Last reviewed on August 18, 2013   —  39 Comments

These instructions show you how to change the Inbox folder new messages are delivered to. This does not apply to IMAP and Outlook Connector accounts or Exchange accounts in cache mode – those accounts always use their own Inbox and you need to use Rules to move messages to other folders.

Along with the Inbox, the default delivery location controls where new contacts and appointments are put.

When you create a new profile, Outlook creates a new pst for you. Because the default data file determines where new POP3 or Exchange messages will be delivered and where Outlook stores your calendar, contacts, tasks, notes, and journal items, you may want to use an existing PST instead.

Use this method, not File, Import, to use your old data when you get a new computer.

Note: In Outlook 2007 and older, reminders only fire on items stored in the default delivery file and the sharing features found in Exchange Server only work if the Exchange mailbox is the default delivery location.

Outlook 2007/2010/2013

If you are using an existing PST, add it to your profile using the File, Open, Outlook Data File menu. The PST can be stored anywhere on your hard drive.

Account Settings dialog on Outlook 2010 and 2007Outlook 2007: Go to Tools menu, Account Settings. In Outlook 2010/2013: Go to File tab, Account Settings

  1. Open the Account Settings dialog and select the Data Files tab.
  2. Select the PST file you want to use as default
  3. Click the Set as Default button

Outlook 2002/2003

If you are using an existing PST, add it to your profile using the File, Open, Outlook Data File menu. The PST can be stored anywhere on your hard drive.

From the Tools, Email Accounts menu, select View or change existing email accounts, then Next to open the Email Accounts dialog:

Accounts in Outlook 2003 and olderSelect the dropdown menu below Deliver new email to the following location and select the data store you want to use. In this example, I have two Outlook Connector accounts and one Exchange server account to choose from.

Choose a different data file to deliver mail to in Outlook 2003 and older. Select the file you wish to use and click Finish. You may need to restart Outlook for the changes to take effect.

Adding a Data File

If you need to create a new Outlook Data file or want to select an existing one that’s not part of your profile, you’ll need to click the Add button (Outlook 2007/2010/2013) or New Outlook Data File button (Outlook 2002/2003).

In the first screen you may need to choose the type of file – depending on your version of Outlook, you will have one or two choices, Office Outlook personal folder format (for Outlook 2003 and up) or Outlook 97/2002 compatible format. Select the format (Outlook Personal Folder format is recommended unless you need to open it in Outlook 2002 or older, then choose the 97-2002 format) and click Ok to open the Create or Open Outlook Data File dialog.

  • To create a new data file, enter a new filename and click Ok.
  • To use an existing data file, browse to locate it and select it, then click Ok.

Enter a friendly display name for the data file and click Ok.

More Information

How to create a new profile (Outlook Tips)
Move a Personal Folders .pst file to a new location
How to move the IMAP personal folder (*.pst) – instructions for moving an IMAP or SharePoint PST files to a new location.

Comments

  1. M Isaac says

    Tried to reassign the default data file in Outlook 2010.. The "set as Default" command is grayed out when I click on any other file.

    Help?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      What type of email account do you use and what where you trying to set as default?

      IMAP data files cannot be set as default. icloud cannot be default. Exchange mailbox can, but not when the account is first created. (close the dialog and reopen it) All other pst files can be set as default.

  2. orgu says

    I have removed my POP3 account but I cannot remove the data file (which is set as default)? Any suggestions how to do?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      You need to add another data file and set it as default - click on the ADd button in Account Settings and either select an existing pst file or type in a name for a new one.

  3. ejp says

    Diane, I created a new profile to fix the never-ending, infinite loop p/w pop-up problem (other forum) and of course it created a new .pst file, into which all the ATT/Yahoo email flowed down to from their server (Yahoo!,, Yippie, etc.). However, when I open the E-mail Accounts dialog box you describe above, I only have the options for CHANGE, ADD, REMOVE and no SET AS DEFAULT or MOVE UP. What gives? I have seen and done what you describe in years past but don't recall seeing those key buttons missing. The old/original .pst is in the list of 2 entries, and following the path, it is the right one as it's huge as it should be and the new one is tiny. How the heck to I point Outlook 2003 to the old .pst file without those key dialog box buttons.

    Thanks again for your solid support!

