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Outlook keeps all of your information in a PST or Personal STorage file. It's often important to be able to locate it, and I'll show you how.

Unlike many other email programs, Outlook places all of your information into what it calls a "PST" or Personal STorage (or just "store") file.

All of your email, contacts, calendar entries, notes, journal, and whatever else that you choose to use Outlook for are stored in PST files.

It can often be important to know where the PST file is kept, perhaps for recovery purposes, but more often for backup.

It's not always easy to find the PST file, so I'll show you three separate ways to locate Outlook's PST file.

Video

Transcript and higher resolution version provided near the end of the article.

Using Outlook 2010

In Outlook, on the left-hand side, the default view includes a list of accounts and folders.

Right-click the top-level item: "leo@ask-leo.com" in the example below:

Open File Location on an account in Outlook 2010

Then click Open File Location. The result will be Windows Explorer opened to the folder containing the PST file:

Windows Explorer showing PST file

As you can see in this example, the PST is located in c:\Users\LeoN\My Documents\Outlook Files\leo@ask-leo.pst

Using Windows Search

Click the Start menu to expose the Search box:

Windows 7 Start Menu

Type *.pst into the search box:

Windows 7 PST Search

As you can see, even before pressing Return, Windows Search lists the .pst files found on the machine.

Right-click the file and click Open file location:

Windows 7 search results for .pst files

The result is, once again, Windows Explorer opened on the folder containing the .pst file.

Using Command Prompt

Start the Windows Command prompt by clicking the Start button, All Programs, Accessories, and then right-clicking Command Prompt and clicking Run as administrator:

Running Windows Command Prompt as Administrator

In Command Prompt, type:

cd \

followed by Enter to change the current directory to the root of the drive, and then type in

dir /s *.pst

Again followed by Enter, to search the entire drive for all .pst files.

Searching for *.pst in Command Prompt

As you can see, the PST is located once again in the same folder as before.

Video Transcript & HD

View in HD (1280x720)

Transcript

Hi everyone, I'm Leo Notenboom for Ask Leo!. I'm going to show you three different ways to find Outlook's .pst files.

We'll start with Outlook itself. This is a relatively fresh install of Outlook 2010. Off to the left, you'll find a list of accounts and the folders associated with those accounts. You can right-click on the account name and open file location. There you will find Windows Explorer opened on the folder that contains your .pst file. In previous versions of Outlook, there may be different labels associated here but simply right-click on the top-level item to get either the File Properties or if it's available, Open File Location.

But let's say that the Outlook is too complex or we're not looking at the version that you are. Instead, let's use Windows own Search. What we're going to do is search for *.pst and sure enough, the very first thing that it comes up with is our .pst file. We can right-click on that and open file location and once again, we're actually in the folder, looking at the pst file.

Now, there's a third option for folks who like to use the command line. What we have to do, however, is go to All Programs; Accessories; right-click on Command Prompt and make sure to run it as Administrator. Once we get there, type in cd, space, backslash, Enter, which moves the current directory or current folder to the root of the drive. Do a dir for a directory listing; slash s to search all sub directories; star dot pst to locate all .pst files; enter and Windows goes off and searches. You can see that we've immediately found the .pst file that we located earlier. Had there been more than one .pst file on this machine, this command would have located it.

That's it! Three different ways to find your .pst files. I'm Leo Notenboom for Ask Leo!.

Article C4948 - October 7, 2011 « »

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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.

Not what you needed?

6 Comments
Douglas A. Brace
October 7, 2011 7:45 PM

You can also..

1. go into "Control Panel"
2. go into "Mail"
3. click on the "Data Files..." button

Pat Novak
October 11, 2011 1:14 PM

one caveat - at least on older versions of windows.
the "show hidden files and folders" radio button must be selected or you will not find any ".pst" files. I believe by default, the setting is "do not show hidden files and folders"

Marty Wilson
October 11, 2011 1:41 PM

If Outlook is open, a simple way is from within the left hand Folders pane, right click on the top most parent folder (named Personal Folder by default) of the PST file you want. Select Properties then Advanced; you will see the Filename & path location for your selected PST file.

This method is best when you have multiple PST files open that are stored in different locations. But Outlook must be running and your PST file open for this to work.

Brad
October 12, 2011 11:06 AM

PST files. Now that you know where they are, what are you going to DO with 'em?

A 'How To' in regard to manually creating a .pst backup and how to RECOVER data using the .pst would be a good thing.

And, now that you know where they are, COPY them to some other place: Like your external drive you use to back up other stuff.

Jacob
October 12, 2011 1:11 PM

Default location of PST files:
In Windows XP, the PST file is located at:

C:/Documents and Settings/%username%/Local Settings/Application Data/Microsoft/Outlook/

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, this location is:

C:/Users/%username%/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Outlook/

There is also a free Microsoft developed Outllook add-in tool that can be used to backup your pst file. It can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=8B081F3A-B7D0-4B16-B8AF-5A6322F4FD01&displaylang=en

To view the pst file as one of the above comments states with windows explorer you need to unhide hidden files.

Windows XP by following the steps outlined below:

1. Start Windows Explorer.
2. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options.
3. Click the View tab.
4. Under Hidden files and folders, click Show hidden files and folders, and then click the OK button.

To show hidden files and folders in Windows Vista and 7, do the following:

* Go to the Control Panel.
* Click Appearance and Personalization.
* Click Folder Options.
* Click the View tab.
* Under Advanced Settings, click Show hidden files and folders, and then click OK.

I credit this information from http://www.pstfilerepair.net

Having had a pst file crash on me I can speak to the importance of making a backup. I have been using the add-on mentioned to backup my pst file as well as a full image backup program.

Sauvik
February 17, 2012 9:21 AM

Hey leo,
Im facing a problem of 'multiple occurrence' of the same pst file on the left hand pane of the outlook window. like for the same email Id it is showing twice the same email id along with the Archive dropdown list.
help.!!

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