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Personal Folders is how Outlook Labels your PST or Personal mail STore by default. Outlook can get confused and display the same Personal Folders more than once.

In Outlook I have two copies of everything even though I only created one. There are two separate copies of Outlook Today (Personal Folders). Everything you do in one appears in the other. I can't seem to find a way to delete the extra one without impacting the original. I have heard of others having the same type of problem, but none of us has ever been able to come up with a solution. It's a pain as it makes the PST file twice as big as it should be. Any thoughts?

If it helps, I have exactly the same problem. Well, almost exactly .. I have three copies of my personal folders showing.

And while it's slightly annoying, it appears to be benign. And it's not as annoying as the solution is, for me at least.

Here's an image of what I mean:

Outlook Folder List

While each entry at the top level of the folder list is supposed to represent a different PST (Personal mail STore) file, it shows three while I only have one. Each of those three entries actually refers to the same, single PST. If I make a change in one, it appears in the others.

More annoying is the fact that I can't close any of them - that option is grayed out. Fundamentally, Outlook is confused - it simultaneously thinks there are three because it displays three, and it thinks there is only one since it disallows closing the last PST and greys out the close menu item in that case.

I haven't done it, for reasons I'll explain in a moment, but as I understand it, the solution is to create a new Profile. (A profile defines your email accounts, and the location of your PST.) The steps would be:

"Fundamentally, Outlook is confused - it simultaneously thinks there are three [PSTs] ... and it thinks there is only one ..."
  • Close Outlook

  • In Control Panel, click on Mail

  • Click on Show Profiles

  • Click on Add

  • Give the new profile a name, and then configure all your email accounts from scratch. Click Finish in the account wizard when done.

  • Select on Prompt for a profile to be used

  • Click on the new profile and click on Properties

  • Click on Data Files

  • Click on Add, select either type, and in the resulting File Open dialog, locate and select your existing PST.

  • OK back to the Mail Setup dialog and click on the E-mail Accounts button.

  • Select View or change... and hit Next

  • Look for the drop-down list labeled Deliver new e-mail to the following location: - if you drop down that list, it's likely that it will show "Personal Folders" twice - that's actually OK, and expected. One will be selected, select the other one (which will be your existing PST) and click Finish.

  • Now, go back to Data Files and you'll see that the item labeled "Mail Delivery Location..." has moved from one to the other. Click on the one now not labeled "Mail Delivery Location..." and click Remove

  • You're almost done...

As I said, we've created a new profile defining your email accounts (which you had to recreate by hand), and the location of your PST (which you had to change from the new one created for you to your old, existing PST). We've also left the old profile in place, and instructed Outlook to ask us, on start up, which profile it should use. If you elect to use the new profile you should (hopefully) see only one instance of your Personal Folders. Once you're satisfied that all is working well, you can go back and delete the old profile, and tell Outlook just to use the new one automatically on start up.

Here's why I haven't done this, and actually don't recommend it:

Put simply:

  • The original problem is benign - I've yet to actually be affected by it in any way, other than the minor annoyance of seeing the duplicate top-level entries.

  • The solution is more annoying than the problem - That list of instructions is fairly long, and in areas most people rarely deal with on a regular basis. Duplicating email account definitions by hand is one thing if you have only one account - I have seven defined, and I would have to re-enter each by hand, since Outlook has no import/export of account settings.

It's important to note that this is not a problem with the PST, and does not cause your PST to double or triple in size. It's just Outlook's way of looking at your PST that appears slightly messed up.

As a side note: there do appear to be solutions out on the internet that involve registry fixes that work for some versions of Outlook. They did not apply in my case, but could in yours, and they're listed in the related links section below.

Article C2714 - July 6, 2006 « »

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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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23 Comments
Susan
July 6, 2006 5:35 PM

Well, I didn't find this article in time to tell me to not apply the fix, but I found another website with the same instructions for fixing it. In the end I did this process, but used "How should I setup Outlook - Ask Leo!.htm" in the process and wound up with a much better organization of my stuff/my husband's stuff. So worth it. Thank you.

Eli Coten
July 8, 2006 4:39 PM

I used to use Outlook but quickly got fed up of it over small(ish) bugs similar to this one. Whilst I was never affected by exactly this bug, there are (too) many other silly irritating things about Outlook that made me drop it. Among them was the way some email clients receive an attachment called winmail.dat on all emails sent from Outlook.

I use the free & open-source Thunderbird, which handles huge profiles very well indeed, and its instant search feature is not bothered by the huge size of my email profile.

Terry
July 14, 2006 9:46 PM

I have noticed the problem w/ duplicate .pst however what I have read of the solutions seems to be more of a problem than a true solution... Question, has anyone heard MS response to the problem i.e. any true fix for the problem/ patch in the works??

