Entourage and Time Machine

Time Machine is a breakthrough automatic backup feature that’s built right into Mac OS X Leopard, but for Entourage users it’s recommended that you exclude your Identity from Time Machine.

Time Machine creates hourly backups and will create a copy of your database every time anything new is added to Entourage. This can quickly fill up your Time Machine drive.

One option is to add your Identity to your original Time Machine backup then exclude it. Manually add it back to Time Machine periodically to have the update included in your Time Machine backups. You can use a Task in Entourage to remind you.

Obviously, if you need regular backups this method is a big pain. In addition to the drain on your system backing up hourly you must quit  All Microsoft applications (Entourage, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, My Day, Office Reminders, Messenger) and the Microsoft Database daemon before backing up. See article Quit all Microsoft applications before backing up for the latest info on what is needed to quit for a successful backup. (clarification added April 2009)

There is an alternative for Entourage users using a Folder Action and Automator. The nice thing about this method is it can be used by those still running Tiger and it’s free.

How to “Time Machine” your Entourage Data:

The instructions below are for Leopard. Some instructions are slightly different in Tiger.

Step One:

Create a folder (preferably on another drive). In this tutorial, the folder for backups is named “Archive Entourage Mail”.Be sure to exclude this folder or drive from Time Machine. Note: some users have reported problems using folder actions on external FireWire drives.

Step Two:

Install the folder action and attach action FolderOrg.app to your “Archive Entourage Mail” folder: Learn more about folder actions.

  1. Download FolderOrgX (freeware). FolderOrgX is an AppleScript Folder Action that organizes files and folders by moving them into dated subfolders. This is helpful in keeping files and folders organized by the day they were added, not created or modified. Without this folder action, any new files added would be overwritten.
  2. Drag “FolderOrg X” file into folder “/Library/Scripts/Folder Action Scripts/”

  3. Turn Folder Actions on with Folder Actions Switch (double click to install)
  4. Attach FolderOrg X to your Folder “Archive Entourage Mail”. Use contextual menu (hold down the Control key and click the item a.k.a. Right Click) to add action.

Step Three

Open Automator in your Applications folder. Tiger users will not see options like Custom, Files & Folders, Music & Audio etc. In Tiger, Automator will open to a blank workflow. This is the only difference in using Automator. If you are new to Automator see Mac 101: Automator

Easy Way: You can download this workflow here. You will need to modify the path for the location of your data and the destination.

  1. Create a new workflow (Leopard users select custom)

  2. Select “Run AppleScript” This was edited April, 2009 to include All Microsoft applications

  3. Select Files & Folders

  4. Drag Action “Get Specified Finder Items” to the workflow area on the right of the window. Add you Identity folder (Main is the default name)

  5. Drag Action “Copy Finder Items” to the workflow area on the right of the window. Select the folder “Archive Entourage Mail” from the popup

  6. Save your workflow as as a plugin to iCal and name it “MUD Backup”. Automator automatically saves the plugin to your User’s Preferences/Workflows folder. iCal opens itself and automatically creates an event with an alarm that opens your workflow. Note: I created a calendar in iCal named Automator to hold my Automator actions.

Step Four

Using iCal to schedule your backup.

Note: In Tiger, iCal open with the Edit window open at the side, in Leopard, select Edit.

Settings for Edit window

  1. In the Edit window options, first set the time you want the backup scheduled. (As long as Time Machine is backing up the database when the file is not open (the Database Daemon is not running), then the databases should be valid.) Next, select repeat: (I selected every day) Leave end time set to Never. Note: remember to set a Schedule in System Preferences to wake shortly before the scheduled time and to sleep after it’s complete. Be sure to pad the time a bit on both ends.
  2. Click on Open file to select your “MUD Backup” workflow.
  3. An additional option is to add an alarm to notify you that the action was run. You can use the workflow included with Automator named “Daily Event Summary” for a notification.

