How to move IMAP or EAS data files

Last reviewed on February 10, 2014

Applies to: Microsoft Outlook 2013, Outlook 2010, Outlook 2007, Outlook 2003

An Outlook user asks:

Without starting Outlook 2007, I moved the IMAP pst from C to D. I hoped Outlook would ask me where the file is. However it creates a new one in the same location. How do I make Outlook use the new location?

That method is used to move *.pst files used by POP3 accounts, it won't work with the IMAP protocol. (Actually, it's not recommended that you use that method for any PST - you should move the PST then point the profile to the new location before opening Outlook.)

Use ForcePSTPath registry value to relocate Outlook 2013 IMAP and EAS .ost data files.

While I don't recommend moving the IMAP *.pst unless your drive space is tight, you can move the IMAP *.pst using the following steps. You cannot reuse an IMAP data file with a different profile.

These methods work with Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2013. I recommend using ForcePSTPath with Outlook 2010 and up. Note: Outlook 2013 IMAP and EAS *.ost files honor the ForcePSTPath key, not ForceOSTPath even though the data file extension is *.ost.

Outlook 2010 users report problems sending and receiving email. In Outlook 2010 or 2013, make sure you select the sent folder in More Settings. Or use the ForcePSTPath key then add the account to your profile after creating the key. I tested the ForcePSTPath with IMAP accounts in Outlook 2010, without error.

Symbolic Links and Junction Points can be used. See How to Move Shell Folders (and contents) for more information.

Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013 use the ForcePSTPath registry key to change the default data file path from C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook. This change will not move existing pst files in your profile. If you create new accounts in your profile (or create a new profile), .pst or IMAP/EAs .ost files will be placed in the path entered in the registry. This does not affect the location of Exchange or Outlook connector .ost files.

Using ForcePSTPath | Reusing an IMAP data file | Move the PST

Using the ForcePSTPath regedit

Use the ForcePSTPath regedit to change the default *.pst or Outlook 2013 IMAP and EAS *.ost path. This key works for for POP3, IMAP, and SharePoint data files but does not affect Exchange and Outlook Connector ost files; the Exchange and Outlook Connector ost files are always saved in default path under the user account (C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook on Windows 7 and Vista).

The ForcePSTPath key will relocate the pst files used by IMAP accounts in Outlook 2010 but not in earlier versions. If you use Outlook 2007, you'll need to move the pst file and repoint the profile to it, following the steps below.

Note: This does not change the path for existing accounts. It works only for accounts created after the key is set. Remember to create the folder you want to store the IMAP pst files in before you set the key.

In Start menu, Run (Windows key + R) or the Start Search field (Win7 and Vista only) type regedit and click OK.

Registry Editor for ForcePSTPath

Browse to the following subkey in the registry.

In Outlook 2007 (POP3, Sharepoint, and default pst files only):
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook

In Outlook 2010 go to
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook

In Outlook 2013, the path is
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook

Right click on the key and choose New then click String Value.
String Value: ForcePSTPath with your desired data path as the value data

Click OK and edit the registry editor. If Outlook is open, close it then restart. Newly created data files will default to the location. Existing data files would need to be moved.

Do It For Me

If you don't want to edit the registry directly, you can use one of these text files - you need to edit the path before changing the file extension to reg and double clicking on it to run it.

Be sure the path exists before adding the key to the registry. If it does not exist, Outlook will drop back to the default Microsoft\Outlook location under the user account (and in Outlook 2010, to My Documents\Outlook files for POP3 and additional pst files.)

Remember to use double \\ between folder names in the path in the reg file. (Use single slashes if you edit the registry directly.)

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook]
"ForcePSTPath"="C:\\folder\\folder\\folder\\folder\\folder"

Outlook 2013 Outlook 2010 Outlook 2007

Remember: you need to edit the path name, the save it using the .reg extension (or change the extension to reg after saving). Then you need to double click on the reg file to update the registry!

Reusing an IMAP data file

We receive a lot of questions from people who want to reuse the IMAP data file, either on a new computer or with a new profile. Sorry, this is not possible currently. Only the profile that created the IMAP data file can use it.

Using it in a new profile would not make the process faster as Outlook would re-sync every thing in the data file.

Note: If you download full messages, you can open and view the contents of the pst file in another Outlook profile. While this may suffice as a backup of the mailbox or an archive, if you need to clean out the IMAP account, we recommend moving messages to a local pst file to insure the full message bodies are downloaded.

Steps to Move the PST

First, close Outlook then make sure Outlook is not listed in Task Manager, Processes tab a few minutes after you close it.

  1. Open the profile (Control panel, search for Mail) and click on Data files.
  2. Select the IMAP acct and click Open Folder to open the folder containing the PST.
  3. Move the PST to the desired location. Do not rename the file Outlook creates a new file in the default location if you try to rename it - you can only move it.
  4. Switch to the Data Files window and double click on the account's data file.
  5. Now you'll get the 'can't find' error and can tell outlook where to find it.
  6. Close the dialogs and you are ready to restart outlook.

Video Tutorial: Move IMAP *.pst

More Information

For more information, see the following Microsoft KB article
How to change the default location that Outlook 2003 or Outlook 2002 uses to create or to open a personal folders (.pst) file

This method will work with SharePoint and Internet Calendars. You can’t (easily) move Outlook Connector message stores for Hotmail/MSN/Live accounts. In my experience, this method is mostly reliable but does occasionally get 'lost' and a new pst is made in the default location.

If the above methods don't work and you are serious about moving the pst, you can use symbolic links or junction points. See Symbolic Links (MSDN), Junction Points (MSDN), and How to Move Shell Folders (and contents) for more information.

See To move a Personal Folders .pst file for instructions for moving POP3 pst files and Hotmail Connector files.

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

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