Basics: Folders On My Computer

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.

  1. If you create an Outlook Identity with only a POP account(s), it doesn’t create the “On My Computer” header.
  2. 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 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.

  • 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.

What if I want each POP account to go to it’s own Inbox?

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 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.

Please ask for help on the forums. Answers -Office for Mac


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51 comments to Basics: Folders On My Computer

  • What if I want to move calendar events from the On My Computer view to an Exchange calendar? In Entourage it was as simple as doing an advanced search for all events and then using the Right Click -> Move to Folder feature.

  • Jennifer

    I use an exchange server but had a POP account before. I still have both accounts setup but do not need or use the POP address anymore. (it’s actually the same email address). I continue to get mail in the “on my computer” files on my computer in the sent and deleted files. If I delete that POP account, will all of the email in the “on my computer” files be deleted as well? I have other important folders “on my computer” that I definitely do not want deleted. Help!

    • Deleting a POP account does not delete any messages in “On My Computer” folders. Another option is to remove the POP account from the Send & Receive All schedule in Outlook or uncheck in Account for Entourage.

      Be sure to check if you have a rule that is moving messages there from the Exchange account.

  • Jana Orem

    I recently installed Lion on my Mac. After doing so all of the e-mail files saved to my computer disappeared from both Outlook and the earlier version of Entourage. Any idea what may have happened. How would I know if I could recover them? I last backed up on September 29.

    • It depends on how you installed? It sounds like you didn’t backup prior to upgrading to Lion so it’s possible you won’t be able to recover your most recent data.

      Look for a private email from me.

  • Leo

    Very helpful, thanks. So can a rule move messages to an Exchange *server* folder? It looks like if you select it to move to “Exchange/Sent Items” for example, it actually goes to an “On My Computer” Sent Items?

    • I might not be understanding your question fully….

      If you have a POP account, sent messages will be saved in the local “On My Computer” Sent folder by default. There is no option in account to set a different sent folder. You can try an outgoing rule to move sent messages from a POP account to the Exchange sent folder. If this doesn’t work, you can select to Move them manually.

      • Leo

        Hey, thanks for the quick reply. I’m trying to have a rule move gmail sent messages to the Exchange Sent Items folder. It’s moving them to a Sent Items folder in the “On My Computer” group which isn’t visible from my iPhone. So i’m trying to get the rule to move it to the Exchange Server’s Sent Items which does sync. Is that more clear? Thanks again.

        • In Accounts, select your Gmail account > Advanced > Folders do not check to leave anything on the server. When you send from a Gmail account in Outlook, it always sends to the Sent folder under “On My Computer”. Gmail also makes a copy in the Sent folder online.

          Does your phone sync to Gmail online?

  • Leo

    BTW, the reason I’m doing this gyration is I want the from-address on my emails to be my, not my hosted-Exchange domain. The only way I know to do that is to have Outlook send them via gmail (uses IMAP I believe). Hope this helps someone else too. I see a lot of questions out there on trying to get Outlook working with a Gmail address.

  • JasonD

    I have a user with an imac/ipad/iphone 4s. when the mac is off the other two devices recieve her exchange email correctly. Turn on the mac and open outlook 2011 and the emails disappear from the devices. I believe it is due to the on my computer option. The exchange emails are being moved from server to local computer. I can find no rules to do this or anyway to reverse. what do you suggest? Will hiding it accomplish what I want?

    • If the devices are selected to sync with Exchange and Outlook is removing from Exchange that would remove the messages so you wouldn’t be able to view on ipad and iphone.

      You can try turning off the “On My Computer” option, but something is moving the mail from Exchange. It’s either a local rule or a rule on the server. Check the Mailing List Manager first then check Rules.

  • Aamer

    Hi Diane, do you know how to automatically store a sent email to the same email folder it is being replied from in Outlook 2011 for Mac?

    Many Thanks

  • Barry

    Hi Diane,

    I need to remove a users exchange account from the machine and add a pop
    account with the same email address. If I delete the exchange account, will it
    delete all the mail on the machine?

    It’s pretty much like Jennifer’s situation only reversed.

    Thanks in advance

  • Manmeet

    I use a MB 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo upgraded to 4gb 1333 MHz DDR3. Was originally installed with Leopard which I upgraded to Snow Leopard. And I use the Microsoft office 2011 for Mac.
    I upgraded to LION when it was launched (directly downloaded the Beta version from App Store). I have been using a time capsule in office since a month now which backs up every hour when the mac is connected. Few days back, I switched on the laptop and opened Outlook and found it was empty, even the accounts were gone….
    I patiently read all the info offered on the internet forums on restoring Outlook from Time Capsule and did the needful but outlook did not rebuild the database. I had a week’s backup on my server which i downloaded and am slowly rebuilding from there (asking my contacts to resend me mails for last 6 months) This has been very frustrating for me….i hv been reading all the help & support forums and i have gone thru 4 third party manuals for office 2011 for Mac and realized that no one has addressed the issues faced in restoring from time capsule for outlook.
    If someone can help me to solve this and recover my mail, i am willing you to declare you GOD….