Step Five

Managing your backups.
This is the manual part of the process. You can do this weekly or monthly depending on the space you have on your drive for backups. Like the Time Machine application, you need to keep a snapshot. If you do a daily backup, you might delete all copies and keep one per week. Then at the end of the month delete all but one backup. Often database corruption is not evident and if you need to restore your Identity you might have to go back in time to a previous update.

Added Comments:

  • If you just put Entourage into Offline mode at night the daemon will not be active. Most users have reported that as long as the database is not being used during backup there is no problem.
  • If the database gets written during the backup you can either (1) lose some data or (2) have a corrupt backup file. If you are not writing anything…e.g., no automatic Send & Receive All schedule…you can back up without quitting anything. To be absolutely safe, you should quit Entourage before backup.
  • It’s also another good reason not to let Time Machine backup your database hourly. Most likely it will be active during most of the backups during the day.
  • Try using the folder action on other folders too like your downloads, desktop or screen snaps folders. If you find the files not going into the dated folder after a restart, just select to Enable folder actions from the contextual menu.

Added April 24, 2009: See article Quit all Microsoft applications before backing up for the latest info on what is needed to quit for a successful backup.

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16 comments to Entourage and Time Machine

  • Can u direct me anywhere I can get support on importing or transfering the Microsoft user data (that was data transfered from my computer that crashed onto a hard drive) onto my new computer I followed the import instructions but it won’t allow me to import any of those folders or files?

  • dianer

    You can just copy the Microsoft User Data folder to the new location. This folder is located in your User’s Document folder.
    You can’t import from the same version. If you have been using Entourage in a new Identity and need to merge them, you can use the MBOX method or export as Entourage archive (.rge) file. This file can be imported into the same version.
    Fix if you have more than one Microsoft User Data Folder using MBOX method…
    Move the entire identity folder you want to use to the Office Identities folder that Entourage is recognizing. Your identity is named “Main” by default. Be sure to rename one so you do not overwrite. Your identity folder can contain more than one identity. Switch Identities to view your old mail. If you have not used the new identity, delete it. If you have used it and want to combine the new mail with your original database, drag each folder to the desktop from one identity. This creates an MBOX file. Switch identities. Drag the MBOX files into the folder window of Entourage.
    You can delete the old folder after you are satisfied with the transfer
    If you need further help, ask on the Entourage newsgroup and we’ll follow up there.
    How to subscribe to the Microsoft Entourage newsgroup

  • Guy

    Surely you can combine the benefits of time machine with the archive idea here, doing away with the need for FolderOrg and a separate storage.
    0. Exclude the Microsoft User Data folder in the TimeMachine options, which will stop it backing up every hour. This should be in your tutorial anyway.
    1. Create an “Entourage Backup” folder – which is not excluded.
    2. Create a timed action as per your tutorial, which will copy the entire entourage database to the backup folder, at the interval required – eveyday, every week, or whatever. This should overwrite the previous backup each time, as time machine has taken care of duplicating the last copy.

  • dianer

    Hi Guy,
    Good points. This is certainly one way to add your Entourage Identity to Time Machine. Thanks for sharing! I’ll add your suggestions to tutorial.

  • joey

    you can also add another workflow action a couple minutes beforehand to “Quit Application” and choose entourage, so it ensures entourage is closed before copying the db if you do backups during the day like me (and turn your mac off at night)

  • kevinw

    I’ve tried this and when I try to manually run it, it fails. Any suggestions where I might look for mistake. I make sure I had FolderOrg enabled but I figured that would just make sure I end up with more then one copy. Not stop it from copying. I am trying to copy to a Networked Attached Storage Device which the system sees fine. When I manually run it it just “pings” that it’s done instantly.