Thanks,
TClip

Jeff
August 23, 2006 7:33 AM

I maintain a large user base and this often happens when exporting/importing an Outlook pst file from one computer to another. Apparently LookOut gets confused and the file can get corrupted. This appears to be especially true when exporting from an older version of LookOut.

That said, the above procedure for creating a new profile and then deleting the old one works perfectly. It may seem like a bunch of steps, but it's very easy and painless.

I'd follow the above instructions and you'll be happy with the results.

JF

Debbie
September 11, 2006 8:15 AM

I have had this happen periodically as well. The key is to create a new profile with a new name (most people recreate the profile which carries over the corruption). I did have one case where this did not work. We had to create a new Windows profile to resolve the problem.

yochai
September 15, 2006 2:15 PM

How to fix duplicate personal folders files/contacts

Go to C:\Documents and Settings\[USER NAME]\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
By default, you should see three files: extend.dat, archive.pst, and outlook.dat.
Leave this window open.

Then, backup the outlook.pst file

Open outlook
Click File > Import and Export
Choose “Export to a file”
Click “Personal Folder File (.pst)”
Choose “Personal Folders” then check the box “include subfolders”
Click Next, then choose where you want to save the file---the desktop is fine
Click “Finish”
This will by default create a backup called backup.pst.


Close outlook
Open Control Panel
Open Mail
Click “Show Profiles”
Click on your Outlook Profile, then click “Remove.”
“Always use this profile” should be set by default.

Open Outlook. It will prompt you for to create a new profile. Create one, but don’t bother setting up mail settings. You should finish with a “basic” outlook background; an empty personal folders, inbox, etc.

Go back to C:\Documents and Settings\[USER NAME]\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
You should see a new outlook file, called outlook1.pst (if the old .pst file was outlook.pst outlook will simply add a 1 to it).
You’ll notice that this file is extremely small compared to the other .pst files—around 268 kb. Delete both outlook.pst and outlook1.pst. Then, copy backup.pst from the desktop (or wherever), and paste it in this folder. Rename it Outlook1.pst (this is the name outlook should be looking for when you open it again).

Open Outlook and you should see only one personal folders file. You must now set up your Internet Mail settings again.

If in the even that there are duplicate contacts, here is the fix:
In Outlook, go to Tools > E-mail Accounts
Click “View or Change Existing Directories or Address Books”
Click “Next” than choose ”Outlook Address Book” then “Change”
A small window will appear, and you should see two duplicate address books
Remove the top one. Click close.
Then, restart Outlook.

Max Sherman
November 4, 2006 9:51 AM

This problem happens to me every so often because I copy .pst files from machine to machine.

A bit of wisdom I learned is to keep a copy of your regular profie. I call mine "good copy" Then when the regular one gets trashed, just delete it and make a new copy from "good copy". Takes 10 seconds to fix the problem then

Chris Brown
January 15, 2007 1:00 PM

I used to have just my Outlook Today - (Personal Folders) in my Folder list. I work from home and can't just delete work related emails so I started archiving them. This produced another folder in my Folder List called Archive Folders. Periodically I will back up my pst file just in case. One time I did this back up and the previous back up file name and location auto filled in the "save to" box. I wanted to save to the same spot but I forgot to change the date in the file name. After completing the back up I realized this. I went to the spot on my hard drive where I store the back up pst files and I changed the file name of the new back up to now have the proper date. It was after that I noticed a new Personal Folder in my Folder Files List. It doesn't seem to affect Outlook so I have not done anything about it but it does not exactly mirror the Outlook Today - (Personal Folders) which is what I use every day. Some stuff is the same but other things are not. I am buying a new computer this week and I will have to install Office XP again and export my "email stuff" from the coputer I use now to the new computer. I need all of my emails to be transfered to the new machine (current and archived). How can I combine the Personal Folders file with the Outlook Today - (Personal Folders) so that I only have one copy of each email (all of them)? I know how to export to a pst file and import from a pst file on a new install but I have never had 3 files to deal with and i don't want to loose anything. Can I export the archive folder and the Personal Folder(s) at the same time? Sorry about the rambling but I'm a bit confused and I can't just ignore it now. The computer I'm on now with be wiped clean and I won't have access to my pst file back ups after I give it back to the boss.

Thanks and I look forward to your comments.

Ken
February 5, 2007 11:10 AM

I had 3 occurrences of Personal Folders in my Outlook 2003 program. I opted to try the above fix as Outlook needed continuing repairing (scanpst.exe) and I was unable to retain any folders in the Favorite Folders area. Once I had completed the repair, Outlook performed faster and the Favorite Folders retained their folders.

