How To Recover Outlook 2007 PST File

The most important thing you can do before you ever run into any problems is to ensure you have a proper backup of the Outlook PST file. However, we have never run into any problem that couldn’t be managed with a PST file, the worst thing that has happened to us is our Windows installation became corrupted and needed to do a restore.

Aside from the need to restore from hardware failure or failed OS, the rest is typically recoverable with everything that is already located within Windows.

The first step to secure an Outlook Mail Profile is to export a component of Windows Registry. In the event of a disaster recovery, it will be necessary to import the component into the registry. As seen from the illustration below (click to enlarge), the location of the Windows Mail profile is located in the following location: HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrent VersionWindows Messaging SubsystemProfiles{user id} where the [user id] is the name of the Mail Profile. To access the mail profile, open Control Panel and the click to open the Mail Applet, then click on Show Profiles. The user id will match the name given to the profile. This mail profile will contain all the details to recover mail settings within Outlook.

Windows Registry Outlook 2007 Profile Location

It is important to export this component of the registry periodically or when any major changes or adjustments are made within Outlook. Ensure that the Reg file from this export is placed into a safe location that can be easily retrieved and is being currently backed up.

The most common problem we see in Outlook is when a Send/Receive process freezes. When this happens often times the only way to recover Outlook is to exit Outlook and then terminate the Outlook process in Task Manager. While in some cases this actually will recover the Send/Receive process, when it does not, then further troubleshooting is required. Here are the common recovery steps to try.

1. Check that the Deleted Items and Sent Items folder does not contain thousands of messages. In one instance clearing the Deleted Items folder had helped to resolve the above issue with Send/Receive. Not certain if Outlook has performance issues or can potentially corrupt configuration files or even the PST when the number of messages reaches a certain quantity. In this instance we had seen over 5000 deleted items and another 2000+ messages in sent items. By removing most, it improved the performance of Outlook significantly.

2. Once the Deleted Items and Sent Items folder is cleaned, the next step is to perform a Compact on the PST file. This can be done from 2 places, we always prefer to have Outlook closed during the compact. From Control Panel, open the Mail applet, click on Show Profiles. With the profile selected, click on Properties and then Data Files. Locate and click on the PST file, then click on Settings. As seen in the image below (modified image for illustration purposes)

Windows Mail Profile Outlook Account Settings

With the PST file selecting and clicking on Settings a popup will open that will provide an option to Compact. If the PST file is larger (eg: over 250MB), it will take a few minutes, give it some time to process.

3. In some cases and after each of these steps, testing can be done to see if the problem has resolved. If steps 1 and 2 did not resolve then the next process can be to delete a file that is auto-recreated if they don’t exist when Outlook opens. The Send/Receive Group can be corrupted which may be causing the issue with Send/Receive. To locate this file, open Windows File Explorer and go to this path (for Windows) C:Users{userid}AppDataRoamingMicrosoftOutlook in Windows XP/Vista the path may be c:Documents and Settings{user}AppData…. If the AppData folder is not visible, the Show Hidden Files option may not be set. Click on Organize > Folder and search Options which will open the Folder Options popup. Click on the View Tab and locate the option as illustrated below.

Windows 7 Folder Options Show Hidden Files

In the folder AppDataRoamingMicrosoftOutlook delete the SRS file. Although we have in fact deleted all the files in this folder before and the all get recreated by Outlook. It is the SRS file that may be damaged and causes the Send/Receive process to fail.

4. We always recommend placing and keeping the PST files in folders other than the default installation. However, this requires copying the PST file from the Users folder and then adding it in the Account Settings (illustrated above). The reason the path in the above illustration is c:dataemail1outook is for this very reason. Using a dedicated Data folder simplifies backups process by minimizing the number of folders for the backup to scan. Sometimes backups run and finish sooner if all data files are in 1 place instead of having the backup scan so many folders and backing up files that are not ever modified from the original installation of software.

The next step is to run a scan and repair on the PST file. Microsoft Office comes with just the utility and is located in this folder for Office 2007 (“C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft OfficeOffice12SCANPST.EXE”). Run this program and provide the path to the PST file. While we have a simple path to our PST file because we place it in a Data folder, default installation paths would be in (C:Users{userid}AppDataLocalMicrosoftOutlook). The scan and repair will prompt to optionally create a backup in the same folder called [outlook-pst].bak where in most cases the PST file is called Outlook.pst, unless it is renamed. We always rename our PST files to ensure we are not using a generic name or version or accidentally move/over-write/delete it. The scan and repair process can take a few minutes, this would be a great time to grab a glass of your favorite beverage. We have seen this take over 5-10 minutes on larger PST files (over 500MB).

5. The last and final step is to recreate the Mail profile. From the Control Panel, open the Mail applet and click on Show Profiles. To create a new Mail profile, click on the Profile to be re-created and then click on the Copy button. Give the Copy a name easily identifiable as the newer version. We don’t recommend removing the old mail profile on this step, but as a clean up step post testing. There have been instances where creating a new Mail Profile that fixed the Send/Receive temporarily and then it broke again. While this helped the problem may have persisted but was doomed to reappear. At the bottom of this Show Profiles popup, ensure the newly created profile is set as the default and click Apply. Test Outlook again.

By now, we have cleaned the deleted items and sent items folder, compacted the PST file, re-created the Send/Receive group, ran a scan/repair on the PST file and created a new Mail Profile with all the same settings by using the Copy feature in Show Profiles popup. We also ensured that we have a Mail Profile backup using windows Registry to export Outlook account settings. We also discussed moving the PST file into a Data folder, although we didn’t cover the individual steps, this is a recommendation to ensure the PST file is included in the backup.

Lastly, while the above steps can solve the most common problem in Outlook with the Send/Receive issue, we have at times had to perform all these steps above without re-opening Outlook until all steps were completed to ensure we weren’t re-corrupting something by testing in between. After step 1 is complete, it can be a good idea to perform steps 2-5 without opening Outlook. While some feel this is scary in case something fatal happens, rest assured with the right backup in place one can always restore the Outlook 2007 PST files from a backup. After performing these steps many times we have reached a very good confidence level when using these troubleshooting techniques. There is nothing to worry about when maneuvering through Outlook files if you know where everything is and there is a backup of the most important information, that is the Outlook PST file and the Mail Profile registry settings. We do provide technical support to assist in these situations using a remote control service. Our fee to perform these steps is $25. Visit TAPNET Tech Support page click through to order our Quick Fix item.

As we have crossed this path before without all the recovery and troubleshooting steps, the absolute worst case scenario we have had is re-configuring all the Outlook settings until we started to backup the Windows Registry components, but we have NEVER lost email because of the trusted TAPNET Online Backup.