How to Backup Your Outlook Emails in 2021: Protect Your Mail

Your email account probably contains lots of important data, and it isn’t just mail that you could lose. You could lose your contacts, important email attachments and even calendar dates if something goes wrong. Read on to learn how to backup Outlook emails.

Robin Barber
By Robin Barber (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-03-01T11:44:43+00:00

For most of your files, creating a backup is as simple as moving the data from your computer to your backup drive. However, things get a little more complicated when creating email backups, as they don’t keep your data on your device. In this article, we’ll show you how to backup Outlook emails, so they’re safe from unwanted deletion.

Key Takeaways:

  • Microsoft Outlook makes it easy to export your email messages, contacts, calendar and more.
  • The MSG and PST file types are ideal for long-term mail storage.
  • Your PC has an “Outlook files” folder where your backups are stored.

There are many options for storing Outlook emails, and with the choices ranging from the CSV to the OST file types, it can get overwhelming. However, if you want to export them for a personal backup, PST and MSG files are a good choice. The first is better for storing whole folders and email accounts, and you can use the second for saving individual emails.

  • The only way to automatically save Outlook emails to your computer without third-party software is with the “autoarchive” settings. You can access this by going into “file,” clicking on the “options” tab and then going into the “advanced” section. However, it’ll only save old emails, and there’ll be a new PST file every time it archives your emails.

  • You can save Outlook emails to your hard drive with the built-in “export to a file” function. However, this will create a PST file that you will need to import into Microsoft Outlook if you want to access the emails. If you want to view your mail on your computer without importing it, you should instead use either the “save as” or drag-and-drop methods.

  • Yes, by exporting your Outlook emails to a PST file, you can download everything at once. This will even include subfolders, although it may lose some meta-data, like the folder properties. You can then move this Outlook backup file to another computer or save it to the cloud until you need to recover your emails.

  • If you’re using a single physical drive to store the backup, then it will eventually fail. However, with a redundant storage system — such as NAS or online storage — the backup file will work unless Outlook stops supporting PST files.

How to Backup Outlook Emails the Easy Way

Most versions of Microsoft Outlook come with an option to export everything to a file, and — excluding Outlook 2010 and the web app, which use slightly different systems — there is a standard set of steps you can use. This will get you an Outlook PST file that you can add to your online backup or an external hard drive.

  1. Click “File”

    Click the “file” button in the top-left corner of the screen.

    backup outlook easy way file
  2. Go Into the “Open & Export” Tab

    Select “open & export” from the list on the left side of the window. You can skip this step if you’re using a version older than Outlook 2013.

    backup outlook easy way export tab
  3. Select “Import/Export”

    Click on the “Import/Export” button to open the import-and-export wizard.

    backup outlook easy way import export
  4. Choose “Export to a File”

    In the import-and-export wizard, select “export to a file” and click “next.”

    backup outlook easy way export file
  5. Go Through the Export Settings

    First, choose to create an “Outlook data file (PST)” and select the folder or account you want to backup. Then you can choose where you want to put it and add a password.

    backup outlook easy way export settings
  6. Find Your Backup

    After you click “finish,” go to the folder where you saved your backup and check that it’s there.

    backup outlook easy way saved file

Where Is My Microsoft Outlook Data File? 

When you export your Outlook emails, it puts the data file in the “Outlook files” folder in your documents. You can change this, but it’s also the location where Outlook will look for backup files. It’s worth keeping a copy here to make it easier to import the file.

Restore a Backup From a Microsoft Outlook PST File

To restore your email from a backup, you should go into the “open & export” tab and select either “open Outlook data file” or “import/export.” The first will let you access your emails and move them back into your inbox, while the second will let you import the PST file into a new account.

Alternative Ways to Backup Outlook Emails

Although it’s easy to create a PST file with the tools Microsoft provides, it can only be used to backup a full folder, and you can’t access the emails individually. Luckily, there are two other solutions that let you save individual emails, which you can then access at any time.

The Drag-and-Drop Method 

One quick way to backup a few emails in Outlook is to use the “drag and drop” method.

  1. Open Up Outlook and Windows File Explorer

    You’ll need to have both Outlook and Windows File Explorer open for this method.

    backup outlook drag drop open windows
  2. Select Your Emails

    Select the email you want to backup. If you want to select multiple emails, hold down the “control” key.

    backup outlook drag drop select emails
  3. Drag the Emails Into Windows File Explorer

    Drag and drop the selected emails into the folder where you want to keep them.

    backup outlook drag drop move emails over

The “Save As” Command 

You can also backup an email with the “save as” command.

  1. Select the Email and Click “File”

    Select the email you want to save and click “file” in the top-left corner.

    backup outlook save as select email
  2. Open the “Save As” Window

    Click “save as” in the list on the left to open the “save as” window.

    backup outlook save as open window
  3. Click “Save”

    Navigate to where you want to put the backup and click “save.”

    backup outlook save as click save
  4. Find the File in Windows File Explorer

    Check that the file is where you expect it to be.

    backup outlook save as find file

Final Thoughts

Being able to create a backup is a great tool for protecting your data, and Microsoft Outlook lets you do it easily. The export process isn’t difficult and will work on almost any version of Outlook. However, it isn’t the only email service that lets you create backups. Other email providers, like Google’s Gmail, also let you export your data, so you can add everything to your backup.

Once you have your backup file, you should consider where you’re going to store it. One solution is to use a good external hard drive with lots of cheap storage, but PST files are quite small. A more reliable solution is to use a free cloud storage provider or online backup service to keep your data safe from hard drive failure and other physical threats.

Have you backed up your Outlook emails? Did you use one of these methods? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.