Recover Outlook Data Files from a Crashed Computer

Last reviewed on October 17, 2014   —  66 comments

When your old computer has crashed, you can retrieve your Outlook pst files (and other files and documents) as long as you can connect the old hard drive to the new computer. The easiest way to do this is with a USB enclosure for the old hard drive. You can find these at many electronics stores or online. They come in two formats: a case the drive slides into, so you can easily carry it around or just the connectors (and a power supply) you need to connect the drive to another computer.

You can choose between multipurpose cable kits that will work with many types of drives or a hard drive enclosure that will allow you to use the old drive as a portable drive.

Once the old drive is connected to the new computer, open Windows Explorer and browse the old drive.

If the old computer used Windows XP, the default location of the old pst files will be

[new_drive_letter]:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

If the old computer had Windows 7 or Vista, the default location is

[new_drive_letter]:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

These are hidden files and folders and are most likely protected by permission settings. To change the permissions, right-click on your old username folder and choose Properties.

On the General tab, if “Hidden” is checked, deselect it and click Apply.

On the Security tab, click Edit, then Add and give either your new user account or Everyone “Full Control” and click Apply. (The old computer account displays as Account Unknown.)

Give your current account full control of the files

If “Hidden” was not checked, you can either change the Hidden Files and Folders setting in Windows Explorer (at Organize, Folder and Search Options, View) or select the next folder(s) in the path and right-click, choose Properties and deselect Hidden.

Show hidden files and folders

Now you can browse down the folders to locate your Outlook pst files and copy them to the new computer. If the pst files use the new Unicode format (introduced in Outlook 2003), you can use this pst in your new profile.

If it’s the older ANSI format pst file, you can use File, Open, Import to import it into Outlook 2010.

Don’t bother moving .*ost files, which are used by Hotmail Connector and Exchange server mailboxes. You won’t be able to open these files on the new computer. If, for some reason, you need to recover data in .ost files you’ll need to purchase recovery software.

While the old drive is connected, browse the user folders for files you may want to move, including your custom dictionary and support files Outlook uses. See Moving Outlook to a New Computer for the Outlook files you might want to move and where to find them, along with instructions to configure Outlook with the old data 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.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlookforums.

66 responses to “Recover Outlook Data Files from a Crashed Computer”

  1. James Harnett

    16 October, 2011

    I am looking for information on importing Outlook 2000 rules into outlook 2010.
    Such that I have found thus far, seem to indicate that the rules may need to be exported first (from 2000?). My computer died (with Outlook 2000 installed) due to mother board failure, and I did not export the rules (was there a need to do so?).
    How might I import the 2000 rules into 2010?

    Thanks ever so much,
    James Harnett
    Portland, Oregon

  2. Kayward Davis

    Diane: I think I may have a major problem. My daughter's computer, which houses the history of her internet business, became increasingly unstable, and we found a rebuilt computer for sale and struck a deal with the gentleman selling us the computer for him to transfer her files into the new computer. The new computer had Microsoft Office suite already installed (which is what my daughter uses everyday). He did a "copy" on all of her files onto an external drive, the a "paste" into her new computer.

    After he had done this, we gave him her old computer...INCLUDING the hard drive (big mistake!). Once we got back to the office, we discovered that the Office suite he installed did not have Outlook (?)...so I went to the disk that came with her old computerand installed Outlook 7.

    I'm not all that computer savvy, but I went through the steps I found online, but cannot get the files to install? What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks for ANY assistance/advice you can offer.

    I cannot get the files to install. It's called "backup.pst" and has 2.43MG of information in that file.

    QUESTION: What (or how) can I get these files into her Outlook?

  3. Hazel

    Thank you for your advice that *.pst files are hidden. I was worried that we had lost all of our email data. All okay now and all recovered.

  4. chris

    i have did a lot of miss takes do to it been my first computer but the people are triing to help me but im beoned reckaletion hope some of these friends can do it for me

  5. Cbu

    Is it possible to recover outlook data from from a formatted harddrive?

  6. J Bedford

    I have pst folders stored on an external hard drive, this has broken and now has no power supply. I have a quote form a data recoevry team, but I am being asked by my manager if we can recover the files form the email account, I suspect not as we moved them to pst on the hard drive - please help! She seems to think there must be a back up on the email account somewhere.

  7. Alan W

    I had a problem with Malware which has entailed re-installing Windows 7, in so doing everything on the old drive has been compacted into "Old Windows" on the new partition; is there any way of accessing PST or contact files from my old copy of Outlook? In "Users" there are no "Appdata" files.

