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Troubleshooting MS Outlook

Typical Microsoft Outlook error messages

This page covers what you can do if you encounter any of the following MS Outlook error messages:
  • Outlook.pst is not a personal folders file.
  • Errors have been detected in the file <file_path>. Quit all mail-enabled applications, and then use the Inbox Repair Tool.
  • The set of folders cannot be opened. Errors have been detected in the file Outlook.pst. Quit Outlook and all mail-enabled applications, and then use the Inbox repair tool (Scanpst.exe) to diagnose and repair errors in the file...
  • Outlook.pst can not be accessed - 0x80040116.

The recovery procedure is pretty much the same for all of these messages.

Things you can try yourself

  1. Close Outlook, then close all the other programs, and reboot the system to see if the problem just goes away on its own.
  2. Backup the Outlook email storage files as a precautionary measure. This is done by simply copying the appropriate PST files. Make sure Outlook is not running during backup. At the same time, check if any of these are close to, or exceed 2GB (gigabyte) size limit (see below).
  3. For files larger than 2GB, Microsoft has a tool, PST2GB, to get rid of an extra data, available for free download from Microsoft website. Be advised that
    • use of PST2GB causes some messages to be lost
    • the 2GB limit is problematic only for older versions of Outlook (2002 and earlier)
  4. Try Scanpst Inbox Repair Tool (freeware from Microsoft) to fix the Outlook email storage. Step-by-step instructions on using ScanPst.
  5. If you still cannot access all of your email messages, or if you need to keep collateral damage at minimum, try to use Zmeil email recovery tool to extract the email messages from the damaged email storage file.

The "2GB problem" in MS Outlook

Older versions of the PST format are limited to a 2GB (gigabyte) maximum email storage file size, meaning that if your email messages, contacts, and appointment information combined exceed 2 gigabytes worth of data, Outlook may stop working. This is because older MS Outlook folders were designed to have maximum 2 GB in size.
  • MS Outlook 2002 and earlier versions cannot handle PST (mail) files more than 2GB in size.
  • Starting with Outlook 2003, the new PST version is capable of storing more than 2GB of data. All the newly created mail files, either with new installations or manually created, use this new version by default. However, if you have upgraded your Outlook 2002 or earlier installation, no automatic conversion takes place and you are still vulnerable to this problem.

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