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Repairing A Broken or Corrupted Outlook PST

off-topic: not an online marketing post My Outlook PST file died horribly this week. That hadn't happened to me in many years. I was traveling at the time, and the most recent backup on my travel laptop was a few days stale, and the laptop wasn't on Exchange. (Figures.) The PST was so damaged that Outlook wouldn't even open. I use MS Outlook for mail, calendar, tasks, and notes, and syncing my PDA. I didn't want to lose access to all those for several days. Here's the repair procedure that worked for me. May you never need these suggestions.
  1. Back up your corrupted PST before trying to fix it, in case you make things worse. Unless you've moved it, on XP, your PST is usually somewhere like C:\Documents and Settings\alan.JAPAN\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst. If you want to move your PST in a different location, move the file elsewhere, open Outlook, tell it where the file is, close Outlook, and open it again.
  2. Run scanpst.exe on the corrupted PST file. You can find scanpst.exe using XP system search or Google desktop search. One web site recommended running scanpst.exe three times in a row, so I did. Not if sure if running it thrice mattered, as the program detected no additional errors on the second and third run. Anyway, if this is successful, you should now be able to open Outlook again.
  3. At this point, I had many Outlook entries and directories in the newly created Lost And Found directory. For some reason, I was unable to move or copy the contacts back into Contacts and the calendar entries back to the Calendar: Outlook responded with a "empty not found" popup error dialog box.
  4. I opted to make a new PST and copy the data from the old semi-broken file to the new fresh empty file. To do this, I created a new PST via File >> New >> Outlook Data File. Again, I couldn't drag messages or folders from Lost And Found to the new PST, getting a strange low level Outlook error.
  5. Here's what worked: I used File >> Import and Export >> Export To File >> Export as PST >> Lost And Found >> ExportFileName.PST, with "include subfolders" checked, to dump the Lost And Found Data subfolders to yet other PSTs. I opened the export PST files (I needed one each for Inbox, one for Sent Mail, Contacts, Drafts, and Calendar) and easily dragged all my data back into the Inbox, Sent Mail, Contacts, Calendar, etc.
  6. Fixed! Thirty minutes of hassle, but no data lost.
The key step for me was #5: using the Export As PST to get the data out of Outlook cleanly.
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