How to move your data to a new Identity

[This article was written for Users that had issues upgrading from Office 14.1.x to 14.2.1. If you did not upgrade from 14.1.x and need to move to a new Identity, follow steps here to move to a new Identity.]

How to move your data to a new Identity

Even though some users had what seemed to be a successful upgrade to the 14.2.1 database, issues in the Identity are causing concern. You can try rebuilding, but if that fails, you need to move to a new Identity. If you do not have any data under “On My Computer” folders: messages, contacts, events, notes and tasks, you can simply start over in a new Identity. Enter your Exchange account and let your data download into your new Identity.

This option works as long as you can open the Identity. Some users might need to revert to v14.1.4 in order to use this option. How to revert to Microsoft Office for Mac 14.1.4 after upgrading to SP2.

Always start by making a copy of your Identity in the Finder as described in How to recover your data when rebuilding, restoring and upgrading fails. This is quicker than restoring from Time Machine or other backup.

1)  Set the “Main Identity copy” as default in Database Utility.

Open Outlook & put Outlook info Work Offline under Outlook in the Menu bar.

2)  Delete your IMAP and Exchange accounts.

This deletes the cache files in Outlook. Your data is still on the server. You are left with only data that is “On My Computer”. We are working on your Copy so your data is safe in the original Identity.

Tip: Take screen shots of your accounts especially the advanced settings so you can easily enter your accounts into your new Identity. The new SP2 Identity has improved autodiscover for most popular email accounts. Enter your email and password and let Outlook configure your account.

3)  Under File > Export select the default action to export all items as .olm file.

In the export process, do not select the option to delete.

In this example, I’m going to select to save Data File as OMC.olm on my Desktop. Note:  Do you get “Done” at the end or do you get “one or more items failed to export”? If you do not get “Done”, this indicates corruption or you have folders that are over the 2GB limit. See Export as .olm file fails to get all data

4)  Quit Outlook. 

5)  If you have not updated to Service Pack 2 (SP2) 14.3.9, do so now.

You can compress (zip) your Microsoft Office 2011 folder in Applications in case you need to revert.

6)  Open the Database Utility.

Hold down the Option (ALT) key then click on the Outlook icon in the Dock.

7) Click on Add (+) and type a name for the new Identity.

Make it distinctive. It’s easy to get confused when working with multiple Identities. You can always change later. I always like to add something so I know it’s a different Identity than the previous Main Identity.

8) Open Outlook in your new Identity.

9) Under File > Import select the OMC.olm file on your Desktop.

The imported file will show up in the Navigation Pane (folder list) for each item. Unlike Entourage, where only messages showed up as an imported file, each item (contacts, events, tasks, notes) will show up separately.

Imported .olm file  

10) Move the imported data into the local folders.

You’ll need to select the messages in the default folders (Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Deleted Items) and move to the local folders. You can drag any custom folder to it’s correct location. You can delete the imported folder structure after you move all messages and folders.

You’ll also need to move the contacts, events, tasks and notes to their local folders. Calendar events need to be shown in List view in order to move. See directions here.

  • Uncheck the top local folder.
  • Check the imported (OMC) folder. When you select all, you are only selecting the items from the imported file.
  • Drag to the top local folder.
  • Delete the imported file structure after moving data.

11)  Optional method to add back Signatures and Rules.

(You can skip this step if you don’t use rules or have a simple signature. This option is not to recover messages but to recover these specific items: Mailing Lists, Rules, Signatures.

Make a copy of your Identity. This option could result in data loss so we want to be sure your hard work is not lost. This requires that you rebuild your Identity after changing out these folders.

1)  Drag over these folders from your old Identity Data Records folder.

YOUR User’s folder/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office 2011 Identities/Main Identity/Data Records

Some folders might not exist if you have not used that feature. I do not recommend bringing over other folders. Because of the changes in SP2, it’s best to make some setting in the new SP2 Identity.

  • Mailing Lists
  • Rules
  • Signature Attachments
  • Signature

2)  Rebuild this recovery Identity.

3) Rules will need to have folder destinations reset, but you don’t have to recreate all the actions. Do this BEFORE you go online!)

12)  Add your Accounts.

Set Outlook to Work Online under Outlook in the Menu bar. Enter your account info.


The new Outlook Identity will not know you have downloaded all the old messages and will download all messages left on the server again. Before you enter your POP account in Outlook, log into your account with your browser. Move all the older mail out of the Inbox. Outlook only downloads from the Inbox. Leave only those new messages you have not downloaded.

Set Schedules for POP accounts to check every 10-15 minutes. If you set to every two minutes, Outlook will hardly have time to connect before the next schedule starts. Most ISPs request users use either 10 or 15 schedules. You can manually check Send & Receive All when you are looking for an important messages.

Because POP messages are vulnerable to loss when you have Identity issues, I recommend that everyone move to IMAP if possible. See this chart “Compare Sync options for POP, IMAP & Exchange Accounts

Download and use this script to deal with duplicate messages. Remove Duplicates


Before adding your IMAP and/or Exchange accounts, you might want to log into your account with your browser and clean up your Inbox. It’s best to keep your Inbox as clean as possible. Archive older messages to a subfolder at the root level. Do not make subfolders under the Inbox for Exchange accounts. Also not advised for IMAP. While Outlook for Windows seems to handle large Inboxes, Outlook for Mac works best with smaller Inboxes. Any folder with more than 2GB of data is going to be difficult to rebuild and can cause database rebuild failure. I find that between 6,000-10,000 message will hit the 2GB limit. Sorting by year is usually helpful to reduce large folders. The folders by year will never change. You can drag these folders to the Desktop as .mbox files and you’ll never loose that data. Do the same for your Sent folder. I rarely see other folders that’s over the 2GB limit unless it’s an archive folder.

IMAP and Exchange accounts are not included in Schedules!

Outlook checks the Exchange server for updates every minute, any folder that has updates will subsequently be synced. Since Outlook has a limit on how many folders can be synced at a time, there can be a queue of folders waiting. The Inbox does get high priority so it will generally sync before other folders that also need to sync.

By default in SP2 IMAP operates as “push mail”. It always has an IMAP IDLE command outstanding against the server and will download new email the moment it arrives on the server. For this reason schedules are no longer needed for IMAP accounts. There is no longer a periodic poll for new mail to schedule.

IDLE does not download all new mail the moment it arrives on the server—this only applies to the Inbox and the folder that you are currently viewing. Instead, SP2 now provides a periodic poll, which is why Schedules are no longer needed.


Outlook rebuild results in folders named Recovered


Share this:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • PDF
  • Print

1 comment to How to move your data to a new Identity

  • Mark

    Awesome post! If you find yourself in the position of having to move your data to a new identity, you’ll understand.