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Outlook XP and earlier have a limit of 2gigabytes on the size of its PST file. However there's no warning, only problems, if you exceed that limit.

My PST has grown over 2gig, and now I can't repair it. What do I do?

In an earlier article, What can I do about Outlook's huge PST? I discussed how to use multiple PSTs and other techniques to manage the size of Outlook's email personal storage files, known as PST files. That article was mostly about the inconvenience of managing large files, and mentioned in passing that there's a 2 gigabyte limit to Outlook's PST.

As it turns out it is possible to create a PST that's larger than 2 gigabytes. Unfortunately that's where the trouble starts.

The problem manifests when you start Outlook and it complains about the PST, typically instructing you to use the Inbox Repair Tool.

Step one is to do exactly that. You can read more about the Inbox Repair Tool, called scanpst in this Microsoft Knowledgebase Article. If that tool completes successfully and the problem does not reoccur, you should examine the size of your PST and determine if some of the steps in the earlier article are called for.

If scanpst fails and the PST file is at or over 2 gigabytes (2,147,483,648 bytes) in size then you have a problem; you are going to lose some email.

Microsoft has made available an Oversized PST and OST Crop Tool. The crop tool does just that: it crops, or cuts, the size of the PST file by a specified amount to make it smaller. It makes it small enough to run scanpst on which can recover the contents of the PST. Any messages in the portion of the PST that was cut is lost.

The lesson here is to keep an eye on the size of your PST. While it would be nice if Outlook actually prevented PSTs from growing beyond the limits Outlook can handle it may not, and obviously it can result in lost messages. Make sure to have a decent backup strategy and keep an eye on your PST size.

Article C1921 - April 9, 2004 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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29 Comments
Geoff
May 12, 2004 4:18 PM

Outlook XP SP1 and Outlook 2003 should prevent this from happening now. Additionally, the new Outlook 2003 PST file format removes the 2gb restriction but may break compatiblity with some email addins/utilities.

After you've truncated your PST, and if you can't upgrade to Office 2003's PST file format, you might want to look at archiving old messages and using a program to compress your emails (like PSTCompactor, www.PSTCompactor.com ).

Make sure you do a SCANPST to check it for errors after truncating though!

Muzuva
May 20, 2004 2:21 AM

I need help...how are items emptied from the deleted items folder in the personal folders
receovered.I know how to recover those on the exchange server but not in the personal folders.

Geoff
May 20, 2004 4:39 AM

Muzuva - re recovering deleted items from your PST file, there is a method but it is quite complex and is risky as you will be deliberately corrupting part of the PST file to get the messages back.

If you've received mail since deleting your message, chances are it is already permenantly gone. Even so, see here: http://techrepublic.com.com/5100-6270-5054599.html

Robert Boyd
August 25, 2004 9:12 AM

I am trying to recover sent items for a user using Microsoft Outlook, can you please assist me. Thanks, have a great day!!!!

Leo
August 25, 2004 10:49 AM

Not sure what you're asking. I assume you looked in the "Sent Mail" folder?

Bob DOle
September 1, 2004 11:04 AM

Email Recovery is only possible if you have deletion retention setup on Exchange. It is not possible if you remove it from your PST files. Emails stored in exchange are stored in a database rather than a pst file. Once deletion retention is activated on the exchange server with the certain retention period setup, it will retain all items deleted for that period of time. Unless of course some shift + deletes the message then it bypasses the retention policies.

Nitin
November 24, 2004 3:35 AM

My PST has grown over 2gig, and now I can't repair it.
I ran scanpst, then also it's not recovered.
What do I do?

Patti
April 22, 2005 9:43 AM

I found a utility a few months back online that will split a pst file that's 2 GB or above. It didn't truncate & no data was lost. Of course I can't find it now. Anyone heard of such a thing?

Sampurna Maharjan
May 24, 2005 11:16 PM

very nice

SkismO
May 31, 2005 4:05 AM

Hi, i have got a users PST file with me, the file is 284 meg in size, but the folders inside the pst is empty. there is no mails inside. the PST use to contain about 8 folders wwith mails in them. i have already tried scanpst.exe with no luck. Any suggestions???

shivanand
October 3, 2005 8:04 AM

hi!,
my mails folder containg mail.pst and mail.pab got shift+del. when i scan using file recoverly tool i'm not bale to see even folder named mails.
please tell me what i can do to recover my mails.pat folder.

Marc
February 6, 2006 1:34 AM

It's probably time to dtch outlook. Besides this common problem, outlook doesn't have the security required for todays internet. Try one of the many other options, better still ditch windows. Our company switched to Linux four years ago, no spyware, no adware, no viruses and my desktop machine has been on for three years without a crash.

Marc

Todd
April 27, 2006 6:32 AM

My .pst is at the 2GB limit and I've downloaded the tools to try to truncate it, but the problem is that the tools don't actually SEE the .pst in the folder where it resides. And now, even if I do a search on my drive for outlook.pst, I get no results. I know the file is there because I can still open Outlook and view my mail. Plus, if I go to export data as a .pst and browse to the folder where outlook.pst lives, I see it there with a file size of 1.9GB and last modified date that corresponds to when Outlook stopped working. Does anyone know why I can't "see" the .pst file or know how to fix that issue? I can't run any of these tools unless they can open the file first.

