How To Repair A Corrupt PST File


Microsoft Outlook is a widely-used e-mail client which is popular with both individual and business users for the range of services it offers including RSS feeds, calendar, events and schedules as well as e-mail management. All the data is stored in stored in a database file with the extension .PST (personal storage table), which resides on the computer’s hard drive. Although it is popular, Outlook users quite often find that when they try to start the program, they receive error messages indicating corruption of the file, and as this is by no means rare, it is helpful to know how to repair a PST file.

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What Causes PST Corruption?

Corrupt PST FileThere are a variety of factors which can lead to the corruption of PST files. The most common include a sudden shutdown of the program without data being saved, due to system crash or power failure, or the maximum file size of 2GB being exceeded. Other possible reasons could be infection by malware or a virus, or the Outlook program being defective, and upgrading to a newer Windows version can also result in corruption. Since there are so many ways in which files can become corrupted, it is a good idea to back up regularly, but in case it happens, you do need to know how to fix a corrupt PST file.

For some of the most common errors, Microsoft does provide its own inbox repair tool, which has the file name Scanpst.exe. There is no shortcut to this program, so you have to use the Search function in the Start menu to locate it. When it opens up, you can click the Browse button to locate the PST file, and then click Start to begin the scan. At the end of the scan, you receive a report as to whether errors are present in the file, and if they are, you click the Repair button. Eventually you should see the message “Repair complete.”

How To Repair A PST File With Software

If the files are seriously corrupted, it may be better to run Scandisk first. You can find this in Programs/Accessories/System Tools. Sometimes you need to run both programs alternately 3-4 times before you find no errors are reported. This works with many errors, but the problem with Scanpst is that it primarily repairs the header of the file, and deletes anything in the file it does not recognize, which could include your data.

If the reason for file corruption is that the file size limit has been exceeded, Scanpst will not solve the problem, and you need to use Microsoft’s crop tool in order to truncate the file. You have to be aware that this will involve the deletion of some of your e-mails, and you cannot choose which data is deleted, but it is the only way to enable the file to be opened in Outlook. This tool is not downloadable and can only be accessed by calling the Microsoft product support line.

If neither of these methods is successful, Microsoft has a program called Recovery Toolbox for Outlook, which it claims will recover your data and restore your mailbox to its original condition. It works by creating a new PST file, then scanning the original file and copying as much as possible of the data into the new file. Once you have downloaded the program, you can start your repair immediately by clicking the button on your desktop.

An alternative program is Stellar Phoenix Outlook PST Repair, which also works by copying files to a newly created PST file, and can be used for files which are not fixed by Scanpst. However, it does require that the file can still open in Outlook. Its advantage over the Microsoft inbox repair tool is that it ignores all errors and thus can copy the whole file. For really serious problems, when you may be in despair as to how to fix a corrupt PST file, there are also a number of commercial programs, which cost between $100 and $300, though most have free demo versions. The best value is Stellar Phoenix Outlook PST Repair as it can handle large PST files over 2 gigs.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Experiencing file corruption is traumatic and frightening, and you should do everything you can to prevent it happening in the first place. However, since errors can occur at any time, it is a good idea to know in advance how to repair a PST file, so that you are do not need to panic when it actually happens.