Last reviewed on July 24, 2015   —  1 Comment

Why do organizations need to run a PST recovery? Is it because users love to save so much email that their PST files exceed all reasonable storage limits and then blow up – putting hundreds or thousands of business critical emails at risk? Or is it because they try to store these enormous PSTs on network shares – leading to corruption from simple over the network access (which is not supported)? Could it be that the organization charges users more for storage on the Exchange Server than on the file server, so business units encourage their users to store mail in PSTs to “save money”? Whatever the reason, there’s not an Exchange admin out there who hasn’t been faced with the need to run PST recovery to save some user’s email.

There are several ways to go about PST recovery, depending on what versions are in use, how large the files are, and how much you are willing to spend. Older versions of Outlook don’t handle PST files larger than 2GB very well, but won’t prevent users from creating larger files. Outlook 2003 and 2007 can deal with PST files up to 20GB in size, which is a huge file to try to back up over the Wi-Fi connection most users have today. Storing such large files on the server has its own challenges, especially when users lose connectivity while the file is open. Outlook 2010 can go up to 50GB, which is just an astronomically large amount of mail to lose if the file corrupts and cannot be repaired. Here’s a rundown on three ways to perform a PST recovery, and one way to avoid ever needing to again.

Inbox Repair Tool

This tool is included with Outook and is called scanpst. Scanpst.exe can be found in either drive:\Program Files\Common Files\System\Mapi\LocaleID\scanpst.exe or drive:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14 (Outlook 2010). The scanpst.exe tool can scan a PST file for damage, and can recover it in many cases. Run it when you encounter an error message like this one:

Errors have been detected in the file <file_path>. Quit all mail-enabled applications, and then use the Inbox Repair Tool.

OST Crop Tool

Remember those limits to PST size? When a user blows past that point, the Inbox Repair Tool may not be able to repair it. You can use the OST Crop Tool to truncate the corrupt file down to a size that may be accessible. Make a copy of the corrupt PST first, because when you use this tool you will lose data. Recovering some mail is better than none, but preserving a copy lets you try another fix or two. You can download that tool from the Microsoft website’s Download Center.

Third Party PST Repair Tools

The market is full of free and commercial PST repair tools from third party sources. Look at the vendors’ websites carefully, and see what you can find using your favorite search engine about real users’ successes. As always, make a copy of the PST before you try any tool so that you can take another crack at it if the first choice fails.

A Better Alternative

Of course, there are no guarantees with PST recovery. PST files were never intended for enterprise email storage, and sometimes your best efforts with the top of the line software may still fail. Really, the only way to be sure that your users will never lose email to corrupted PSTs is to not use them.

Email archiving solutions are to the enterprise what PST files are to a user’s personal email – providing users practically unlimited email storage, while relieving the stresses that this might otherwise place on an Exchange system. Email archiving works with your email system. Older emails can be moved to the archive by hand, or automatically using any particular logic you need to employ. Commonly, archiving is automatic for all sent or received messages, but can also be based on age. When email is moved to the archive, it is still available to the user. They can access archived messages using their Outlook client or a web browser, but rather than taking up premium storage on the Exchange server, they are stored in the archive’s less expensive disks. This also makes backup and restore operations easier, since mail is now split across multiple storage systems, while still being accessible to the user as one. With no more need to store email in PSTs, critical data stays on the server where it is protected, accessible, and can be searched as needed; and the best part is that there’s no need for PST files or painful PST recover efforts.

Look at deploying email archiving today to solve your storage needs and eliminate PST files. You’ll never have to deal with a PST recovery operation again.

This guest post was provided by Casper Manes on behalf of GFI Software Ltd. GFI is a leading software developer that provides a single source for network administrators to address their network security, content security and messaging needs. Read more on the issue with PST recovery.

All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.


  1. Vianney says

    I downloaded a huge document - about 500 pages - and my outlook stopped working.
    Afterwards, I tried opening my outlook but it won't open.
    It asks for a password - I didn't use a password before and it added a .pst to my email.
    I tried uninstalling and reinstalling outlook but it keeps asking for a password.
    I will appreciate any advise you can give.

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