You might think that Outlook will display all of your mail (after all, why wouldn’t it) but by default, the Outlook client only keeps the last year of email on your computer. All of your mail still exists on the Microsoft Exchange server but it’s not visible on Outlook. Here’s why Microsoft sets this default and how to change it if you want.
Note: The following information covers all versions of Outlook from 2013-2019, including Outlook 365. It also only applies if you’re connecting to a Microsoft Exchange server, and that includes if you connect to Hotmail or Outlook.com. If you connect to another service, like Gmail or a personal mail server, you can configure these options, but Outlook will ignore them.
Why Doesn’t Outlook Show All of my Mail?
When you install Microsoft Office, it checks your disk size to make sure you have enough space to install all of the applications. It also uses that check to set a parameter in Outlook that determines how much mail will be downloaded to your local machine, based on the following disk sizes:
- Less than or equal to 32 GB: Outlook retains one month of email on your system.
- Between 32 and 64 GB (not inclusive): Outlook retains three months of email.
- Equal to or greater than 64 GB: Outlook retains 12 months of email.
Microsoft does this because mail takes up space on your hard disk, and if you’ve only got a small hard disk, you probably don’t want much of it taken up with a few large files someone emailed you two years ago. Outlook still downloads all of your calendar appointments, contacts, tasks, and everything else. This limit only affects your mail (and your RSS feeds).
If your mail account uses a Microsoft Exchange server (like Hotmail, Microsoft Live, O365, or a lot of corporate mail systems), then this parameter will determine how much mail is downloaded to your computer. If you’re using a different mail provider, like Google or Yahoo, Outlook ignores this parameter and downloads all of your mail.
Where is My Mail and How Do I Access It?
The good news is that your mail hasn’t gone anywhere; it’s still on your email server. (If you’re not sure what an email server is, the short answer is that it’s a powerful computer with a large hard disk on which your email provider stores all of your mail. We’ve written a longer answer, which is worth reading.) You can access your mail at any time (as long as you have internet access) either through Outlook or, depending on your version of Outlook, through a web interface.
To see your mail in Outlook, scroll down to the bottom of the folder. If there are more emails on the email server, you’ll see a message letting you know.
Hit “Click here to view more on Microsoft Exchange,” and Outlook will download the rest your emails to your computer. Make sure you’ve got adequate disk space to download them all!
If you’ve got Office 365, you can also access your emails through the Outlook web app. Because the web app is essentially just a window into the Exchange Server, it will show you all of your emails. If you’re using Outlook at work, your IT support people should be able to help you access the Outlook web app. If you’re at home, head over to Office.com and sign in there. You can access Outlook—and any other web apps to which you have access—once you’re logged in.
Can I Change the Default Value?
Yes, you can. In Outlook, head to File > Account Settings and then select “Account Settings” from the drop-down menu.
In the Account Settings window, select the account for which you want to change the default (you’ve probably only got one account) and then click the “Change” button.
In the Change Account window that opens, you’ll see that the “Use Cached Exchange Mode” is enabled. You must leave this enabled, otherwise, no mail will be downloaded to your computer. Move the “Mail to keep offline” slider to the period you want.
The options are:
- Three days
- One week
- Three weeks
- One month
- Three months
- Six months
- One year
- Two years
- Five years
Note: The three days, one week, and two weeks options aren’t available in Office 2013, but they are in later versions.
Choose “All” if you want Outlook to download all of your mail to your computer, or choose whatever value works for you. (If you can’t change the slider then your administrator may have set this value deliberately and stopped you from changing it.)
Once you’ve made your selection click “Next” and Outlook warns you that it needs to restart.
Click “OK,” close the Account Settings window, and then restart Outlook. Depending on the amount of mail it has to download, Outlook might take a little while to update each folder. You’ll see a message at the bottom of Outlook as it downloads mail into each folder.
And that’s it; you’re done. Outlook will now download all of your mail (or however much you selected) from now on.