Many third-party backup solutions can protect Microsoft 365 cloud emails and files. As an alternative, you can export them to a PST file with a full Outlook client connected to your Microsoft 365 account. You can view this as a "poor man's backup" for small environments.
Contents of this article
In Microsoft 365, admins can export mailboxes using the eDiscovery feature in the admin center. It allows you to filter the data using search terms, and the export is not limited to single mailboxes. However, there is also an export option for end users in Outlook. It offers an easy wizard-driven workflow that also supports a selective export by choosing certain folders or item types.

Starting the export wizard ^

To begin this process in Outlook, click the File menu in the top ribbon, choose Open & Export > Import/Export.
Choosing to import and export emails from your Microsoft 365 account

Choosing to import and export emails from your Microsoft 365 account

You can choose from many options. However, we want to export email to a file.
Choose export to a file

Choose export to a file

On the Export to a File screen, choose the Outlook Data File (.pst) option.
Choose Outlook Data File

Choose Outlook Data File

Next, choose which folders and data you want to export from your Microsoft 365 email account.
Choosing folders for exporting to a PST file

Choosing folders for exporting to a PST file

Choose the location of the PST file export. You can also choose how to handle duplicate items. Click Finish.
Choose the destination for the PST file export

Choose the destination for the PST file export

Finally, you can choose to add a password to protect the resulting PST file backup of your Microsoft 365 email account.
You can add an optional password to protect the PST file

You can add an optional password to protect the PST file

After choosing your password options, you will see the PST file export begin and progress. After the export, you should see the PST file created in the target location.

Conclusion ^

The process of exporting emails from Microsoft 365 with Outlook is uncomplicated. This is a one-time process that takes a copy of your Microsoft 365 emails and stores them in a PST file. However, it can also be used to create a copy of important email folders from time to time, so data loss that does occur will not be as significant. Additionally, emails that have been deleted can be retrieved from the PST file and copied back into the Inbox.
4 Comments
  1. Phil Blake 4 weeks ago

    Is there a way to export mailboxes to a PST without using Outlook? I'm building on onboarding / offboarding process and would like to be able to export terminated employees mailbox to a pst using a script.

    • Charles 4 weeks ago

      I used to use PowerShell to export an entire copy of the mailbox to a PST when users left, before deleting their account. Command I used to use was:

      New-MailboxExportRequest -Mailbox USERNAME -FilePath "\\SERVER\SHARE\username.pst"

      From memory it had to save it to a shared folder, couldn't save to the local server, but this was on-prem Exchange 2010, so possibly different now. Not sure about O365, but I assume it has similar/better functionality.

      Also, this article mentions the process described in the article as a kind of backup, which it is not, as using Outlook to "export" will actually MOVE the emails to the PST and remove them from the Office365 account, so not a backup at all. Also, PST files are notoriously problematic, so need to be aware of their limitations.

      • Charles Anderson 4 weeks ago

        EDIT: just realised export as mentioned does copy rather than move, was thinking of autoarchiving in Outlook to PST. 🙂

  2. Michael O Donovan 4 weeks ago

    PST's are prone to corruption. I don't know why anyone would still use them (especially if you are in the cloud. Although the article is completely accurate as to how to do this, I would seriously ask why you would ever encourage the use of PST's for anything.

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