Backing up and Restoring Microsoft Outlook 2003 PST File

8:04 pm Windows

outlook2003Recently, I had to move my Microsoft Outlook 2003 PST (Personal Store, I think) file to another machine so I had to learn a bit about how Outlook uses PST files. The PST file may contain your emails, contacts, notes, calendar events, and tasks. The instructions below will help you to backup and restore your PST file on the same computer or on a different computer with Outlook 2003.

Note: Copying the PST file does not preserve the email services (such as POP3, IMAP, etc.) that you have configured. (The email services are also referred to as email support in the Outlook dialogs.)

Backing Up Your PST File

  • Find out where your PST file is located:
    1. Run Outlook
    2. Select menu Tools–>Options…–>Mail Setup–>Data Files…
    3. You should see an entry for your PST file. If you see more than one, that’s okay; just redo the instructions for each PST file.
    4. Double-click on the entry to get a details dialog and look at the Filename field for the location of your PST file. (By default, your PST file should be named “Personal Folders” and its filename/location should be “C:\Documents and Settings\your_username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst”.)
    5. I strongly recommend renaming your PST file to something more specific than the default “Personal Folders” name. Later on, it will get confusing if you have several PST files with the exact same name.
  • Backup your PST file:
    1. Quit Outlook
    2. Make a copy of the PST file for your backup purpose

Restoring Your PST File

  1. Copy your backup PST file to a machine with Outlook installed. Note the location of the PST file as this will be its permanent location.
  2. Run Outlook. If this is the first time you are running Outlook, just create a default configuration without email support; aka, just select the defaults.
  3. Select menu Tools–>Options…–>Mail Setup–>Data Files…
  4. You will see the default “Personal Folders”.
  5. Click on the Add button, hit Ok, browse to your PST file location, and hit Ok to close the dialog.
  6. You should now see two PST files. (If you have renamed your PST file during the backup, you should only see one “Personal Folders” which is the default PST. Otherwise, you may see two. If you see two, I strongly recommend renaming your PST file at this point.)
  7. Before you can delete the original, default PST file (with comment “Default delivery location”), you must configure your own PST file as the default mail delivery location. If you try to delete the original PST at this point, Outlook will throw an error.
  8. Click Close and Ok to close the Options dialog.
  9. Select menu Tools–>Email Accounts….
  10. Select “View or change existing e-mail accounts” and click Next button.
  11. Select your personal PST file under the “Deliver new e-mail to the following location” dropbox. (Selection is by name so you might get confused if you didn’t rename your PST file.)
  12. Click Finish to close the E-mail Accounts dialog.
  13. Select menu Tools–>Options…–>Mail Setup–>Data Files…
  14. Select the original, default PST file and hit the Remove button.
  15. Once the original PST file is deleted, click Close and Ok to close the Options dialog.
  16. You have successfully restored your Outlook PST file!
  17. Optionally, you can go to the “C:\Documents and Settings\your_username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook” directory and delete the default PST file “Outlook.pst” which is no longer used.

Repairing Your PST File

Eventually, your PST file may become corrupt. When you open Outlook, it might complain that parts of the file are invalid or that the whole file is invalid and cannot be opened. Thankfully, Microsoft Outlook provides an Inbox Repair Tool to resolve such problems. To repair the PST file, you need to run the PST repair tool, “scanpst.exe”. Under Outlook 2003, you can find the “scanpst.exe” file at “C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\Mapi\1033\” or at “C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\MSMAPI\1033\”. (Later versions of Outlook will have the Inbox Repair Tool located at a different location.)

Getting Address Book to use your Outlook PST Contacts

Try to open the address book by going to menu “Tools–>Address Book”. If you do not see the contacts from your Outlook PST file, then you will need to configure the Address Book:

  1. Go to menu “Tools–>E-mail Accounts…”.
  2. Select “View or change existing directories or address books” and click Next.
  3. Select and remove any pre-existing “Outlook Address Book” entry that you see.
  4. Click on Add… button, select “Additional Address Books” option, and click on Next.
  5. Select “Outlook Address Book” under “Additional Address Book Types” and click Next, then click Finish.
  6. Restart your Outlook client.
  7. Go to menu “Tools–>Address Book”. If you do not see your Outlook PST file contacts listed, then repeat the actions above. (I had to do it twice to get the Address Book working.)

Note: Strangely, Outlook only allows you to create one “Outlook Address Book”.

Outlook Profiles and Related

Outlook supports having multiple profiles (or configurations) that it can be launched with. By default, it will come with one profile; which is automatically loaded, so you will never see this feature. You can create a second profile and configure Outlook to prompt for the profile when starting:

  1. Right-click on the Outlook Icon on your desktop or in the Start menu and select Properties to display the Mail Setup dialog. (Note: This won’t work on a shortcut to the Outlook program.)
  2. Select Show Profiles
  3. To create a new Profile:
    • Select the Add… button.
    • Input a profile name and hit the Ok button.
    • Click on the Close button and Ok button to not configure email support (POP3, IMAP, etc.); otherwise, configure away.
    • Outlook will create a new profile with a default data file named Outlook.pst (or Outlook1.pst, Outlook2.pst, Outlook3.pst, etc., if there is a pre-existing file in the “C:\Documents and Settings\your_username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook” directory of the same name).
  4. Configure Outlook to prompt for a profile on startup by selecting “Prompt for a profile to be used”.
  5. Hit the Ok button to close the Mail Setup dialog.
  6. The next time you start Outlook, it will prompt you for the profile to use.

I found some other Outlook related tidbits of info that you might find useful:

  • At this location “”C:\Documents and Settings\your_username\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook”:
    • The “outcmd.dat” file stores your toolbar customizations. Quit Outlook, delete this file, and restart Outlook to restore the toolbar to default settings and recreate icons that some add-ins might have installed.
    • I think the Outlook temporary setting files are kept here. I see some files there that have the same names as the profiles. Strangely, when the profiles are deleted, these files remain, instead of being deleted.
  • At this location “”C:\Documents and Settings\your_username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook”:
    • The “extend.dat” file keeps a registry cache of add-in settings. Quit Outlook, delete this file, and restart Outlook to force Outlook to retrieve the settings from the registry again.
    • If you have a profile with “Exchange Server” email support, you will see a file named “outlook.ost”. I think this is the local offline cache of emails and contacts for your Exchange Server account.
    • New Outlook PST files (Outlook.pst, Outlook1.pst, Outlook2.pst) are created here.

Hopefully, you will find some of the info above useful. (Information about “extend.dat” and “outcmd.dat” were derived from Resetting dat-files.)

One Response
  1. Backing Up Pst File Outlook 2003 :

    Date: December 22, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    […] Backing up and Restoring Microsoft Outlook 2003 PST File – Backing up and Restoring Microsoft Outlook 2003 PST File … (such as POP3, IMAP, etc.) that you have configured. (The email services are also referred to as email support in the Outlook dialogs.) Backing Up Your PST File. … delete this file, and restart Outlook to restore the toolbar to … […]

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