I have set up Outlook 2013 through Control Panel (Mail 32bit) [Windows 8] to now store a .PST file in my dropbox folder so I am automatically backed up.

However I don't really get how this will work with IMAP.

After 30 days my IMAP emails are deleted right? And what happens to those emails? Do they stay on my machine?

If so do they stay in the .OST files I have for each mailbox or will they magically be synced into this .pst that I can just back up from?

If any of this doesn't make sense, how do I simply back up all of my IMAP email boxes?

Thanks, Pete

  • 3
    Who told you that your emails would be deleted after 30 days if you used IMAP? The simplest way would be to move the emails from the IMAP mailbox to a physical .pst ( Personal Folder File ) that can be backed up. By default Outlook uses a cache file for IMAP which means unless you delete the emails from the server they will be there but the contents of the cache depends on what is on the server. – Ramhound Jan 17 '14 at 15:51
  • Okay maybe I mis-read something, perhaps they don't get deleted in which case I don't need to worry about backup. I will ask my email provider how long they keep IMAP emails for...thanks... – Pete2k Jan 19 '14 at 6:29

Quite honestly, the best way to back up your IMAP mail boxes is NOT to use Outlook which has always been and remains an indifferent IMAP client. Furthermore, my experience with PST files is less than stellar, they are easily corrupted. A good way to loose things.

You could use Mozilla Thunderbird which is an email client that is good at IMAP though you probably don't want to run two mail clients.

Personally, I use a dedicated IMAP backup tool that runs on a Linux server I operate. That backs up mail from Google Mail as well as several IMAP accounts for my business, my personal accounts and family accounts. The results are in MailDir format which is highly portable and easily backed up as it is a series of folders and files.

You can run this kind of tool on Windows as well though you may need to get your hands dirty with the command line and the Windows scheduler.

Mozilla have a decent summary of IMAP backup tools which is worth checking out.

  • Thanks for the answer. I used thunderbird and I found it very unstable. I added the conversations plug-in and it just seemed to make everything confusing even simple searching was a pain. While I agree Outlook of yesteryear may not be that inspiring the 2013 edition is top notch, everything works and I can monitor multiple email addresses.... – Pete2k Jan 19 '14 at 6:28
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    We may have to agree to differ! :) I use Outlook at work and I'm handling 50-100 new emails per day. It works OK with Exchange but it is pants at helping organise large volumes of email and poor at handling IMAP in general. Thunderbird has no problem handling 10's of thousands of emails for my several personal and other accounts across 1/2 dozen IMAP servers. Though the servers themselves tend to slow down if inboxes are left too big. – Julian Knight Jan 20 '14 at 11:47
  • Hmmm that is interesting..... – Pete2k Jan 24 '14 at 12:24

Updated this answer to also consider MailDev as well as IMAPSync:

  • MailDev

    From personal experience using this tool:

    Really nice user-friendly and highly versatile Windows application for automated batch/bulk backing up/archiving of multiple emails as an individual file per each email in standard open email format (.eml) and/or other formats. Email folder structure retained/mirrored as a file system folder, attachments extracted and organised with emails, file name of email file based on content of email, e.g. title sender, date. Direct migration to other email services retaining structure.

I recommend MailDev. Low cost license. I don't work for them or have a financial interest, just good experience.


  • IMAPSync

    Haven't used, but seems to have many features:

The purpose of imapsync is to migrate IMAP accounts or to backup IMAP accounts. IMAP is one of the three current standard protocols to access mailboxes, the two other are POP3 and HTTP with webmails, webmails are often tied to an IMAP server.

imapsync software is a command line tool that allows incremental and recursive IMAP transfers from one mailbox to another, both anywhere on the internet or in your local network. "Incremental" means you can stop the transfer at any time and restart it later efficiently. "Recursive" means the complete folders hierarchy can be copied.

The appeal of this tool to me is that it is platform independent and works with any IMAP system apparently. It also appears to be well supported. I haven't used it yet but will be. I don't work for them or have any vested interest in them.

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