  8. Alan W

    Hi Diane, Thanks for that; it all worked fine once I reset the folder properties, just as you said! My only problem now is that as I try to import the information, the programme comes up with a message part way through the import process that says that the file is too big; a result of me not archiving information I'm afraid! A lesson to us all! The stored file in Appdata is about 435Mb!! Is there any way of importing parts of that information rather than in it's totality?

  9. Alan W

    Hi Diane. I've moved the Archive file to My Documents; no problem. When I hit File the only option I get is "Open With" and then of course I get the "Windows can't open this file" message. If I hit "open with" I'm then faced with a choice of using the web service to find something suitable or to "select a programme from a list of installed programmes" so I'm stuck again! Thanks for all your help so far.

  10. Alan W

    Hi Diane. "I see said the blind man!!!" I was trying to open the files in My Documents! It looks as if all my old e-mail is still there, the one thing I can't seem to find is my address book; is there a way of copying contact details to address book? Thanks again!!

  11. Alan W

    Hi Diane, Thank you; I've successfully copied the archived contacts list to my current one but I routinely use "Address Book" to store all e-mail addresses; is there a way of copying "Contacts" to "Address Book"? In the final analysis I could just manually copy each item as I use it but with over four hundred entries that could take a while! I'm going to be "Out of Office" for the next day & a half, so will pick up your response tomorrow. Thanks again for all your help!!

  12. Alan W

    Hi Diane. Thanks yet again for this guidance; I can now see the three different version of "Contacts" that I have recovered when I press the "To" button but, having read your piece on "missing contacts" I think I am now set to having to individually re-construct each address book entry as and when I need to use it, which is a shame and rather long-winded but, against the background of thinking that I'd lost my entire address book of nearly 500 entries, this pales into insignificance! In the "Contacts Properties" box the under Outlook Address Book tab the little box "Show this folder as an e-mail address book" is greyed out and reading your article, because I'm using Office 2007, it sounds as if the individual re-construction route is the only one available. Thanks again for all your help, at least now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel's heading up hill!!

  13. mansoor

    Dear Diane,

    This's Mansoor. i had problem in Outlook 10, Outlook .pst cannot open in specified folder. I copied all .pst file from my old laptop but once i add the data file in outlook, and inbox message coming some subfolder is there in inbox that message not showing. how to recover my outlook files. kindly replay...

  14. Kelly Moran

    I have located and unhidden my outlook files stored on external drive. When I try to either open or import using new Outlook 10 I get message saying "You do not have permission to access files" These were personal emails on a personal pc. Any advice would be appreciated.

  15. ali

    when i check outlook folder, it shows only outcmd.dat, outlook.NK2, outlook.srs, outlook.xml, outprnt - file. There is no .pst file in this folder. Where can i find it. It is outlook 2007.

  16. Bob M

    I had to replace my Windows 7 C: drive due to "bad sector(s)". I installed a new C: drive and I am able to access my old drive at F: I want to recover my Outlook 2010 ".pst" files and have unhidden everything for all users from F:/Users/Username/AppData and below but there are no ".pst" files in F:/Users/Username/AppDate/Local/Microsoft/Outlook.

    Outlook was open/active when I began having system problems, but I don't think I was doing anything with Outlook at the time. Do you have any idea what could have happened to those files and where I might be able to recover them from?

  17. Amber Danae

    Hi Diane,
    Thanks so much for posting this. I had a windows vista that we had downgraded to XP that crashed on me Wednesday morning. I was able to move the hard drive to an external enclosure, and I have access to all the files, but when I go to the hidden outlook file, the pst files in there are over two years old. Any idea on where the newer file might be? Or how I could find them?

    Thanks so much!

  18. Amber Danae

    The old computer had outlook 2003. My new computer has outlook 2013. I did a search for a pst file, but the only ones that come up are from 2009-early 2012.

  19. dborders2013

    Diane,
    Thanks for this post! My PC crashed and I've recovered the files to add to my new PC(outlook 2010 to 2013.) What is the proper setup sequence if I have a few email addresses in my outlook? Do I create all of the accounts first before loading the PST file or load the PST first? Also, I can't remember if they were all IMAP accounts. I thought my main account was POP3 but when I tried to load the PST and set up my most used main account as POP3 it downloaded all the emails again and created duplicate "on this computer only" files. Does that mean it was originally IMAP?

  20. jason owsley

    Is there a way to recover old emails saved from an old computer on a new one? I was not able to save my outlook as a psv file. I can't find out how to get my old emails back. Please help!!

  21. Jason owsley

    I never created any PSV file before my computer crashed, so when I used the method above nothing happened.

  22. johnres

    Or you can use Long Path Tool, it works good for such problems...