    • Diane Poremsky says

      You don't have the New data file button on the bottom of the dialog? You can select existing data files using the New button (dumb huh?) or close that dialog and use the File, Data file Management dialog.

      Let us know if the new profile fixes the problem.

  4. ejp says

    I got it working thanks. Followed your instr above --> File->Open....select desired data file.

    I now have 2 Personal Folders but will delete wrong one once it's established all cared-about new email is in the main/original .pst (did cut/paste).

    Thanks!

  5. ejp says

    ok, hopefully one last thing.

    How do I get it to use my old .NK2 file? I went to the "roaming" path and renamed the new blank .NK2 it created to a junk name and remamed my good one to match the new profile name, and on running Outlook and doing 1 email, it went ahead and created an identically named .NK2 again with the one new entry. thought I had the .NK2 figure out but guess not. What gives?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      It sounds like you did it right - the NK2 can be fragile at times. Repopulating it might be a better option. Add all of your contacts to a new message and close the message without sending. The address should be on the NK2. Note there is a limit of 1000 addresses on the NK2.

  6. ejp says

    ok, thanks. :-( Is there a short-cut way to repopulate without manually typing in full addr and sending emails to people? It seems not to want to communicate with contacts list. When I click TO: in compose mode, there are no names in the field in box that pops up even though "contacts" appears in upper right box. I have original fully populated contacts folder from before appearing in left pane when in regular mail/send mode.

    When I do this on tower PC with Outlook 2010, I see my full contacts list with all names present.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      If there are no names in the address book when you click To, see Contacts are missing when you click the To button.

      Short version: If you have Contacts in the Contacts folder but they are not accessible when you click on the To button, check these settings: Make sure the Contact folder is enabled as an email address book. Right click the Contacts folder, choose Properties then Outlook Address Book. Is the box to enable as email address book is checked? If this is grayed out in 2007/2010 you'll need to make a new profile as you can't add the Outlook Address Book.

  7. janvanswigchum says

    My computer is instable at the moment, so when it shuts off, mywork is saved in the concept-map.
    How can I restart my document (without using copy)?

  8. rob says

    Wjy cannot IMAP data files be designated as the default? When I open Outlook I end up with a mail profile that I cannot delete, close or otherwise remove in the side pane. This "Outlook Data File" does nothing. nothing at all. But it is the only one that opens all the way when Outlook first opens, no email messages will ever go there, no calendar appointments, nothing. I just want to get rid of it.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      The Outlook data data file holds your calendar and contacts because the IMAP servers don't support Outlook's special folders. Outlook also needs to data file for the Outbox.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      BTW, Outlook 2013 changes how IMAP account's offline messages are handled - because it uses an ost, not a pst, calendar and contacts can be stored in the data file and you only need one data file in the profile. However, because the ost is tied to the account that created it, you are at greater risk of losing your calendar and contacts by removing the account without first exporting them for backup. Recovery requires an expensive program.

  9. Rob says

    Thanks for the reply, so you're saying the upgrade to 2013 would be worth it, even if just to get rid of the useless folders and data file. It really is just an annoyance, and that's all, to see the entire list of folders under that data file in the email tab, but it's one of those things that just drives me batty.

  10. rob says

    Many thanks again. I am certainly not an expert user at this stuff, but what I've read on that link is pretty cool. Wonder if they added the autonumber feature back into Access?
    will go on my clubs laptop tonight and download that trial.

  11. Al says

    I was getting an error :
    Task ‘Microsoft Exchange Server’ reported error (0x8004010F) : ‘The operation failed. An object could not be found.’
    error and searched the web for a solution to why this was happening so I tried the following:

    “Another way to solve this problem is :
    In Outlook 2010, Go to the File Tab and click on Account Settings
    Click on the account you are having issues with and click on the “Change Folder” button at the bottom
    Pick Personal Folders\Inbox and hit OK. Click Send/Receive all.”

    It didn't work and and now my OWA cannot see any personal files. How can I change it back to storing them on Exchange?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Did you set it back to use Exchange?

      Go to the File Tab and click on Account Settings
      Click on the Exchange account
      Click on the “Change Folder” button at the bottom
      Pick your exchange account Inbox and hit OK.

      If you have mail in the personal folders that needs to be in Exchange, drag it between folders.

      If you continue to get the error, you'll need to make a new profile.

