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Compacting PST files

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Compacting PST files, PST Compact takes forever and doesn't always reduce file size.
Every December I archive the year's emails for all the users at one of my clients.

After using the Archive utility, I use Compact Now to reclaim the space freed up by the archiving procedure. However, I have found that, apart from taking several hours to run on large (>5GB) PST files, it doesn't always reduce the file size as much as it should.

This year I found one user's data was particularly troublesome. The PST file size before archiving and compacting was about 4.5GB - after processing, it came down to 2.7GB. However, if I run a Folder Size query from the folder properties dialogue, it shows the total contents of the folder as a few hundred KB. The first compacting operation took about two hours. I repeated the operation, which completed in a few seconds and made no difference to the file size. I then Exported the entire contents of the compacted folder to a new PST. This took a few minutes and the resulting file size was a few MB - exactly what I would have expected after archiving.

I'm now wondering:
a) Why the Compact Now process doesn't always seem to work as expected
b) Why it takes so long
c) Is Exporting the datafile contents to a new PST (which takes a fraction of the time it takes to compact) a valid substitute for compaction?
John Barker,

a) It happens some times. One of the reason that the PST file is corrupt. You can try to fix it using ScanPST utility and then to compact again.
b) Compacting a database is a complicate task. The more mails you have deleted then longer compressing will be. It is recommended to compact more often.
c) Generally, compacting should transfer less data. But creating a new data file and copy there the information is better sometimes. But this method is not always useful. As you need to detach an old storage and attach a new one. You will need to re-create Outlook rules which work with the store and export/import Master Category List as it stored in the storage, etc.
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