Move an Outlook data file from one computer to another

If you recently bought a new computer, or perhaps you decided to do some major cleaning and reinstall all of your software on a new or reformatted hard disk, you will need to reinstall Microsoft Office Outlook 2007. A new installation of Outlook doesn't mean that you lose all of your e-mail messages. This article explains how to see your old e-mail messages in your new installation.

In this article

 Warning   This article assumes that you know how to back up your Outlook data files and that you have already done this. Do not format a hard disk that contains your Outlook data files before you first back up the data to another hard disk, network drive, or removable media. Formatting your hard disk will permanently destroy the data on that disk. In addition to your data files, there are other configuration files that you may want to back up. For more information about Outlook file locations, see the See Also section.

 Note   This article explains how to move your existing Outlook data and configure Outlook to save new items in your old data file. Copying other configuration information, such as rules, Send/Receive groups, accounts settings, and autocomplete suggestions is not covered in this article.

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Where are your e-mail messages saved?

Where are your e-mail messages saved? Are the messages kept on the e-mail server or locally on your computer in an Outlook data file? The answer depends on the type of e-mail account you have and how you have configured the account in Outlook. The place where your new messages are saved is defined as the default delivery location.

  • Microsoft Exchange account    

If you use an Exchange account, typically your e-mail messages, calendar, contacts, and other items are delivered to and stored in your mailbox (mailbox: Location on a Microsoft Exchange server where your e-mail is delivered. Your administrator sets up a mailbox for each user. If you designate a personal folder file as your e-mail delivery location, messages are routed to it from your mailbox.) on the server running Exchange. When you install Outlook on a new computer and configure an Exchange account, all your items on the server running Exchange are again available to you. The remaining information in this article does not apply to you, unless you either created an archive or local data files, or specified that your Exchange messages be delivered to a local data file.

Exchange accounts also allow you to work offline or use Cached Exchange Mode. If you use either of these features, local copies of your items are kept on your computer in an Offline Folder file (.ost) (Offline Folder file: The file on your hard disk that contains offline folders. The offline folder file has an .ost extension. You can create it automatically when you set up Outlook or when you first make a folder available offline.). The .ost file is synchronized with the items on the server running Exchange periodically. Because your data remains on the server running Exchange, you can recreate this .ost file on your new computer without having to back it up.

  • Determine whether Cached Exchange Mode is turned on    
    1. On the Tools menu, click E-Mail Accounts.
    2. Select the Exchange account, and then click Change.
    3. Under Microsoft Exchange Server, if the Use Cached Exchange Mode check box is selected, Cached Exchange Mode is turned on.

Alternatively, you can move or archive your Exchange account items to a Personal Folders file (.pst) (Personal Folders file (.pst): Data file that stores your messages and other items on your computer. You can assign a .pst file to be the default delivery location for e-mail messages. You can use a .pst to organize and back up items for safekeeping.). You can also configure Outlook to deliver new items to a .pst file, rather than keeping the items on the server. You must back up these .pst files as well as reconnect them to your new installation of Outlook.

  • Determine whether the default delivery location is a .pst file    
  1. On the Tools menu, click E-Mail Accounts.
  2. Under Selected e-mail account delivers new e-mail messages to the following location verify the default delivery location that is listed.

 Note   Delivery of new e-mail to an Exchange mailbox usually appears as Mailbox - <username> or just your username. Delivery of new e-mail to a .pst file appears as Personal Folders or a custom display name you provided for the .pst file.

  • POP3, IMAP, and HTTP accounts    

If you use a POP3 (POP3: A common protocol that is used to retrieve e-mail messages from an Internet e-mail server.) e-mail account, which is one of the most common types of personal e-mail accounts, your e-mail messages are downloaded from your POP3 e-mail server at your Internet service provider (ISP) to your computer and delivered to and stored locally in a Personal Folders file (.pst) named Outlook.pst. Outlook.pst is the default data file name. The file is stored in the <drive>:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder.

IMAP (IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol): Unlike Internet e-mail protocols such as POP3, IMAP creates folders on a server to store/organize messages for retrieval by other computers. You can read message headers only and select which messages to download.) and HTTP accounts save your e-mail messages on a server, as does an Exchange account. As with any type of Outlook e-mail account, you can choose to archive or move items from the server into a local .pst file. If you archived or moved items from the server to a local .pst file, you need to back up the .pst file and then reconnect to it in your new installation of Outlook. If you have kept everything on the server, after you use the E-Mail Accounts Wizard to set up your IMAP or HTTP account, all of the items on the e-mail server will again be available to you in Outlook.

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Step 1: Move your old data files

You installed Outlook on a new computer or a new hard disk and are ready to start using your old data.

