Reading Time: 6 minutesGiven the widespread use of Microsoft Outlook, many users find themselves searching for ways to recover their deleted personal storage files (.PST) files. If you’re one of these users, take a look at the sections below to find out all you need to know about .pst file recovery.
What Are PST and OST Files?
The PST file format is used to locally store copies of Outlook related data such as emails, calendar events, contacts, task data, etc. It is commonly used to archive the aforementioned data.
An important use of PST files is to export and import the stored data across Outlook on different devices. Additionally, using PST files as an archiving tool, helps admins save a substantial amount of storage space on servers. Thus, it’s essential to learn how to recover .pst files, since they’re quite useful.
The PST format is usually associated with email accounts that use the POP protocol.
Some features of PST files include:
- Any modifications you make to your emails, such as deleting them, etc. won’t change the PST file. It is not synced with your Outlook client.
- PST files are completely offline, i.e. you don’t need any kind of internet connection to access and modify them.
- PST files can be converted to other formats.
Another common file format used by Outlook, is the Offline Outlook Data File (OST) format. On the surface, OST files basically do the same thing as PST files: they contain copies of your emails and other relevant data. But, they are continuously synced with the server, as long as you have an internet connection.
The OST format is associated with the IMAP protocol, from Outlook 2013 onwards. Previous versions of Outlook, such as Outlook 2010, used PST files for both IMAP and POP accounts. Using an OST file, you can create, delete, and make other modifications to your emails. The changes will be synced to your server, once you’re online.
Other features of OST files:
- Unlike PST files, you cannot password-protect an OST file in the conventional way.
- You will need to convert OST files to another format if you want to import them to other email services like Gmail.
Where Is the PST File on Windows?
On Windows 10 and above, you can find .PST files created by older versions of Outlook at: C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook or C:\Users\<username>\Roaming\Local\Microsoft\Outlook. Some users may find that the OST file created by Outlook is also located in the aforementioned locations, even on new versions of Outlook.
Note: The folders mentioned above are typically hidden. So, ensure you enable hidden files, using the View > Hidden files option in Windows Explorer.
From Outlook 2013 onwards, Microsoft changed the location of PST files to C:\Users\<username>\Documents\Outlook Files.
Outlook also has a feature that allows users to exactly locate the address of PST files. To do this, follow these steps:
- Open Outlook.
- Click on File.
- Click on the Account Settings drop-down menu and click on Account Settings.
- On the next window, click on the Data Files tab.
- On the list of data files, choose the required PST or OST file, and click on Open file location to view the file in Windows Explorer.
How to Recover PST Files on Windows
There are various ways you can go about recovering .PST files on Windows. The method you use will depend on the reason why the PST file is missing. Recently deleted files can usually be located in the Recycle Bin or using the Previous Versions feature (requires you to have created a backup) on Windows. The recommended method is to use professional data recovery software to recover your Outlook data file, since they work well in a wide variety of data loss scenarios.
Let’s take a look at each of the aforementioned methods to recover PST files.
Method 1: Recover a .PST File from the Recycle Bin
- Open the Recycle Bin in Windows.
- Look for the PST file you want to recover.
- Right-click on it and choose Restore.
If you can’t locate your PST file in the Recycle Bin, it’s been permanently deleted, and you’ll likely need to recover it using a data recovery program.
Method 2: .PST File Recovery Using Data Recovery Software
Third-party data recovery programs are an easy way to get back a permanently deleted PST file. But, all data recovery programs are not created equal.
Currently, one of the most functional and easy to use data recovery programs is Disk Drill. It offers a free trial that allows you to retrieve up to 500 MB of data for free, on Windows. The program also has a filter feature that makes finding files such as PST files or even less popular formats like Smart Notebook files quite easy.
Here’s a walkthrough of the PST file data recovery process on Windows, using Disk Drill:
- Download Disk Drill and install it using the setup file.
- Launch Disk Drill.
- Select the storage drive or partition you want to scan. In our case, it will be the C: drive, since that’s where PST files are located.
- Click on Search for lost data.
- Wait for Disk Drill to finish scanning.
- Click on Review found items.
- Look for your PST file and select it using the checkbox next to it. You can use Disk Drill’s search feature to find it easily.
- Click on Recover.
- Choose a recovery destination for the PST file, and click on OK.
Method 3: Recovering .PST Files Using the Previous Versions Feature
If you had File History or System Restore enabled at the time when the PST file went missing, you can use the Previous Versions feature to recover .PST files. To use the feature, simply follow these steps:
- Navigate to the folder which contained the PST file.
- Right-click on the folder and click on Properties. If you’re running Windows 11, use Show more options > Properties after right-clicking.
- Click on the Previous Versions tab in the Properties window.
- From the list of backups, check and open the one that contains the PST file. Click on Open and restore the PST file.
- You can also choose the Open in File History option, browse to the required backup, select the PST file, and click on the green Restore button.
How to Restore Recovered PST Data to Outlook
Now that you’ve recovered your PST files, you can easily restore them to Outlook. Let’s see how you can restore the PST data back to Outlook:
- Open Outlook.
- Click on File.
- Click on Open & Export.
- Select the Open Outlook Data file option.
- Browse for the PST file and click on Open to restore it to Outlook.
Recovering deleted PST files is quite easy with the right tools. However, it’s advisable to create regular backups of all your important data to save yourself the time and trouble.