Useful tip for Microsoft Entourage

I’ve been struggling with a larger and larger email database since I seem to have a pathological inability to ever delete anything I’ve sent or received. Last time I checked, my Microsoft Entourage email directory was over 3GB in size, which is darn huge! How do I know that? When I travel, I copy my “Microsoft Office Identity” to my laptop, so I have my entire archive and address book, including all pending mail messages. Simple, but wonderfully useful!

But much more importantly, I figured out why the directory was so enormous and cut down my mail database by over 70% with a simple command…

A few days ago I decided to explore a bit, using tips and information from the amazingly helpful Microsoft MVP web site for Entourage.

To start, I opened up the folder ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office X Identities/Main Identity and found to my horror that I had archived versions of the two key data files, Database and Database Cache. And they’re big files! The five archival copies of the Database file ranged from 650MB to 890MB. The five Database Cache files, however, were tiny and not a problem (about 20K each).

Obviously, deleting them was a smart move and quickly done. But that still left me with a Database file that was 690MB in size, just barely something that’d fit on a CD, and certainly a big chunk of data to lug around. So, the next step was to trim the mailbox itself…

Trimming the Mailbox

Entourage, like many email programs, has a very sophisticated find feature that lets you search your mail archives for just about anything, from content to date to size to sender and other recipients. On the suggestion of the MVP folk, I created a find that had the following rules, as shown in this graphic:

This produced over 1400 messages in my archive (I told you I had a lot of email saved), with an average attachment size of about 300K. Do the math, you’ll see that adds up to about 420MB or so.

With all these messages in a separate find results window, I selected them all, then choose Message -> Remove All Attachments from the menu and let it chug along for what I’d estimate was at least ten minutes. When it was done, I rebooted and forced a database rebuild (launch Entourage with the Option key down to do this) and then popped into my Office X Identity folder, to find that my new Database is only 260MB, while the old saved one from before my attachment zap was 690MB.

A huge, HUGE, improvement. Lots more space for my iTunes music archive (which is over 15GB in size), and a task well worth accomplishing occasionally if you have a mailer that has the capability and tend to save everything in your archive.

I hope that’s helpful for some other folk too!

16 comments on “Useful tip for Microsoft Entourage

  1. Dave,
    Thanks for this great tip. Now can you help me delete all the unwanted email addresses that secretly pop up when I fill out the TO: field. The ones that exist from prior email, spam, etc.
    Thank you!

  2. Hi Jared. That’s easier than you think, actually. Entourage stores a max of 200 entries in its recently seen address list, and you can clear it at any time by going to Preferences -> Compose and clicking on the button on the bottom of that pane labeled “Clear List”. If you want to disable this feature and have it only offer auto-complete for addresses in your address book, simply uncheck the option “Display a list of recently used addresses when address messages”.
    Advanced tip: if you want to just get rid of one particular email message, add that address to your Address Book, then delete the new entry. That should clear it out.

  3. How do I disable Microsoft Entourage’s auto-fill address feature?

    Dave, Thanks for your great tip about clearing Microsoft Entourage message archives of attachments on my Mac OS X system [see A Useful Tip for Microsoft Entourage on The Intuitive Life]. Now can you help me delete all the unwanted email addresses that …

  4. How do I disable the auto-fill address feature in Microsoft Entourage?

    Dave, Thanks for your great tip about clearing Microsoft Entourage message archives of attachments on my Mac OS X system [see A Useful Tip for Microsoft Entourage on The Intuitive Life]. Now can you help me delete all the unwanted email addresses that …

  5. There’s an easier way – create a custom view for Messages, and select Attachment Exists. I’ve got one that I check every now and then just to make sure there’s not too much dross in my database.

  6. Hi, I`m a PC tech, dont kill me for it 🙂 and I need to backup an entire mail database in Entourage so I can follow your tip to decrease database in size.
    If I go to
    /Documents/Microsoft User Data/Office X Identities/Main Identity
    and copy that folder to another, is that it? Can I start deleting messages?
    Can I burn that folder to a DVD for backup purposes?
    Thanks in advance !

  7. my Entourage 2004 database is about 9GB, I did your suggestion, deleted old emails and got rid of old attachments, I think I might have deleted more than 100 huge emails with 1MB or more each, but when I checked the database file, it was still 9GB. What gives?

  8. You should compress your Entourage database. Do that by holding down the OPTION key when you launch the program. It’ll start up the database manager: make the appropriate selection and go get a cup of tea (or, with a 9GB database, two or three). Eventually it’ll have created a backup and rebuild your database, hopefully quite a bit smaller. Good luck. Also remember that you can use Advanced Find to isolate just messages that are 500MB or larger and zap ’em. I have found that just finding messages with attachments and deleting the attachments is a very effective way to shrink my own database too.

  9. I tried sending an extremely large file and it crashed my Entourage. Now it can not access my database at all . It asks me if I want to rebuild and I say yes, but it can not even open Entourage to do that. What can I do??

  10. If you hold down the OPTION key while you click on the Entourage icon in your Dock (or in the Applications folder), it launches a different app entirely, not Entourage. Are you saying that you can’t get that to launch now? I’d check in with Microsoft directly, then, and good luck!

  11. Thanks Dave… I actually downloaded an update from Microsoft and then was able to rebuild the database and all is working fine now.

  12. Dave,
    I am struggling with backing up my Entourage email to a removable drive. I did a test and found that Entourage does not back up the attachments with the export function. I have about 5000 emails; some with some very large attachments which I cannot delete. Can you offer me some suggestions on how to accomplish this. I do need to have regular access to the old emails for routine reference.
    Please help.
    Henry Barber

  13. I am trying to help a friend whose Entourage 10.x database exceeded the 4Gb limit. Even after compressing, the DB is still at 3.99G and won’t open that identity.
    Does anyone know any secrets on how to recover? Will upgrading to a newer version of Entourage solve the problem?

  14. After a database rebuild in Entourage 2004, the process deleted all of my cached email addresses that auto-fills as I begin to enter them. These addresses are not in my contacts because it wasn’t necessary. Is this normal? And will a rebuild in Entourage 2008 wipe out the cached addresses as well? Is there a file that contains this information that I can back up before doing a rebuild next time?

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