  23. Radwan

    I tried to import an Outlook Data file from an external hard drive onto my Outlook on my new computer but no contacts show up when I try this. What is happening?

  24. Bill Soens. (UK)

    I had 2003 Office pro installed and then installed a legal 2013 over the top.(desktop, windows &) Everything worked fine except for Outlook, which tells me that Outlook.pst file was not closed/cleaned properly and must be repaired. The .pst file is not on the hard drive, even where they say it should be. I uninstalled whole system, which also apparently removed all 2003 file and then reinstalled it clean again. Same problem. All other Offices programmes work fine. I have the same programme on my laptop Windows 8) and it is 100% there.

  25. chabiul

    My computer hard drive has crashed......tried to retrieve the data from hard drive... but the hard drive is recognized....

    does their any procedure to can retrieve the email from exchange server?

  26. Felix

    Hi Diane

    About 5 weeks ago my outlook incoming mail server stopped loading incoming emails into my outlook application, though I am able to send out going emails without any issues.

    I was able to verify this by going into my sent folder to verify that any sent emails were received into the sent folder.

    When I attempt do a self-test on sending an email, I can see that my outlook is receiving the message by noticing the send/receive message at the bottom of my screens tool bar, but no message will appear in the Inbox of the outlook App.

    I had also did additional investigations of the problem by going into outlooks Account settings//Email//Repair//

    I then clicked on repair to see if the application would be able to correct this issue, but had no success in doing so.

    The results of the repair test had the following outcome:
    • An encrypted connection to your mail server is not available.
    • Click next to attempt using an unencrypted connection.

    When I attempted to manually configure server setting or additional server types for the unencrypted connection, I first choose to test the account settings

    • Both the log into incoming mail server (POP3) and send test e-mail message had a status of completed or [the test had completed successfully in other words]

    When the test to run for an unencrypted connection had finished, I receive a [X] or a failure for a connection.

    Note: the only way for me to get any email sent to me is by going onto my service provider’s web site and fetching all my emails there.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  27. Felix

    Hi Diane,

    The answer to your 1st question is no, using instant search does not resolve the issue.
    The answer to your 2nd question if I understand it correctly is : POP/SMTP email account

  28. Felix

    My pst file size is 761K but I believe it should of be much larger then this? not quite sure why it is so small,

    I had created a multitude of sub folders under the inbox since 2010 and had stored various emails and attachments in them.

    Is there anything that I can do to either get the current installed app functioning once again or if that is not possible, can a reset been done without losing all my current data?

  29. Felix

    Hi Diane,

    There is no doubt that the file I submitted to you is a pst file.

    But I went back to the file and did a right mouse click and clicked properties to confirm my assertion of the file type.

    What was presented on the screen was the following:

    Type of file: Outlook Data File (pst)

    Location: C:\users’user’AppData’Local’Microsoft’Outlook
    Size: 761 KB (779,234 bytes
    Size on disk: 761 KB (779,234 bytes

    Created: July-21-14 4:29 28 PM
    Modified: September 07-14, 6:07 19 PM
    Accessed: July-21-14, 4:29 28 PM

    Please take note that I have (2) pst files one being a duplicate of the original if I am not mistaken.
    They are identical in file size but the second file has a (2) attached to the pst file name.

  30. Thomas Henry

    I had a HP computer with windows 8.1 and outlook 2013. There was a small problem with the case and when the HP tech came to work on it he left in the middle of the job with the computer in pieces. HP replaced the computer but i have some emails i have to get off of the broken computer hard drive. The HD is working and i have a sata to usb cable so i can access it. I cannot find the files you mention in the article. are they different with 8.1 and outlook 13

  31. Thomas Henry

    I had three profiles in outlook. one was my aroklaw.com account. one was an aol account and one was a gmail account. It was an outlook 2013 outlook acount. When i go to new drive letter/ user/ etc to appdata and then go to microsoft then outlook. I find the aol. ost information and the same for gmail but do not see the aroklaw.com account No .pst files in there at all. Would those be in the old accounts document folder ?

  32. Tami

    I had a computer crash on me. They replaced the hard drive and the motherboard and still didn't work properly so they sent me a new computer. We copied the files from the old hard drive before we sent it back. I had Microsoft Outlook 2013 on the old computer and the new computer. When we imported the files to the new computer I am missing a bunch of my calendar information. Only the reoccurances are showing up. Also I cannot find my current contact list, only can find older versions. But my saved e-mails appear to have imported correctly. My computer guy has imported about 15 different calendars from the old hard drive and we can't find anymore and still the information is not there. Any ideas?

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