    • First, I’m confused over what beta version you downloaded from the app store. Microsoft Office is only available for download via the Microsoft store.

      Usually when Outlook opens in a new blank Identity, it’s a result of User error. If you moved the Microsoft User Data folder or the Outlook Identities folder it will create a new blank Identity.

      You indicate you have mail on the server. Is this IMAP or Exchange? You should not rebuild an Identity with Exchange. Even IMAP accounts do best by deleting the account so the Outlook cache files are deleted. You are only rebuilding “On My Computer” folders. The rub comes from restoring an Identity that will not open until you rebuild. I would do the hail mary step 3 to recover messages.


      1) Click the Time Machine icon in the Dock or open it from the Applications folder.

      2) Use the arrows and the timeline along the right edge of your screen to browse through the Time Machine backups. When you find the Main Identity file, select it, and then click Restore. Select to save on the Desktop.

      3) Rename Main Identity on Desktop to “Restored Main Identity”.

      4) Drag “Restored Main Identity” to the Office 2011 Identities folder.

      ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/

      5) In Disk Utility Select “Restored Main Identity” and select to rebuild. Also set to default.
      After the rebuild, open Outlook

      6) You can export data from the newer Identity as .olm file to merge with the older data.
      File > Export (select the default action to export as .olm file. You might only want to select messages)

      7) File > Import select the .olm file into your main Identity. You’ll need to drag from imported folder to the local folders/calendars, contacts etc.

  • Richard

    Do you know how to change the default location for the “On my computer” main identity? I want to move to a location managed via Dropbox so I can access the “On my computer” information from multiple locations?

    • You cannot share your Outlook Identity via DropBox. If you want your data ‘shared’ you should use IMAP to share messages or get a hosted Exchange account to share all info.

  • T. Bunch

    I have done all of these and it works for the most part. However, Entourage will not support all of the folders my Windows Live has under Inbox. I can only use some of the folders if I click on the account name, find it in the list of folders and double click on it. I will bring in the folder and the emails assigned to that folder. But as soon as I quite Entourage, the folder disappears again and all of the emails I had moved into it from the Inbox get put back into the Inbox. It does this for MANY folders, and MANY times. Please help if you can.

  • rwh

    Re-asking Richard’s question, with a tweak: is it possible to change the location where Outlook stores “On My Computer” data (emails, calendars, etc)? Here’s why I want to do this. I’m using both my company email account (via Exchange) and a personal email account. My company also has installed a backup solution which will back up everything under ~/Documents/*. Since the “On My Computer” stuff lives in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/, my personal email is getting backed up to my company’s backup repository – and I don’t want that to happen.

    Unfortunately I can’t change the backup solution to exclude those directories – so the only choice is to move them out of ~/Documents/.

    Is it possible to configure Outlook to change the location where it stores “On My Computer” data?

    Thanks for your insights…

    • Other than using a separate User account, you should just leave the Microsoft User Data folder where it is. If you try to move it to a different location and Outlook looses the link, Outlook will open in a new blank Identity. Also your Exchange mail will not be backed up by the company backup. I’m also assuming you have other private files in Documents. If you do move it and use an alias in it’s place in ~/Documents DO NOT move to another drive. If you have a DropBox account DO NOT move your Microsoft User Data folder or Identity folder to DropBox. Depending on where you move it, Spotlight might not index then Outlook will fail to show items like tasks, notes, messages etc.


      Go to System Preferences –> Create a New User in Accounts. Switch to the New User by logging out/in or use Fast User Switching.

      Use the new User for personal mail and files.

  • Jocelyn

    Diane –

    I’ve been using Mac Outlook 2011 for a few months with no problems. Yesterday, all the messages in all folder disappeared. I opened Outlook – they were there and when it started receiving all the previous messages vanished. The messages are technically still there because if I filter for messages received in the last month – they appear again.

    Here is what I have done so far –
    * I deleted the account and re-added it. (That just resulted in duplicated hidden messages)
    * I double checked that no filters are on
    * I double checked that the “hide on my computer folder” isn’t checked
    * I repaired and verified the permissions in the disk utility.

    Any other suggestions? I’m just lost because it seems like a filter is on, but I can’t find it.

    – Jocelyn

    • Note: Always give type of account. Answers vary by account type. (POP, IMAP, Exchange)

      This could be a sign of database corruption, but try this option first. Lists are generated by Spotlight cache files. Try re-indexing your drive.


