A default installation of Microsoft Outlook will eventually launch a pop-up prompt that asks the user if he or she would like to AutoArchive content. (See hideous Figure 1.) AutoArchive runs every 14 days by default. This feature sounds reasonable but what it does is create a new .pst file called archive.pst, by default, and saves older content based on user configuration options.

The creation of .pst files on client workstations can decentralize messaging data. This poses challenges for administrators, such as recoverability in the event of disaster or e-discovery in the face of litigation. Some companies may even have specific policies against the creation of .pst files. Thankfully, Outlook provides an option to prevent the creation of .pst files.

You can cut down on the proliferation of unnecessary AutoArchive file content by using DisablePST. DisablePST is a registry value used to prevent the creation of PST files by Outlook users. (For background on working with .pst files, see my article "Managing PST Files in Outlook".) DisablePST can be deployed through Group Policy, the Office Customization Tool (in Office 2007) or even a .reg file in a logon script. Outlook reads configuration settings from the registry at start up, so any registry changes that impact the local installation of Outlook require a restart of Outlook to incorporate those changes. DisablePST also removes the configuration option for AutoArchive in the Tools, Options menu in Outlook.

A small problem arises when the user has already configured AutoArchive before the administrator has deployed a DisablePST policy. AutoArchive will continue to run and feed archive.pst (or whatever file name the user chose), but the user will no longer be empowered to make any changes to AutoArchive, such as turn it off.

If the DisablePST entry is applied to an existing Outlook installation where the user has already configured AutoArchiving, then you need to turn off the registry entry, restart Outlook, and then turn off AutoArchive. Afterwards, reapply the DisablePST registry value, and then restart Outlook. Alternatively, a Group Policy applying the DisablePST registry value should also disable AutoArchive at the same time.

In Group Policy, load the Office Outlook 2007 template (Outlk12.adm) and under User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Microsoft Office Outlook 2007\Tools, Options, Other, AutoArchive select Disable File, Archive. Yes, you enable the disabling of the feature.