It’s not “The King’s Speech” – but this is one good movie!


So I got the HTC Thunderbolt, as previously boasted, and that meant I needed to sync it with my Outlook contacts, which is not a particularly easy thing to find out how to do (why?), which meant having to buy CompanionLink for Outlook, which told me that – because I have more than 5,000 contacts to sync – it could corrupt the data on my PC so I should definitely make a fresh backup of my .pst file (which of course I do try regularly to do), but Outlook is not easy to back up if your .pst file has grown over 4GB because – although the error message doesn’t tell you this (and certainly doesn’t tell you how to solve it) – you can’t copy files over 4GB to hard drives that come in FAT32 format (as all do) until you reformat them in NTFS format (which is easy to do once you know that you need to and someone tells you how, but which also means wiping out all your other data on that drive so you may as well blow $50 on a new 16GB flash drive, because if you have more than 5,000 Outlook contacts you probably also have more than $50 – guilty as charged).

Are you with me so far?

So now, having reformatted the 16GB flash drive to NTFS, you actually can back up your over-large .pst file, but it would never have grown to exceed 4GB if you had compacted your file from time to time, which Outlook never urges you to do (even when it knows you are nearing the 4GB limit), let alone does for you automatically (as in, why on earth would you not want to compact your data?). I could swear I’ve written about this before but Googling my own web site produces no results, so let me tell you again: when you delete stuff in Outlook – spam, for example – it does not shrink your file. Indeed, even when you go to the “Deleted Items” folder and delete them there, permanently, for real, it doesn’t shrink the file. The file has holes where all these thousands of items used to be, but unless you compact the file, it will not shrink in size. So the thousands of emails I had deleted since the last time I remembered to compact my Outlook file? Still taking up space.

But it seems you can’t compact a file once it gets above 4GB – or at least it wouldn’t let me do that – so I Googled this question: “How do I shrink a .pst file over 4GB?” and was presented with an answer – but was told that to actually get that answer I would have to join Experts Exchange for $12.95 a month, although I could cancel without obligation within 30 days. So I signed up (the user testimonials are glowing, and its structure is interesting) and my expert suggested I get this software for $79 – do you hear the patter of light rain on your roof? it’s actually the sound of hundreds of fingers tapping their keyboards: Get a Mac! – and even that was not so easy, because first it downloads a demo and then when you pay the $79 it tells you need to completely uninstall the demo before downloading the real version (they couldn’t figure out a way to do that for you?), and then the real version asks for your PayPal transaction number – which it will reject if, in cutting and pasting it, a blank space gets appended – and then it promises to send you the authentication code without which you can’t proceed (and which Outlook will probably divert to your spam folder, so keep an eye out for it).

So you run that program and it strips the “attachments” from your zillion emails and puts them in a separate file – the software, it turns out, doesn’t actually compact your file by filling the holes, only Outlook can do that – and that attachment-stripping shrinks your 4.06GB .pst file by more than 90%, so you are finally ready to make your back up (which you actually already did with the reformatted flash drive, but it’s easy to lose track) and to sync your contacts with your HTC Thunderbolt (bet you had forgotten all about that!) . . . which you decide to do in the morning, because you’ve had enough for one night, and when you return in the morning you discover that Outlook has gone and downloaded (from where?) more than 50,000 messages you had previously dealt with over the past year or two, and they are now all marked “unread” (so you can’t tell the recent ones you need to deal with from the ones you already had dealt with) and your .pst file had now grown to be more than five gigabytes.

And that, my friends, is why there will be no column today.


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