Monty Swanepoel
April 24, 2007 7:42 AM

I closed my Outlook personal file in outlook by r-click and selecting close. I cant find my pst file now

Christo[PCD]
May 3, 2007 12:29 PM

Hi, what i have done to fix the "duplicate" Personal Folders is this:

Close Outlook

Open Explorer and browse to:
C:\Documents and Settings\Christo\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

I then moved the Outlook.pst file to the desktop and opened Outlook. When launching Outlook, an error message appeared: "Cannot start Office Outlook. Unable to open the Outlook window. The set of folders could not be opened"

With Outlook terminated. I then moved the Outlook.pst file back and re-opened Outlook. Voila!

kim
June 9, 2007 3:47 AM

Hi...before I format my pc I export all my messages from my microsoft outlook to one folder using access and excel type instead of pst. type. And to my dismay, after i import it back to my account in microsoft outlook, i found out that the receiving date is no longer there. Please help me how to retrieve the date because it is very important for our company the date we received those e-mails. Is it possible to return it? Thank you so much and your help is very important to me.

Karlos
August 31, 2007 10:49 AM

EASIER WAY:

1. Open Control Panel.
2. Click on Mail.
3. Show Profiles.
4. Property.
5. Data Files.
6. Remove duplicated data file (not the one that says mail delivery location).
7. Open Outlook.
8. Duplicate Personal Folder gone.
9. Done.

gav
October 12, 2007 6:22 AM

I did a similar fix as Christo above. I renamed the file then loaded outlook which then wanted to find a pst file to open. After closing, renaming the pst back then reopening outlook... no change.

After a few other attempts I tried this again but this time I chose the renamed pst file. It accepted it once then spat the dummy when it must have tried opening it the second time, citing it couldn't find the file. I renamed it back to outlook.pst and upon reopening outlook, all was good.

Pete
July 4, 2008 8:38 AM

This worked for me on XP 2003;
copy or keep your outlook.pst in
regedit - rename HKCU\Soft\Mic\winnt\curver\WMS\profiles _profiles, restart outlook create a new outlook1.pst etc click the
[New outlook Data File...] button, OK button, select outlook.pst, OK, make it the default, click Finish. Now tidy up, from control panel, mail data file remove outlook1.pst, job done!

Matt
April 22, 2010 7:58 PM

anyone have new comments about duplicate PST folders for Outlook 2007? (not sure if it matters, but I'm using Windows 7)

Unlike previous comments, the problem does not seem to be benign. I'm getting duplicate tasks showing up. If I complete a task, both tasks are completed (likewise, if I delete one task, the duplicate is also deleted.) It's really annoying b/c it makes it seem like I have twice as many tasks to do.

anyone know how to fix this?

johnpeter
June 11, 2010 9:03 PM

And to my dismay, after i import it back to my account in microsoft outlook, i found out that the receiving date is no longer there. Please help me how to retrieve the date because it is very important for our company the date we received those e-mails.

________________________________________

Johnpeter


__________________________________________

johnpeter
Personal Finance Bible

Lynn
January 8, 2011 5:32 PM

I used the easy version, open to view profiles. I had only one, but it had 3 x personal folders - each pointing to the same location. I deleted 2 of them. Then I re-started Outlook and so far, it seems good.

Elln
April 19, 2011 6:06 PM

I right-clicked on the second Personal Folders and closed it. All the duplicate reminders and calendars and other folders disappeared. I hope it's permanent!

Doonser
October 2, 2011 2:18 PM

In Outlook 2007, I opened File|Data Management and saw 2 data files for the one account. It was an IMAP account, so I figured if something went horribly wrong the email was all still on the remote server. So I deleted the duplicate data file, and now only one IMAP email account is listed in Outlook. In other words, it worked and I didn't lose any mail. Yay. (P.S. The problem occurred when I was looking for some old email in an archive folder, and opened the PST twice. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that Outlook archives email held in an IMAP account. That's just silly.)

Derek Paterson
January 3, 2012 7:00 AM

Hi Leo,

Absolutely great post thanks for the info. I've faffed around with this issue each time I done a clean install of windows and always had to look at 2 sets of duplicated personal folders.

Many thanks
Derek

Boppi
January 11, 2013 1:51 PM

Works brilliantly first time. Well done and clear instructions, thank you.

isnorkel
February 7, 2013 5:06 PM

Each night before shutting down computer, I make sure all email windows/files are closed first. Why is it that each morning after turning on computer and attempting to get emails, I have a small window on my screen that is titled Microsoft Office Outlook. Inside it says" The data file "personal folders" was not closed properly. The file is being checked for problems. A horizontal bar also appears that moves from left to right very slowly, with a changing number of minutes appearing below the bar. After about 20 minutes, the bar has moved completely to the right and my emails then appear on my screen. Ironically, in looking at my folder list, I do not see "personal folders". Sure could use some help here. I've read the article as others, but not able to find answer to my specific question. Thanks.

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