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Outlook PST files

Where are the MS Outlook mail files stored?

Microsoft Outlook stores email data in .PST files which are located in the

%USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

  • Refer to the system tips for a description of %USERPROFILE% thing; you will also need to adjust Windows Explorer settings to show hidden objects - the Local Settings folder is hidden from view with the default system settings.

In this folder you should find a bunch of files with PST file type and with name matching the root folders in the Outlook program. However, there will be no "Inbox", "Sent", "Drafts" folders; if you use Outlook with default settings, all the "standard" email folders are stored in the Outlook.pst with all necessary information about subfolders and email messages contained therein. To create a backup copy of your email, you need to copy all the PST files to a safe location.

MS Outlook errors and troubleshooting   MS Outlook recovery

What is a PST file? What is the difference between PST format versions?

Outlook PST file provides a centralized storage of email folders, email messages, their attachments, contacts, calendar items, and so on. These items are stored in a binary format, which is not quite human-readable, but allows for fast access and search. If you have installed Outlook with the default settings, all the folders are contained within a single file (named "Outlook.pst"). You can have several different files (e.g. for the different mailing lists). The email storage is configured under "Data file management" in the "File" menu. There are two different formats
  • Older version
    • Used in MS Outlook 97-2002.
    • Does not support Unicode contents.
    • Does not support email databases larger than 2GB.
    • Can be used with any version of the Outlook.
  • Newer version
    • Used in MS Outlook 2003 and later versions.
    • Supports Unicode contents.
    • Supports email databases larger than 2GB.
    • Cannot be used with Outlook 2002 and earlier versions.

Zmeil Outlook recovery software supports both versions of the PST format.

MS Outlook Encryption

PST file can be encrypted to protect data. Three different types of encryption are available:
  • No encryption, as the name implies, means that Outlook stores email data as it is. By using a text editor, you or someone with access to your PST file can view a full array of data contained in this file. Actually, data displayed would not be easily readable because of the intermixing with service information, database indexes, binary attachments, and so on. But still most of the email text is easily readable.
  • Compressible encryption (the Outlook default setting) obscures email data stored in a .PST file in such a way that at fist glance it would be unreadable. Being displayed in a text editor, a file with compressible encryption looks like complete garbage; however, the decryption is easy. "Compressible" encryption means that a PST file can still be compressed with tools like ZIP. Email recovery is fully possible for .PST files with compressible encryption.
  • High encryption is the strongest mode of encryption used by MS Outlook. PST files encrypted in such a mode are more difficult to hack, to compress, and to maintain; thus, Outlook reading and writing procedures on a file with high encryption are more time consuming. If something breaks, email recovery is not easy with high encryption.

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