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Outlook 2010/2013 and My Documents redirection

Are you using Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013 and is your My Documents folder redirected to a network share?
This is a must read then…

While I’ve warned before about not to save pst-files to a network share, this issue requires some additional care and attention when using Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013 as you might be doing it unnoticed or (as a network administrator) might deploy Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013 with the default storage location pointing to a network share.

Note: Depending on your version of Windows, the folder is either called “My Documents” or “Documents”. For clarity, I will only refer to the folder in question as “My Documents”.

Change of defaults

Outlook 2010 is the first version of Outlook where the default location of pst-files is set to the “My Documents” folder (in a sub folder called “Outlook Files”). Previously, pst-files were stored in a folder which is actually intended for local settings and caching only.

As the pst-file is considered as data which people like to keep, placing it in the My Documents folder makes more sense so that it cannot be overlooked and is automatically backed up when the entire My Documents folder is backed up or moved over to a new computer.

Corporate network shares, Windows Home Server and NAS-systems

While the above is a good change for most (home users), it’s not so good for people who have their My Documents folder redirected to a network share. This is often the case in (larger) corporate networks where the users get a mapped network share (Home Directory or Home Drive) where the My Documents folder is redirected to. The same is true for people who have a Windows Home Server or a NAS-system in their network.

Because of this (automatic) redirection and because of the changed defaults in Outlook 2010, your pst-files will also be created by default on a network share and will directly place you in an unsupported configuration before you even got started. As Outlook 2010 also queries the pst-file much more than previous versions of Outlook (with features like Conversation view and the People Pane/Social Connector), you’ll also be affected by this much more than when you had the pst-file located on a network share with previous versions of Outlook.

Do not connect to pst-files stored on a network drive
STOP!!! A network share is not where you want to connect to with Outlook.

Move the pst-file back locally and backup to a network share

The solution to this issue is easy; move your pst-file back to your local hard drive. You can use any location which is convenient to you. Create for instance a folder called C:\Your name\Outlook or, if you have a separate partition or hard drive in your computer, you could create it on that drive instead (external drives are not recommended).

To make sure that your pst-file is still being included in the (daily?) backups of the network drives, you can use the free Personal Folders Backup Add-in by Microsoft. This allows you get automatic reminders to make a backup when you close Outlook (as often as once a day) and initiate a backup for all your pst-files to a network share with a single click.

Note 1: The Outlook Backup add-in requires an additional registry key change for Outlook 2010 compatibility.

Note 2: Do not try to “outsmart” the system by marking your Home Directory to be made available off-line. While this might work in theory, in reality you could be confronted with very long logon and logoff times which could result in a total loss of the pst-file when interrupted.

Change the default

To make sure that Outlook doesn’t create any new pst-file files in the redirected My Documents folder, you can add a registry key with a new default location. The key involved and how it works is explained here; Change default location for pst and ost files

If you are a network administrator, you can force a new location by using Setting Outlook Group Policies or even disable the usage of pst-files in the network completely. Another option would be to make a settings change when preparing your deployment with the Office Customization Tool (OCT).



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