  • Use Windows Explorer to copy each Personal Folders file (.pst) from its backup location (network drive or removable media, such as a CD or DVD or portable hard disk) to the <drive>:\Documents and Settings\<user>\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder.

Although you can keep your data files in any folder, this is the default location that Outlook uses when creating .pst files.

 Note   This location is a hidden folder. To use Windows Explorer to navigate to this folder, you must first turn on the display of hidden folders. In Windows Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Folder Options. On the View tab, under Advanced Settings, under Files and Folders, under Hidden files and folders, select Show hidden files and folders. If you want to see all file name extensions, clear the Hide extensions for known file types check box. Hidden folders appear dimmed to indicate they are not typical folders.

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Step 2: Set up your account when you first start Outlook

When you first start Outlook, you are asked for your e-mail account information. Depending on the type of account you use, Outlook may create a new data file known in Outlook as a Personal Folders file (.pst). That is good if you are a new user but probably not what you want if you were already an Outlook user, you had your e-mail messages delivered to a .pst file, and you want to keep using that .pst file. You can still get to your original data, but first complete the Outlook setup by responding to the questions you are prompted to answer. Once you are in Outlook, there are some important steps to getting your old data back and then making sure that new messages are delivered to same .pst file that you were previously using.

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Step 3: Access the old Outlook data file

If you use a POP3 account, or you set up your Exchange account to deliver to a local Personal Folders file (.pst), you need to set up Outlook to open the file.

  1. On the File menu, point to Open, and then click Outlook Data File.
  2. Click the .pst file you want to open, and then click OK.

The name of the folder associated with the data file appears in the Folder List in the Navigation Pane. If you never changed the display name, it is still the default Personal Folders.

You are halfway done. You now probably have two Personal Folders listed in the Navigation Pane. The first was created by Outlook when you first started Outlook and provided information about your account. The second folder is your old data. You can verify that your original data is back in Outlook by viewing the Inbox or the subfolders under one of the entries. You should see all of your old items.

If you see two entries named Personal Folders in the Navigation Pane, we recommend that you follow the quick steps in the "Customizing the data file display name" section to make sure that the next procedure easier. If you see only one top-level folder named Personal Folders, skip to the "Delivering messages to the previously used .pst file" section.

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Step 4: Customize the data file display name

If you kept the default settings and ended up with two sets of Personal Folders, it might be confusing. You have two data files — the file that Outlook created when you started Outlook for the first time and your old data file that was just added. Now is a good time to customize the display name to prevent confusion.

  1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click Personal Folders, and then click Properties for Personal Folders.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. In the Name text box, type a name that is meaningful to you, such as My Messages.
  4. Click OK twice.

Now you will see a top folder named My Messages in the Navigation Pane. You will always be able to quickly identify your data file from any others.

 Tip   Customizing the file names is also useful if you keep multiple .pst file archives. For example, if you create a monthly .pst file to store all of your sent items for that month, you can rename the display name from Personal Folders to something more friendly, such as Sent Mail Archive – December 2007.

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Step 5: Deliver messages to the previously used .pst file

You can use one or more .pst files, but new messages can only be delivered to one file.

Now that your old items are available in Outlook, you need to tell Outlook which data file is your primary data file and that all new items should go to the Inbox in that .pst file. The file or mailbox to which your new messages are delivered is defined as the default delivery location.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Account Settings.
  2. On the E-mail tab, select the new e-mail account, and then click Change Folder.
  3. In the New E-mail Delivery Location dialog box, select the Inbox of the old .pst file.
  4. Click Finish.
  5. Exit and restart Outlook.

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Step 6: Remove unwanted data file

You may want to discard the Personal Folders file that was created when you set up Outlook. Before you proceed, it is very important that you first click in the Inbox for that Personal Folders file and make sure that no new items were placed in the Inbox up to this point. You can click and drag any items from the Inbox of the new .pst file to the old .pst file. Right-click the Personal Folders file that you want to discard, and then click Close Personal Folders. If the Close Personal Folders option is not available, either you are trying to remove the .pst file that Outlook created when you started Outlook the first time, or the default delivery location is still pointing to the wrong file. Make sure you are trying to remove the Personal Folders file that doesn't have any of your items, or repeat the steps in the "Deliver messages to the previously used .pst file" section to change the default delivery location.

Closing a .pst file doesn't delete the file or remove any items from it. The file is no longer displayed in the Navigation Pane. You can always add any .pst file back to the display:

  1. On the File menu, point to Open, and then click Outlook Data File.
  2. Click the .pst file you want to open, and then click OK.
Applies to:
Outlook 2007