With the new unified Inbox option in Outlook that groups your Inboxes, Drafts, Deleted Items and Junk folders, some users are confused over mail that is downloaded to their computer or mail that is on the server. More info on the unified Inbox.
What are folders “On My Computer”?
Messages that are in folders under “On My Computer” are stored on your computer. Exchange users often archive messages from their Exchange account to “On My Computer” to free up space on their Exchange server. More info on archiving messages using OEAO
Outlook downloads all POP accounts to the folders under “On My Computer”. Whether you have one or more POP accounts, unless you have a rule to move your messages , they will all go to the default Inbox under “On My Computer”. See below for how to create a rule to move each POP account to it’s own Inbox.
If you have an Exchange or IMAP account, they will create folders in the folder list under the Account- each with their own Inboxes, Drafts, Sent, Junk folders. Mail in these accounts are kept on a server. One advantage of having mail on the server is you can create a new Identity in Outlook and download your mail from the server again if Outlook’s Identity is too corrupt to recover. See this chart “Compare Sync options for POP, IMAP & Exchange Accounts“:
The unified Inbox groups all accounts under one Inbox to make viewing all your mail easier. This is optional. You can select if you want to group folders in Outlook’s Preferences > General.
How do I know what type of account I have?
Open Accounts under Tools in the Menu bar or select Accounts in Preferences. The account type is shown in the top of the window.
What if I don’t have the “On My Computer” header?
There are two reasons why you might not see “On My Computer” folders.
- If you create an Outlook Identity with only a POP account(s), it doesn’t create the “On My Computer” header.
- You only have an Exchange account and you selected in Preferences to Hide On My Computer folders. More Info
How do I move subfolders out of the Inbox if I don’t have the header “On My Computer”?
If you select File > New > Folder. It makes the folder a subfolder of the Inbox. Entourage gave us the option to make a new folder and/or subfolder. Outlook only gives us New folder.
This makes a folder that is a subfolder of the Inbox.
Normally, to move a folder out of the Inbox to the root level you drag to the “On My Computer” header. I found if you drag into the folder area it will highlight (note the green line..green is my hight color yours might be different) and this will allow you to move the folder to root location.
What do I need to know to protect my messages in folders under “On My Computer”?
- If Outlook crashes, it’s possible that you can loose that data.
- If you have set your POP account to “leave on server” that data will be available to download again, but it won’t contain your Sent messages or Draft messages.
- If you archived your Exchange or IMAP messages to folders “On My Computer” and they are no longer on the server, those messages could be lost unless you backup.
- Backup of your Identity folder is crucial!
What are my options to backup?
Before you look at your options you need to know where your data is stored. Outlook creates an Identity in the Office 2011 Identities folder. You can find the Identities folder in this location. Your identity is named Main by default.
~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/Main Identity
- Use Time Machine or other backup software to backup the Main Identity folder.
- Export your data as .olm file under File > Export.
- Drag messages to the desktop as .eml files.
- Use a third party app like EagleFiler to save your messages. More Info.
- Make a duplicate in the Finder of your Main Identity folder.
- There is no export as .pst or .mbox file at this time.
- There is no archive option for Exchange users built into Outlook at this time.
More info on archiving messages using OEAO
- Create a free Gmail IMAP account and upload messages to the server. You get 7+ GB free. More info
How do I export a single folder as .olm file?
- Create a category for that folder. I suggest you use a prefix to indicate it’s a folder category.
- Select all messages in folder and assign category.
- Under File > Export, select to export by category.
- Save file > change name to reflect the folder exported.
Tip: Use FolderOrg folder action on folder you use to save your archived files. This will put each .olm file into a folder by date. It’s important to keep snapshots. This allows you to go back in time to recover a message that might not be included in your most current backup.
How do I restore a single item from my Time Machine backup?
You cannot restore a single item from your Outlook Time Machine backup. You will need to restore the entire Identity first. I suggest you save to the Desktop so you can rename. After you rename, drag to the Office 2011 Identities folder in this location.
~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/
- “Switch Identity” to the restored Identity. How to switch to a new Identity in Outlook 2011
- Export the data you want or drag item to Desktop.
- Switch back to your Main Identity and import or drag in the item(s)
- Delete the restored Identity after you are satisfied that you have the data you want.
Recommended: Export your contacts only as .olm file. This way if your sync erases or duplicates your contacts you can restore from your contact.olm file. Do the same of calendar events, notes and tasks. Exporting as individual items allows you to restore only that item and not deal with duplicates.
You can create a rule to move each POP account to it’s own Inbox. You will need to create the folder.
Create a folder for the account. In this example I created a folder named Inbox Live.com for my Windows Live POP account.
None of my events appear on my calendar although they appear in My Day just fine. I also don’t see any categories in calendars list. [Added 2011-02-20]
Most likely you’ve enabled the option to hide your local folders. Go to the Outlook menu –> Preferences… and click General. De-select the option Hide On My Computer folders.
For help troubleshooting your Identity see Troubleshoot Outlook (how to rebuild and repair)
Comments are now closed on this post. It’s evolved into a place to just ask for help, not to ask about folders.
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