just generally incredibly unwieldy. How can I make it smaller?

Outlook PST files are Outlook’s repositories for email, contacts, calendar information, and much more. (Not to be confused with Outlook.com or Outlook Express – those are completely different and unrelated products.)

Outlook PST files can become very, very large if you’re not paying attention, and practical considerations like speed and backups often make us want to control the size well before reaching that stage.

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Where is my Outlook “PST” file located?

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I need to backup or make a copy of my mail folders in Outlook, which as you know are stored in something called a “PST” file. I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find it. Where does Outlook hide my email? Where does Outlook keep my PST file? 

PST stands for “Personal STore” – as in your personal mail storage. PST files are actually fairly complex databases that contain your mail, your calendar, your contacts, and even more when you use Microsoft Office’s Outlook mail program. (Not to be confused with Outlook.com, the online mail service from Microsoft, which is completely unrelated.)

The default location has changed a time or two over the years. Of course, there’s always a chance that your PST is stored in some other, non-default location.

Rather than telling you where the default location is, let’s use Outlook itself to tell you the exact path of your PST file and then use Windows itself to do the same.

Read moreWhere is my Outlook “PST” file located?