Open, change, or close Outlook data files

When you use Microsoft Outlook, you use data files to store your e-mail messages, calendar, tasks, and other items. Data files allow you to keep your data on your computer. You can add passwords, change the location of data files, or decide which data files appear in Outlook.

What do you want to do?


Open a .pst file

If you created a .pst file that does not appear in the Navigation Pane, add the .pst file to Outlook so that you can work with the items in it.

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

The name of the folder that is associated with the data file appears in the Folder List. To view the Folder List, on the Go menu, click Folder List. By default, the folder will be called Personal Folders.

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Data file locations

The following is a list of where Outlook data files are saved on your computer. Some of the folders might be hidden folders. To view them, do one of the following:

  1. Click the Start button, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Folder Options.

Folder Options

  1. Click the View tab, and then click the Show hidden files and folders option.

File locations in Windows Vista

Outlook data files (.pst)    drive:\User\user name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

Offline Folders file (.ost)    drive:\User\user name\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

File locations in Windows XP

Outlook data files (.pst)    drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

Offline Folders file (.ost)    drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

Find links to more information about where Outlook files are saved in the See Also section.

Keep these points in mind:

  • You can save, copy, or move a data file (other than the file that is used as your default delivery location) to another location on your hard disk or to a share on the network. Remember that you must have read/write permissions to open a Personal Folders file (.pst) from a network share.
  • If you need to access any data file that is stored on a network share or on another computer, close any program that might be using that file. A data file can be accessed by only one user or program at a time.
  • The .pst data file does not support read-only media such as CDs and DVDs.

If you use a Microsoft Exchange account, typically your e-mail messages, calendar, contacts, and other items are delivered to and stored in your mailbox on the server. When you install Outlook on a new computer and configure an Exchange account, all your items on the server will be available to you again. The remaining information in this article does not apply to you, unless you have archived local data files or specified that your Exchange e-mail messages be delivered to a local data file.

If you use a POP3 e-mail account, which is one of the more common types of personal e-mail account, 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 (the default data file name). Outlook.pst is stored in the drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder.

 Note   The default location of the .pst file 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, click Show hidden files and folders. If you want to see all file name extensions, clear the Hide extensions for known file types check box under Files and Folders. Hidden folders appear dimmed to indicate that they are not typical folders.

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Move a Personal Folders file (.pst)

You can move any Outlook .pst file to any location on your computer. For example, some people like to keep their Outlook data files on drive D or under My Documents, so that creating backup files is easier.

Before you move your .pst file, you might want to change its display name from Personal Folders to something more meaningful to you. Changing the name helps you to distinguish between different Outlook data files when you work with more than one .pst file.

  1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click Personal Folders, and then click Properties for "Personal Folders".

Personal Folders shortcut menu

 Note   Personal Folders is always a top-level folder in the Navigation Pane, in Mail.

Personal Folders Properties dialog box

  1. Click Advanced.
  2. In the Name text box, type a name that is meaningful to you, such as Greta's Outlook Data.

Personal Folders dialog box

  1. Click OK twice.

Now you can begin moving Outlook data files to another location on your computer.

  1. In Outlook, make a note of the file location and name.
    1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click Personal Folders or the name that appears for your .pst file, and then click Properties for folder name.
    2. Click Advanced.
    3. In the File name text box, make a note of the complete path and file name of the .pst file.
  2. Exit Outlook.
  3. Move the file.
  • Use Windows Explorer to copy each .pst file from its default location in the drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook folder to any folder on your computer that you want.

 Note   The default 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, click Show hidden files and folders. If you want to see all file name extensions, clear the Hide extensions for known file types check box under Files and Folders. Hidden folders appear dimmed to indicate they are not typical folders.

  1. In Control Panel in Windows, click User Accounts, and then click Mail.

 Note   If you are using the Classic view in Control Panel, double-click Mail.

  1. Click Show Profiles, and then select the profile that contains the .pst file.
  2. Click Properties, and then click Data Files.
  3. Select the data file from the list, and then click Settings.
  4. When a message appears, notifying you that the data file cannot be found at the old location, click OK.
  5. Browse to the new folder location, select the data file, and then click Open.
  6. Click OK, and then click Close twice.
  7. Click OK.
  8. Restart Outlook.

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Move an Offline Folder file (.ost)

If you work offline with Outlook or use Exchange with Cached Exchange Mode, you can change the location of the local Offline Folder file (.ost) to a different folder or hard disk drive.

