MS Outlook Personal Folders (.PST Files)

All about MS Outlook Personal Folders (.Pst Files)

A PST file is also is known as a Personal Folder. PST stands for Personal Storage Table. This is the database which Outlook uses to store your Emails, Calendars, Contacts, etc.

In versions of Outlook prior to 2003 (i.e Outlook ’97 to 2002), the maximum capacity of a PST file was 2GB. When data approaches or exceeds this limit, Outlook will often stop working or will keep crashing frequently. To fix this problem, you will just have to create a new PST file to add more data.

However, from MS Outlook 2003 onwards, you can store over 20GB of data in each PST file.

You can store a PST file anywhere in your computer – just as you create any other file.

It makes it that much easier for you to copy your PST files to a different location and use it as a backup copy.

By default, Outlook puts the pst files in this location: C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\ – but remember, you can create and store PST files in any location in your computer.

If you have trouble navigating to this folder, just go to My Computer -> Tools -> Folder Options -> View -> and make sure that the option Show Hidden Files and Folders is selected.

You can secure your PST files with a Password. But remember, if you forget the password, then there’s no way you can retrieve it.


If you would just like to create a PST file in the default location, follow the steps given below:

  • Open Outlook
  • Click on the File menu and select New and then Outlook Data file.
  • You will have two options now viz. Office Outlook Personal Folders file and Outlook (97-2002) personal folders file. Choose the first option because you can store more data in it. If you choose the second option, i.e. Outlook 97-2002 format, each of your PST files can store only 2GB of data and will stop working once it reaches that limit.
  • Click OK on this screen to continue – and give it a name. On this screen you can also choose the location of your PST file. If you wish to leave it in the default location, you don’t have to make any changes here. Just give it a name and click OK.
  • In the next screen, type in the same file name again and you can put a password for your PST file if you wish or leave it blank if you do not wish to put a password. Click OK to finish.

After you have created your PST file, you can set it as the default email delivery location. This can be done by following the steps given below. (Remember, if you want to share your calendar, the default delivery location for your emails must be your exchange folder.)


  • Open Outlook
  • From Tools go to Email accounts.
  • Click “View or Change existing email accounts” and click Next.
  • Your current default email delivery location will be shown in the lower left side of the dialogue box under the heading “Deliver new email to the following location”
  • Click on the drop down arrow and select the PST file you wish to set as the default email delivery location. Else, you can just select the exchange server mailbox.
  • If you have created your PST file in the default Outlook location (C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\) all your PST files will show up here. Otherwise, you should open it in outlook using File ->Open->Outlook Data file.


To change the default email delivery location in Outlook 2007, click on Tools and go to Account Settings. Under the Email tab, you will see an option called Change folder. You can click here and select from any of the folders visible here. Alternatively, you can click on the Data files tab and from the list of personal folders visible in the window, select one of them and then click on the Set as default button.

Personally, I would encourage the use of personal folders (PST files). You can create as many sub-folders under each personal folder and segregate your emails according to subject or department or any other such classification that you might require. In order to create a sub-folder under a personal folder, just right-click on the personal folder and select “New Folder” and your new sub-folder will appear below the personal folder.


Remember, as with anything else, your personal folder (A PST file and Personal folder are one and the same thing. So don’t get confused here!) might also get corrupted. When this happens, we’ll simply repair it using a tool called SCANPST.EXE.

In order to run SCANPST.EXE, just run a search for it from your computer by clicking the Start Button and selecting Search and then click on All files and folders and type in SCANPST.EXE in the box called “All or part of the file name

When SCANPST.EXE shows up in the search results window, click on it and browse to the personal folder you wish to repair and click on Start. Your PST file will be ready for use.


Just like everything else, it is a good idea to spend some time, once in a while to keep the data in your PST files, organized. You might want to delete old/out-dated/unwanted content. Also, it is a good idea to organize your data in folders inside your PST files and create rules so that when you get new emails, they are directly delivered to their respective folders. One more thing you might want to do is to Compact your PST files periodically – (to Compact your PST file, Right Click on it and select Properties. On the General Tab, click on the Advanced button and click on the Compact Now button. Once you are done, Click on Apply/OK and exit that dialogue box.)