Restoring a PST File With Outlook
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Microsoft Outlook, an absolute leader in the segment of corporate email clients for desktops, stores user data in OST and PST files. An OST file is a cached copy of the user’s mailbox stored at MS Exchange server. A PST file is a personal folders file, containing the user’s email messages and it is stored locally on the computer.\n\n

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Restoring a PST File With Outlook

2016 Tools

Microsoft Outlook, an absolute leader in the segment of corporate email

clients for desktops, stores user data in OST and PST files. An OST file is a

cached copy of the user’s mailbox stored at MS Exchange server. A PST file

is a personal folders file, containing the user’s email messages and it is

stored locally on the computer.

There is quite a number of Outlook users who faced, to a certain extent, problems with

opening .pst files because they were damaged. The impossibility to open a user’s archive

with email messages results in real headache for administrators and tech support services.

In this article, we will focus on the main causes of why .pst personal folder files get

damaged and will show you a simple way to restore them.

There are various causes of damage to archive files of personal folders in Outlook: damage

may result from file system errors (in this case, it is worth starting from checking the file

system), and from damaged structure of .pst files caused by an emergency shutdown of the

Outlook client (these happen quite often), from a power failure, from virus attacks, from

storing .pst files in a shared network folder (Microsoft doesn’t support such configuration)

and so on.

You should also remember about the maximal .pst file size restriction in different versions of

Outlook. If the maximal file size is exceeded or a large file is opened in an older version of

the mail client, Outlook may work with errors. Here are the .pst file size limits:

Outlook 2002 and earlier versions – .pst files are in ANSI format and limited to 2 Gb.

Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 – a limit of 20 Gb.

Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016 – .pst/.ost files are in Unicode format

and limited to a maximal size of 50 Gb.

Besides, you should bear in mind that the larger the file the higher are the chances of

errors, and that is why the recommended .pst file size is 2-8 Gb.

When a .pst file is damaged, the Outlook client can no longer open it, partially or

completely, and shows an error message, for example like this:


Availability of such errors suggests that the .pst data file is damaged and needs recovery of

its logical structure.

First of all, let us find out where exactly Outlook stores its .pst files. By default *.pst files

(personal folders) and *.ost files (local cached copies of Exchange server folders) are stored

in the following directories depending on the version of your operating system:

restriction in different versions of

Windows 2000, 2003, XP:

C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application


Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10:


However, a user can create/move a personal folders file to another location, if necessary.

Important note! Before you start recovering a .pst file make sure you have backed it up;

by doing so you will prevent possible further damage to the file that may be caused by a

recovery utility or by Outlook.

To recover Outlook archive folders after being damaged, Microsoft has included a special

utility Microsoft Outlook Inbox Repair Tool (scanpst.exe) into the Office package. This small

utility is not a cure-all solution to recover a .pst file after any kind of damage but it can help

in solving typical issues with personal folders files.

You can find this utility in the directory: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE {MS

Office version number, – 11,12,13,14}.

For example, here is the path to the directory containing the utility scanpst.exe for Office

2016: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE16.

Let us try recovering the damaged elements in a .pst file in an automatic mode. To do it, we

should launch the utility scanpst.exe and specify the path to the .pst file.

Important note! Before launching the utility make sure you close Outlook and other

processes that may use the .pst file to be recovered.

Press Start to begin scanning the file for errors.

The process of analyzing and checking the file structure consists of 8 stages. The time

needed for checking depends on the .pst file size and the number of errors it may contain.

In our case, the utility reports that the personal folders file contain errors, and suggests

launching the recovery procedure (Repair button). If you have not created a backup copy of

the .pst file, you can do it now by clicking the checkbox and specifying the file name.

After you click Repair, the process of restoring a .pst is launched; it also consists of 8

stages. In our example, it took us about 15 minutes to restore an archive of 1 Gbyte.

If all goes well, a Repair complete message appears when the utility finishes its work, and

then you can try opening a .pst file in Outlook.

So, as we have said before, the scanpst.exe utility should help you in most of the cases

(about 90% ) when you encounter errors or damaged .pst personal folders files. Yet this

utility cannot help you if:

the heading of a .pst file is damaged;

the personal folders file is protected with a password;

you need to restore accidentally deleted emails or folders;

the .pst file maximal size is exceeded;

file contain errors, and suggests

the logical and physical structure of a .pst file is damaged seriously.

Accidentally deleted messages and folders can be restored from OST file. Detailed

description of this case you can read in our article «Restoring data from an OST file with

Outlook 2010».

In case of loss of complete .pst file, accidental deletion or loss in result of one of many

possible reasons, in this case it can be recovered by data recovery software. With this task

perfectly cope Hetman Partition Recovery.