Ogutu Nyang
May 3, 2006 11:13 AM

Have pst over 2gb and can not get the files back scanpst does not work. Please assist urgently

Sunil Chandna
May 19, 2006 10:49 PM

The tool does not work well every time. Phoenix Mbox Prof. should be helpful

www.stellarinfo.com/outlook-pst-file-recovery.htm

Kamal
May 29, 2006 12:42 AM

You can use Detacher by TechLLC, a freeware program that estimates folder size, then detached attachments and stores them in a defined location. It leaves a link within the mail to access the file directly.
My 2-Gig PST is now sittig pretty at 76MBs!
Try the link:http://www.techmonsterllc.com/downloads/Detacher11Setup.zip

lsp
June 14, 2006 11:55 AM

I have the same comment as the post made on May 31, 2005 and never saw an answer. I have many folders that I need to access for my work. Can anyone help? My problem is: In Outlook, when I access my PST file of 53,585 KB size (File > Open > Outlook Data File), it is empty. Nothing is in it and I had a lot of folders containing emails. Something must be in it due to its size (and it's not over the too large limit of 2 GB). I tried scanpst.exe with no luck. All of the data in my much smaller PST files (93 KB) cannot be seen, either.

Jason
November 10, 2006 9:48 AM

Hi i have the same proble if I try and find my file to do a reduction or scanpst I cannot access it. It is like the file is hidden or invisible. Is this a virus or am I being silly? If you could come back I would be really grateful as this is screwing my life up!

thanks
Jason UK

John
December 22, 2006 4:02 AM

Hi, I don't know whether is the same problem, but I am using MS Outlook 2003 and I have two folders, the first one is used to receive the actual emails, and second one is used to archive the email already read. So, I was unable to close the archive folder, because a message "the operation failed. An object could not be found" appears. It is not possible to compress as well. Note: The second folder has more than 2gb, it is about 2.5GB. According to the any other forums and articles, it seems that the problem could be on Outlook 2002 and below, not Outlook 2003. I also used the SCANPST, in order to fix it, but it didn't work. Do you have any idea how to solve it? Thanks.

Leo Notenboom
December 22, 2006 8:29 AM

Evenif you open it in Outlook 2003, the file is still using the old brokwn Outlook format. Only PSTs *created* by Outlook 2003 and later avoid the limitation.

John
December 22, 2006 11:41 AM

OK..it could be...but I don't have any problem to access this folder (over 2gb)...I can access normally, the problem is that the folder doesn't want to be closed...do you think that the size is the problem? Do know the way to solve it? May I need to define a new proflile? If so, how can I do to copy the contacts and the rules already defined? thanks

Leo Notenboom
December 22, 2006 5:22 PM

I seems like it could be size related. Perhaps this article would be a place to start: http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_upgrade_my_outlook_pst_to_2003_format.html

John
December 23, 2006 1:11 AM

Hi Leo, I will try it, however, I copied this same folder (over 2gb) in other directory and I add into Outlook, it seems that it works fine and I got to close it. So, I am thinking that there is something corrputed, but I don't know how to fix it. It also seems that the size is not the problem at this moment. I have already executed the detect and repair and it didn't work. Just for more information, this folder work fine, I can access all the email. As I said, I cannot close this folder and to compact it.
Thank you for helping on this issue.

John
December 23, 2006 1:23 AM

Hi Leo, in the meatime, I used the repair and I requested to restore the default configuration. So, I needed to create a new profile. So, after it, I think that it worked, because I don't have more the folder (over 2gb). Now, I can add and close this folder. Note: This folder is created as PST 97 and 2002. Do you think that I need to convert it to 2003 pst? Do you know why I don't have the same problem than the other people that is using folder over 2gb? thanks.

Shirley Parry
February 26, 2008 12:15 AM

I recently had to reformat my PC. I exported my emails from Outlook 2003. Now I am trying to import and although the file is not empty it makes no attempt to import to Outlook. I have tried the recovery sofware mentioned but it says the file is empty! I NEED the folders back with my email. Can anyone help please?

Carlos
January 28, 2009 7:42 AM

I would try to import the data into a office 2003 / 2007 pst file.

Perhaps everthing will go into place and the repair will not be needed, or it will let you repair in the new unicode Format.

Aftab
April 26, 2009 5:45 AM

Hi, I am facing a problem regarding Outllok pst possibly becuase of its size. The problem is that my outlook is very very slow and it hangs by computer.

My pst file property shows that its size is 4GB but when i open my outllok and check the all folder sizes, it comes to 1.3 GB (including calander, contacts). Can anyboy help me how to improve it.

regards

Mark Mattson
March 15, 2010 6:14 AM

You can not simply click and delete or drag to deleted, it does not allow that. Instead you have to select the useless email and shift-delete it. After doing this many times I was able to get below 1.5 GB. At that point outlook began to allow me to move files in the personal folder. So I created a new personal folders4 file, also on the c drive and copied about half the emails (the oldest files) to that new inbox and outbox. Then I went back to the first personal folder and clicked
File
Data file management
Select the first personal folder
Click settings
Click compact now.
Wait about 30 minutes for it to compact (hitting the mouse every 5 minutes to keep it from powersave shutdown). The new pst does not need compacting at this time.

At that point I backed up both the old and new
Pst files on the c drive. Everything seems to work OK now.

Leo
July 5, 2010 12:16 PM
Closing comments on this article as it's just becoming a place for various tool vendors to spam us with fake testimonials and free advertising.
Leo
05-Jul-2010

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