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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 reasons that the PST file is corrupt. You can try to fix it using ScanPST utility and then compact again.
b) Compacting a database is a complicated task. The more emails 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 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.
Reduce the size of an Outlook Data File (. pst)
Click the File tab.
Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings.
On the Data Files tab, click the data file that you want to compact, and then click Settings.
Click Compact Now.

Hope this information is helpful to you
If you use a POP account, all of your email account information, including your folders, email messages, contacts, calendar, and task information is stored in an Outlook Data File (.pst). If you use an Microsoft 365, Exchange, IMAP, or Outlook.com account, a copy of your mailbox is stored in an Offline Outlook Data File (.ost).
To reduce the size of your Outlook Data File (.pst) or Offline Outlook Data File (.ost), you can manually compact the data file. Select your version of Outlook below to see instructions on how to reduce the size of a .pst or .ost file.

There are several ways to reduce your mailbox size.
You can use the Mailbox Cleanup tool to view the size of your mailbox and individual folders. This tool can also help you search for older or very large messages that you might want to delete or move to an Outlook Data File (.pst).
Often, the cause of a large mailbox is a large Deleted Items folder. The tool provides a button to view the size of your Deleted Items folder and empty your Deleted Items folder.
Occasionally, Outlook will store conflicted items in a folder called Conflicts. Conflicts happen when a copy of an item stored on your email server is out of sync with a copy of an item stored on your local computer. The Mailbox Cleanup tool can delete these conflicts for you.

Run the Mailbox Cleanup tool

Click the File tab.
Click Tools > Mailbox Cleanup.
Select View Mailbox Size, Find items older than, Find items larger than, View Deleted Items Size, Empty Deleted Items folder, View Conflicts Size, or Empty Conflicts to perform your desired task.

I hope this is helpful!
Lewis Bert
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