Why can't I send e-mail using Outlook Express?
Why do messages get stuck in my Outbox?

Microsoft's Outlook Express e-mail client seems to have trouble if a user's e-mail folders grow too big. When this occurs, common symptoms include messages that do not leave the Outbox (if the Sent Items folder is full), not being able to download messages (if the Inbox is full), or inability to see all the messages in a folder.

In our experience, problems begin not at a specific number of messages but rather when a folder grows to approximately 250-300 MB in size. Users saving a lot of HTML e-mail and attachments will reach this size sooner than users with mostly plain text e-mail. Unfortunately it is not very easy to determine the size of a folder, so we generally advise users to keep mail folders under 2,500-4,000 messages by emptying Deleted Items, creating annual "Sent Items" and "Inbox" folders if necessary, and using the File/Folder/Compact All Folders command to shrink and reindex their mail folders.

Note Microsoft Outlook does not have this problem, however it has a related one. Outlook stores all its data in one .PST file, which in Outlook 2002 and earlier is limited to 2 GB in size. If this file grows to reach 2GB, Outlook can no longer write to the file. The only recourse is to truncate the file to less than 2 GB in size (losing data in the process) and then archive some of the messages. Outlook 2003 has a 16 GB file size limitation.

Users with Outlook can select the File/Data File Management menu item, select the Personal Folders line, and click "Settings" to see a Compact Now button. One must search the hard drive for "*.PST" to find the true size of the .PST file (make sure to click "More advanced options" and "Search hidden files and folders," or else Windows will not find the file).

May 2005

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