      From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.

      * Click Spotlight.
      * Make sure Mail Messages is checked under the Search Results tab.
      * Click the Privacy tab.
      * Drag a folder or even an entire volume (your hard drive) to the list.
      * Remove the item or volume you just added.
      * Spotlight will re-index the contents of the item you initially dragged to the list.

      Depending on your Mac and the contents of its hard disk, re-indexing may take several hours to days. Until this process is finished, Spotlight won’t know the contents of your disks and neither will Outlook. All lists like contacts, events, notes etc. are generated by the Spotlight searches.

  • Andy W

    Thanks for the good overview. However, I have not been able to create a new folder at the root level. I tried your suggestion but it didn’t work for me. I have the latest code – 14.1.3.

    I have two email accounts set up – an Exchange account (work) and a pop account (personal).

    At the root level I have an “Inbox” folder with two sub folders – one for my work (Exchange) email and “On My Computer” (OMC). I can create sub folders under OMC but I cannot move them to the root. I can move them under one of the other delivered high level folders but for the life of me, I have not been able to move them to root. The only reason for doing this is for organization. An Inbox should just be that. I do not want to keep old emails under my OMC inbox but it seems that this is all I am capable of doing.

    My exchange account has a nice high level folder under which I have neatly organized my read email. I would like to do the same for my POP account.


    • Can you send me a screen shot showing your folder list? That might help me see the problem. I sent you an email. Reply with the screenshot attached.

      To take a picture of part of the screen, press Command-Shift-4 and drag to select the area you want.

      Instead of using the keyboard shortcut above, screenshots can be taken by using the Grab application included with Mac OS X. It is located at /Applications/Utilities/Grab.

      More Info:
      Mac OS X: Shortcuts for taking pictures of the screen

    • Open Outlook preferences
      Under General, uncheck “group folders”
      Control-Click (Right-click) on “On My Computer” select “new folder”
      It will automatically make a folder at root level.
      Turn “group folders” back on after you are finished.

      See this link for screenshots.

  • Deb D.

    Bookmarked. Thanks! Very helpful information!

  • Dores

    Hi Diane,

    I cant see my folders in ‘On My Computer’, I did find them (emails) in user folder.
    How can I import them back, I have a lot of folders, so drag and drop one email at a time it will take me hours.

    I try to copy/paste, import/greyed out and drag and drop folders into my computer with no luck.

    I have Entourage 2008, .eml files. total foder size around 3GB.

    Thanks for your help.

  • Dores


    After I re-started entourage “On My Computer” folder are gone, they are no longer listed.

    All I can see now:

    On My Computer
    Deleted Items
    Send Items

    And before I had folders 1-20. Etc.

    On My Computer
    Deleted Items
    Send Items
    Folder 1
    Folder 2
    Folder 3
    Folder 4
    Folder 5
    Folder 6
    Folder 7 and so on.

    How can they vanished?

    Thank you.

    • Do you see your Accounts, contacts, calendar events or are they also missing? If everything is missing, it sounds like you opened Entourage in a new blank Identity.

      In the Finder, navigate to your Office 2008 Identities folder:

      ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2008 Identities/your identity

      Check the size of the database. If it’s 24.7 MB it’s a new blank Identity.

      Entourage expects the Microsoft User Data folder to be in your Documents folder. For OS X users, that’s the Documents folder in your User’s folder.When Entourage opens in a new blank Identity, it’s usually User error.

      Most likely you have accidentally moved your data. Hopefully, you have not deleted the file. If you have deleted the trash, it’s gone. Sorry!

      Four options why your data can go missing:

      1) You moved your Identity or Microsoft User Data folder
      2) It’s in an invisible folder called ‘lost & found’
      Under the ‘go’ menu, select ‘go to folder’. In that dialog, enter
      “/lost+found” (without the quotes).

      If there is a lost+found folder it will open, if not, you will get a ‘folder not found’ error.

      3) Virus software quarantined your Identity

      4) Sometimes updating software (including OSX) can cause problems where files go missing

      To find your old identity, search for “Microsoft User Data” or “Main Identity” or “Office 2008 Identities” (without the quotes).. If you find it move it back.

      If you have a backup you can restore. However if Time Machine copied the database while it was open most likely it’s a corrupt database.

      Add link restore tm

      When you find the missing Identity…

      If you have not used a new identity in Entourage, then copy the entire Microsoft User Data folder to the correct location.

      Fix if you have more than one Microsoft User Data Folder…

      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,

        Export data under File > Export all items as .rge file.
        Mail only: 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 identity after you are satisfied with the transfer.

      If you don’t have a backup, then take this opportunity to learn from your mistakes and start a good backup strategy.