  12. bparmar says

    How to simplyfy outlook data management files, as when you open reading pane, it will show same folders three time below one and other, it is very confusing though very simple. could you please help , using outlook 2010 windows7

    • Diane Poremsky says

      How many accounts do you use?
      In the folder list (Ctrl+6), can you right click on the extra data files and close?

  13. Nabeel Kamal says

    Thank you for your assistance, but my problem was not solvable. When I click on outlook, it tells me cannot open my default email folder; File access denied. I am the only one using that computer and it keeps telling me that I do not have permission. I deleted and re-installed “Outlook" but with no luck.
    I cannot open or get any email.
    Please help if you can. Thank you & have a blessed afternoon.

  14. Oded Miller says

    Hello Diane. Your clarification that "IMAP data files cannot be set as default." was very helpful and led to a constructive resolution of my problem.
    Best regards
    Oded

  15. Joe says

    Hello Diane: I have two calendars setup in my outlook. One is the default and the other is linked to outlook.com connector. The one that shows up in my outlook today I would like to change to show outlook.com connector calendar. Is there a way to do this?
    THANK YOU JOE

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Outlook today shows the default calendar - you'll need to set the outlook connector data file as default (not account, just the data file).

  16. thiet ke logo says

    i use outlook express before and easy to change data file location, but i am new to microsoft outlook 2007 and not easy to change data file location. Now i can do it after reading this post. Many thanks

  17. Sherri says

    Hi Diane. My att.net account has been closed for over 2 years-yet Outlook lists it as my Default email address. I just read your earlier response about how IMAP emails cannot be default emails, which is what my new gmail.com email is. But since I no longer have access to att.net, how do I get rid of it in Outlook?

    • Diane Poremsky says

      Is it in outlook as a pop3 or imap account? Do you need to keep copies of the messages in the account? If its POP3, you can remove the account but not the data file from the profile. In Outlook 2010 or 2013, go to File, Account Settings, Email tab and remove the account. The data file will stay in the profile and might be listed in the navigation pane as "alias@att.net". That is just the display name and can be changed.

      If its IMAP and you need a copy of the messages, export the data file to a pst file then remove the account from your profile.

  18. jay says

    Diane,

    Hi, I hope you can shed some light on a sync issue between Outlook (2010 -32 bit) and iPhone (4, iOS 7). There are a couple of issues. First, using iTunes as the sync mechanism, data (contacts, calendar, etc) transfers to the iphone, but not from the iphone to Outlook. I've read numerous forums, applying what I read but to no avail. I'm thinking the issue may be related to the default outlook pst is connected to an earthlink account (old school). Is it worth setting up the outlook pst to one of my gmail accounts? How best should I do that?
    The second issue relates to icloud. I tried icloud, but I lost the ability to sort contacts by categories and it wiped out my contact distribution lists. I moved the data back from the icloud contacts, calendars, etc, and removed icloud. I understand there are a number of sync issues with outlook and icloud.... Is there anyway to restore my distribution lists?

    Many thanks.

    Jay

    • Diane Poremsky says

      I don't think the problem is the old earthlink account. Do you have it set to sync 2 way? If yes, can you find the appointments on any calendar in Outlook?

      If the contact groups were wiped out and you don't have a backup copy of the pst that has them in it, no, you can't restore them, you'll need to recreate them. Sorry.

  19. jay says

    Diane -- many thanks...not only for this reply, but to the many others that I have learned from. Your expertise is much appreciated. It was the 2-way sync issue.
    Jay

  20. Aaron says

    The "Change Folder" button us missing in the "E-mail" tab under Account Settings. So, i cannot change the folder of my .pst files. I find this discouraging. Can you shed some light on as to why it is missing, and/or how to get it to show up (not even gray-ed out icon - just missing)?

    Thanks, -Aaron

    • Diane Poremsky says

      that is only available foe pop3 accounts. imap, exchange, and outlook.com need to use their own folders.

  21. AdrianRo says

    Hi Diane.

    We are migrating from a classic POP/SMTP/IMAP email server to Exchange server.
    I need a script (VBS is OK) to set the Exchange Data File as default. I intend to use this script in a GPO to run it when users will log on. I can't find anywhere how that script must be written.

    Do you have any suggestion?

    Thank you.

    Adrian Ilias

    • Diane Poremsky says

      You'd need to use a PRF file for this, although if you have Outlook 2013, Exchange data file should be set as default automatically.

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