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Recover damaged Microsoft® Outlook Email Archives

Application Microsoft® Outlook® Version 1.00
Author OfficeHelp
Tested on versions: 2000 (9.0), XP (10.0) - should work on any version from Office 97

You open Outlook and get an worrying error message: your email / calendar / contacts file is corrupted and can't be opened. You've just lost everything on it!!!

Well, not exactly. It is possible to recover the file, partially or even totally, usually with a small loss of the message that provoked the corruption. All with a free utility Microsoft (r) already included on Windows but forgot to tell.

If the damage is recoverable, even if with losses, this tool may do it for you. And it's free, is already on your Microsoft® Windows copy.

Microsoft® Hidden Secret 

Almost nobody knows, but Microsoft®  Windows includes a non-documented, free-tool to recover Microsoft® Outlook email (and calendar / tasks / contacts) storage files: the Inbox Repair Tool. To use it to recover a damaged email file, you have to follow these steps it on your system:

  1. Find the free Inbox Repair Tool on your system;
  2. Locate the damaged Microsoft® Outlook file on your disk;
  3. Use the Inbox Repair Tool to recover it;

NOTE: the screen-capture pictures on this tip were taken from Microsoft® Windows 2000. Microsoft® Windows XP is slightly different, but you should be able to do it without trouble.

STEP 1: Find the free Inbox Repair Tool on your system 

1) Use the file search tool on Microsoft® Windows Start Menu:

Search Files

2) Search for a file called scanpst.exe:

Search Specific File

3) Launch the recovery tool by clicking on its name on the search results list: 

Inbox Repair Tool

STEP 2: Locate the damaged Microsoft® Outlook file on your disk;

Microsoft® Outlook  storage files have a file extension of .PST. But it doesn't show the file location, only it's contents. To find where the file is stored, do this:

1) Place the mouse over the Personal Folder heading on the Folder List. Use the right mouse button to get the context menu. Select Properties.

Tools menu

2) On the Properties dialog, press the Advanced button:

Personal Folders Properties Dialog

3) The name and location of the Outlook Archive file can be found on the Path field:

Outlook Archive Filename and Location

4) The archive file will be be found on the indicated location:

Archive File on the HardDrive

Note that the file appear on Windows as NOT being related to any application (no application Icon) and you can't open it by double clicking with the mouse.

WARNING: If the file is really damaged, Outlook may not allow you to do the steps above. In this case, just use the Windows File Search tool shown on STEP 1 to locate all email storage files and recover one by one: Search for files called *.pst

STEP 3: Use the Inbox Repair Tool to recover it

1) Use the Browse button to select the storage file you've just located:

Open Damaged File on Disk
Recovery Process in Progress

2) Press Start and wait for the recovery process to end:

Recovery Process in Progress

3)  The recovery process results will be shown, at the end, in a pop-up window: 

Inbox Repair Tool Results Window

It says I have losses. What do I do? 

Not much. Accept them if you want to recover the remainder of the file. Usually, when recovering a damaged file, the contents of the damaged area will be lost, be it email messages, contacts, task or calendar items. 

The best (and probably only) way to protect against this is to regularly backup your Outlook storage files. If you want to know more about it, check this tutorial on How to Backup Outlook files.

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