  • Jason

    Hi, I have an Exchange account setup in Outlook 2011. Recently all emails received get move to the On My Computer Inbox automatically.. I have no runs setup and this never happened until recently. Any ideas why this is happening. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Check for a Mailing List Manager rule that is moving your messages. Look under Tools > Mailing List Manager in the Menu bar It’s easy to accidentally create a MLM rule.


      There are 3 different kind of rules:

      Mailing List Manager (MLM)
      Junk Mail Filter
      Rules (custom rules you create)

      They run in the order listed above. The custom rules also run in the order they are listed. (top runs first)

  • Jason

    Thank you Diane! The MLM was it. Have no idea how user created that rule but it was there! I really appreciate the time you took to respond.

  • It’s easy to accidentally create a Mailing List Manager rule when marking a message as junk. It’s one of the top FAQs of all time.

  • Steve

    Hi, I have a macbook pro with outlook 2011 with an exchange account and the Inbox shows messages from all folders. When I send an email the sent item shows up in the inbox, it also shows in the sent items folder. The problem is that I also have an iphone with the same exchange account that if I delete an email on the iphone I briefly see 2 copies of the message in the macbook exchange inbox and then one disappears. However the message shows back up on the iphone. I have disabled the unified inbox feature but the only account on the macbook is the exchange account.

    Is the fact that all messages are showing up in the inbox the problem? If so how do I stop all sent and deleted messages from showing up in the inbox?

    • Check for rule that is moving your messages to the Inbox. It’s easy to add a Mailing List Manager rule when marking a message as junk. If you don’t find a rule in Outlook, it could be a server side rule.


      There are 3 different kind of rules:

      Mailing List Manager (MLM)
      Junk Mail Filter
      Rules (custom rules you create)

      They run in the order listed above. The custom rules also run in the order they are listed. (top runs first)

      1) POP Rules act on a message ONLY when it first arrives in the Inbox (On My Computer), NOT when it arrives in any other folder. Once it’s moved to another folder it won’t be seen by rules.

      2) IMAP Rules are meant to act on a message ONLY when it first arrives in the IMAP INBOX, not when moved to another IMAP folder.

      3) Exchange Rules act on a message ONLY when it first arrives in the Exchange Inbox.

      Each type of account has it’s own rules. Click on the correct tab to check your rules. POP, IMAP, Exchange, Outgoing

  • Chris

    I have outlook for mac 2011. I have 7 email addresses that I use outlook for. Mostly work emails that are exchange and two that are personal (gmail). Each email address has it’s own inbox. Everything has worked just fine with outlook for the past year, until yesterday, when all of my incoming mail for the gmail address started appearing in the ‘On My Computer’ folder. I’ve never used the ‘On My Computer’ folder before, and I dont know why all of a sudden all of my personal email has decided to come in and out of that folder now. I can still see the old inbox next to all the others and it has all the old email in it, before 4pm yesterday.
    How do I fix this and make it go back to normal? Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Check for a Mailing List Manager rule that is moving your messages. Look under Tools in the Menu bar.

      • Chris

        Thank you! I’ll try that. I really appreciate your quick reply and obviously vast knowledge of this program. Great site! I actually did mess around with trying to make a mailing list around the time the email started moving – just didn’t even think that would be connected.

        Just out of curiosity then – how do I create a mailing list of 10 or so friends?

        • The Mailing List Manager is completely different from what you call a mailing list. What you want to do is create a “Group” in Contacts. File > New Contact Group. Add your friends to the Group, name and save. I like to start all my group names with the word group. That way I don’t have to remember what I specifically named my group. I start typing group in the “To” line and it brings all my group choices. If you only have a couple of groups this would be overkill.

          FWIW, a mailing list is a term used for big lists that discuss a specific topic. The Mac-L list is a mailing list to discuss Mac OSX. Script Outlook mailing list is to support writing scripts for Outlook. Most mailing lists are much larger than a group an individual would create and not be a spammer.

  • Chris

    Diane – Thank you! Truly. It’s very nice to have a place to ask questions and know that you’ll get a full and well-written reply/answer.

    I appreciate what you do.



  • Dores

    Thank you Diane !

  • Tony

    I have Mac Outlook 2011 working with our exchange 2010 server. Also have my iPhone connected to my exchange 2010 account. Problem is that messages on my Outlook that are moved from my inbox to my deleted folder on my mac do not get deleted from the inbox on the exchange 2010 server. I can view the message is still there on my iPhone and using the owa web interface. Is there a setting somewhere in the Mac Outlook 2011 that affects how outlook interacts with exchange on marking deleted and read messages?
    Thanks for your time.


  • Comments are now closed on this post. It’s evolved into a place to just ask for help not to ask about folders.

    Please ask for help on the forums. Answers -Office for Mac