  • Bill Alford

    Thank you for this information. I just stopped a 7Gb backup with Time Machine due to the MUD file.
    Why can’t we get Microsoft to make their database Time Machine friendly. Surely they knew about this issue in advance.
    It makes me think twice about using an MS Exchange Server at any company now that more Apple Macs are becoming prevalent. An open source mail server may probably now be a better choice.

  • Diane Ross

    The database has been controversial since it was introduced when Entourage was first released years ago. At that time, Time Machine wasn’t even a twinkle in Apple’s eye. 🙂
    My second article describes how you can use Time Machine to backup during the night.
    Alternative method to use Entourage and Time Machine (does a once a day or whatever time period you select)
    It will be interesting to see what Mobile Me will offer.

  • Foobarro

    Great post, very helpful. I’m successfully using the alternative method described by Guy.
    What I’d like to know is more information about how to “add an alarm to notify you that the action was run. You can use the workflow included with Automator named “Daily Event Summary” for a notification”
    Basically – I want to know each day that my backup which was supposed to run the night before was successful. How do I do that? I see the “Event Summary” action in Automator, but I don’t know what to do with it…
    Thanks again,

  • If you attach a folder action “add-new item alert.scpt” you’ll get notification. You could probably add a growl notification easily too. Would have to look into exactly how to do this. SuperDuper! does this for my daily backups.

  • chicagomcp

    Did a sync w/out knowing that “last 30 days” would delete all prior calendar events.
    Did a Time Machine backup week prior all October and prior event data is there – questions are:
    1. how do I import to recover 5 years of calendar data?
    2. will it erase the last month of calendar data?
    Thanks all.

  • I hope your Time Machine backup was not done while Entourage was open. If the database is copied while being used, the backup could be corrupt.
    I haven’t tried this, but this is how I think you can accomplish this. When you recover from Time Machine it will replace your current Identity. When it replaces it, you loose everything in that database. Therefore, you need to rename your Identity so you can recover data. In the recovered Identity. Export as Entourage archive (.rge) file your Calendar Events. Import these events into your current Identity and use one of the remove duplicates scripts to clean up dups. Remove Duplicates
    Once you recover your data you can rename the Identity if desired.

  • Ian Roberts

    dianer :
    I developed the following method to save my entourage data with Time Machine. It seems too simple and perhaps you can tell me what is wrong with it.
    1. I created a new folder called “Entourageback ups”
    2. At the end of every day (from the Entourage file menu) I export “all items” to an entourage archive which is stored in the above mentioned folder. In other words creating a new “.rge” file daily.
    3. Each “.rge” folder is named for my “identity” plus the date of storage. For example yesterday’s was “identy90708.rge” (July 08, 2009)
    4. Time Machine copies those .rge files in its normal back up procedures
    5. Periodically I erase older versions of the .rge files to keep the total memory requirement reasonable. Keeping some of them is a bit of added insurance in case I need something I deleted earlier.
    6. I have two identities – one for work and one for home. I do the same for each.
    I would really appreciate your comments on my method

  • This is very similar to the method outlined in Alternative method to use Entourage and Time Machine. Backup Entourage is also recommended to read because it covers basics along with options.
    As a type of backup that could be used to restore data this is a good alternative. The only drawback to using the .rge file is you have to import this data into a new Identity. If you simply copied the Main Identity to your “Entouragebacup ups” folder, you could easily revert if there was a problem.
    Backup individual items goes into using .rge files as backups and why having multiple backup file types increases your chances of restoring your data.
    OurBackup Entourage Series has several authors and gives several alternatives to backing up Entourage.

  • Paul

    Help – I can’t find a scripts folder on my Mac (Leopard OSX) – it’s not in the Library folder…!

  • In Applications, open the AppleScript folder. You’ll find the script editor. in Leopard you’ll find the AppleScript Utility. Double click on that to put the Script icon in the Menu bar. One of the first items is Open Script folder.
    The Entourage script folder is in the Microsoft User Data folder.
    Your question indicates you might not be understanding something in the article. Can you explain what you are trying to do?