To Secure Your Personal Folders (*.pst) File

Last reviewed on October 17, 2012

Standalone users of Microsoft Outlook can password-protect the Personal Folders .pst file used to store all messages and other items.

I was wondering if there is some way that I can configure a password required to open Microsoft Outlook program. The thing is my computer can be accessed by a lot of people in my absence and I want to protect my emails to be read by another person than me.

Yes, its possible to password-protect your Outlook data file. However, once Outlook is open, anyone with access to your computer can view the contents of your pst file. For this reason you should secure your computer: when you step away, press Windows key + L to lock it. (And don’t share your password!) Each user should have their own Windows user account.

Create a Windows 7 user account | Change Windows 7 Account Password
Create and configure user accounts in Windows XP | Change Windows XP Account Password

Note that pst passwords are not very secure as the password is easily removed (password recovery tools are listed in the Tools section at the end of this article.)

Many users ask for a method to password protect individual folders. Outlook does not offer a way to password protect just one folder in the *.pst file. It’s all folders or nothing and you need to enter the password to open Outlook. However, the addins listed next will add this capability.

Password Protect Folder Tools

Tools

LockOutlook

Use LockOutlook to lock Outlook or specific folders so others can't view your mailbox. Lock Outlook manually as needed or configure it to lock Outlook automatically. Works with Outlook 2002-2010. (Site is in German.)

To password protect your Outlook *.pst file

Password protect an Outlook pst fileTo set a password on an Outlook pst file:

  1. Go to the top level of your folder, where Outlook Today is found. The folder name may include “Outlook Today” or your email account name.
  2. Right click on it and choose Properties (Data File Properties in Outlook 2010)
  3. Click the Advanced button
  4. Click Change Password
  5. Leave the Old Password field blank and enter a New Password and verify password.

Leave the Save this password in your password list box unchecked. This prevents the password from being cached (otherwise, anyone can open the data file on this computer). You will need to type it each time you run Outlook.

If you are changing an existing password, type both the old and new passwords in the respective fields. When you open Outlook, you’ll be asked for the password. This will prevent someone from opening Outlook and viewing your email. If Outlook is open, anyone using your computer can access your email – to protect it, you either need to close Outlook or lock the desktop when you walk away by pressing the Windows+L key.

Use a password you will remember. See Tools and More Information below for assistance with lost PST passwords.

See Bug in Outlook PST password protection for an explanation of how Outlook saves the password.

Password Protect Data File Tutorial

Password Removal and Recovery Tools

Tools

Kernel for Outlook PST Password Recovery

Kernel for Outlook PST Password Recovery is a free tool to recover forgotten password from Outlook PST files. Software takes Outlook PST file as input and does not require Outlook to be installed and configured. It supports password recovery from PST files created in MS Outlook 2010/2007/2003/XP/2000/97.

Mail PassView

Mail PassView allows you to view and recover lost e-mail account passwords and other account information for Outlook and other mail clients. Freeware. Version 1.43

Protected Storage PassView

Protected Storage PassView is a small utility that reveals the passwords stored on your computer. The passwords are revealed by reading the information from the Protected Storage. Works with Windows 95/98/ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. It does not work with Vista. Version 1.63

PstPassword

PstPassword can recover the PST passwords of Outlook 97, Outlook 2000, Outlook XP, Outlook 2003, and Outlook 2007. You don't need to have Outlook installed to use this utility, you only need the original PST file that you locked with a password. Freeware. Version 1.10

Recovery ToolBox for Outlook Password

Recovers forgotten or lost passwords for mail accounts and also passwords for LDAP services that the Microsoft Outlook mail client uses in its work. Recovers passwords for password-protected Microsoft Outlook data files (files with the *.pst extension).

Stellar Phoenix Outlook Password Recovery

Outlook Password Recovery software helps in recovering the lost or forgotten password with its advanced mechanism. The password recovery software scans the locked Outlook PST file and provides a set of six different passwords for that file. Stellar Outlook password recovery software has the capacity to recover the password with special characters and also allows to save the generated password in a text file. The recovery software is easy to use and compatible with almost all the Windows operating systems like Windows 7, Vista, Server 2003, XP, 2000 and NT4 (SP6).

More Information

Remove a Password From a *.PST File (only for Outlook 97- 2003 format)

Bug in Outlook PST password protection explains how Outlook saves the password.

  • If you check the Save this password in your password list box,, you won’t have to enter a password every time you use the PST file, but anyone walking up to your computer while you’re logged on will also be able to use it.
  • PST file passwords very easy to crack making them less than secure.
  • If you use an Exchange Server mailbox security is tied to your Windows login.

For Exchange server mailboxes, see Securing Outlook with Exchange mailboxes

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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