  1. Exit Outlook.
  2. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  3. Double-click Mail, and then click E-mail Accounts.
  4. Click Show Profiles, and then select the profile that contains the .pst file.
  5. Click Properties, and then click Data Files.
  6. Select the Exchange account, and then click Settings.
  7. On the Advanced tab, clear the Use Cached Exchange Mode check box.

When you see this message: You must restart Outlook for these changes to take effect, click OK.

  1. Click Settings.
  2. On the Advanced tab, click Offline Folder File Settings.
  3. Click Disable Offline Use, and then click Yes in the dialog box that appears.
  4. Click Offline Folder File Settings.
  5. Click Browse, go to the location where you want to save your .ost file, enter a name in the File name box, and then click Open.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Select the Use Cached Exchange Mode check box.
  8. Click OK. When you see this message: You must restart Outlook for these changes to take effect, click OK.
  9. Click Close.

The next time that you start Outlook, the new .ost file will be synchronized with your mailbox on the server running Exchange.

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Data file security

Currently there is no way to password-protect Outlook on startup or to lock Outlook if you need to quickly walk away from your computer, other than by using your Microsoft Windows logon password or by using third-party software written specifically to password-protect Outlook. However, you can set a password on your Personal Folders file (.pst). If you use an Internet e-mail account in Outlook, such as a POP3 or HTTP account, your e-mail messages are delivered to a .pst data file on your computer's hard disk. You can use a password on your .pst file to help prevent accidental intrusion by other people with whom you share your computer.

  1. On the Go menu, click Folder List.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • If you have a POP3 e-mail account, right-click Personal Folders, and then click Properties For "Personal Folders" on the shortcut menu.

 Note   If you provided a custom display name for your data file, substitute that name for Personal Folders.

  • If you have an IMAP or HTTP e-mail account, such as Microsoft Windows Live Mail, right-click the name of the account, and then click Properties For account name on the shortcut menu.
  1. On the General tab, click Advanced.
  2. Click Change Password.
  3. In the Change Password dialog box, type your new password and verify it by typing it a second time. The password can have up to 15 characters.

 Note    Use strong passwords that combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Weak passwords don't mix these elements. Strong password: Y6dh!et5. Weak password: House27. Passwords should be 8 or more characters in length. A pass phrase that uses 14 or more characters is better. For more information, see Help protect your personal information with strong passwords.It is critical that you remember your password. If you forget your password, Microsoft cannot retrieve it. Store the passwords that you write down in a secure place away from the information that they help protect.

  1. Make sure that the Save this password in your password list check box is cleared. This prevents the password from being cached, so you will need to type the password each time you run Outlook. Don't forget the password.

 Important   Neither Microsoft, your Internet service provider (ISP), nor your mail administrator has access to your password, nor can they assist you to recover the contents of the .pst file if you forget the password.

  1. Click OK three times.

When you click the e-mail account folder, you will be prompted for your password. After you gain access, you won't have to enter the password again for that session. If you exit and then restart Outlook, you will be prompted for the password when you click the e-mail account folder.

 Important   The .pst password feature is not intended to provide security against hackers. It is just a way to prevent inadvertent intrusion by other people whom you trust and share your computer with, such as at home with your family. A more secure way of protecting your data on a computer that you share with other people is to create a password-protected Windows user account for each individual who uses the computer.

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Customize the display name of the data file

The default display name of the Personal Folders file (.pst) is Personal Folders. This can be confusing if you work with multiple .pst files, all of which have the same name. A best practice is to customize the display name.

  1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click Personal Folders, and then click Properties for "Personal Folders".

Personal Folders Properties dialog box

  1. Click Advanced.

Personal Folders dialog box

  1. In the Name box, type a name that is meaningful to you, such as Greta's Outlook Data.
  2. Click OK twice.

In the Navigation Pane, you see a top folder with the name that you entered. Now you can quickly distinguish 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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Remove a .pst file from the Navigation Pane

Even if you have a tendency to hoard e-mail, you might want to clear some of the clutter in the Navigation Pane. You might not always need instant access to an archive .pst file. You can remove an Outlook data file from the Navigation Pane without deleting the file from your computer.

  • Right-click the Personal Folders file that you want to remove from the Navigation Pane, and then click Close Personal Folders.

If the Close Personal Folders option is not available, you are probably trying to remove the .pst file that Outlook uses for saving your new messages. If you remove that data file, new messages will have nowhere to go.

 Tip   Afraid of deleting a file and losing your data? Closing a .pst file doesn't delete the file or any items that it contains. The file just no longer appears in the Navigation Pane. You can always add any .pst file back to the display by doing the following:

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

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Applies to:
Outlook 2007