A few free tools to try
If you have ever used Outlook for more than a month, you’ve probably seen several occasions where the message “The Outlook data file did not close properly” pops up and you have to wait a few minutes for Outlook to repair the file. Pretty annoying, but at least you can view your emails after waiting.
Sometimes, though, your luck may not be that good and your entire data file (PST) becomes so damaged or corrupted that Outlook refuses to open the file altogether. In this type of situation, you can try to repair the damaged PST file using a couple of free tools. Since Outlook data corruption can occur for several different reasons, you may have to try a couple of the methods below before your issue is fixed.
Method 1 – Inbox Repair Tool
A simple tool that has been around for a long time from Microsoft which basically tries to repair the header of the PST file and delete anything from the file it does not recognize or understand.
The tool is actually already installed on all Windows 2000 and XP computers in the following directory: (For Office 2007, it’s in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\)
C:\Program Files\Common Files\System\Mapi\1033\NT
If it’s not in this directory for whatever reason, click on Start and perform a normal Windows search for the following executable, scanpst.exe. You can also just download the Inbox Repair tool from Microsoft’s website and it’ll run it for you automatically.
Now click Browse and choose the PST file that is corrupted. If you are not sure where your PST file is stored, it’s usually in this directory:
C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
After selecting the file, go ahead and click on Start.
After it is completed, it will tell you the errors found in your PST file. Go ahead and click on Repair now to begin the repair of the file.
Now when you open Outlook, hopefully your Inbox will be back to normal and all of your email message will be there. If not, give it another shot. Sometimes you have to run scanpst.exe several times in order for all errors to go away.
Note that you can use this tool not only on PST files, but also to repair OST files, which are basically offline Exchange Server folders.
Method 2 – Truncate Oversized PST File
The second reason why your PST file can become corrupted is because the file size limit for Outlook data files is 2 GB. The second you go over 2GB, the entire file becomes corrupt! Not very smart, but it happens. This only applies to older versions of Office.
In order to fix this problem, you have to truncate the PST file so that it goes back below 2 GB. Unfortunately, you have to use a tool from Microsoft called the Oversized PST and OST crop tool, which will delete about 25 MB to 50 MB worth of your data.
Note that using this tool WILL DELETE some of your emails, however, it’s really the only way you can get the file to open in Outlook again. So use this tool with care and only as a last resort.
You can follow the step by step instructions on the Microsoft KB article linked above in order to use this tool.
If you are running Outlook connected to Exchange Server, there is also a OST repair tool. Just like you searched for the scanpst.exe file, now search for scanost.exe. Choose Scan all folders or select a folder to scan and then check the Repair Errors box. Then click Begin Scan.
Method 3 – Recovery Toolbox for Outlook
If none of the methods above worked, you can try out a third party program called Recovery Toolbox for Outlook that can possibly save your file and recovery your emails.
The way it works is also safe because it creates a new PST file and then tries to copy over all of the data from the corrupted file. It scans the file and goes through several more steps to recover as much data as possible.
Note that this program is not free and it will probably tell you that it can recover your file, but in order for it to actually do it, you will have to pay for the license. However, if you have thousands of emails and can’t afford to lose all of them, $50 might be worth it to recover your emails.
Any other way you know of to fix a corrupt or damaged PST or OST file? If so, post a comment and let us know! Enjoy!