Most people know that Outlook stores your email in a PST file, but figuring out where that file is located is a lot more tricky. Here’s how to figure out where it is, and how you can move it to another drive to save space on your primary drive.
What is a PST file?
If you’ve used Outlook for any length of time, you’ve likely heard of PST files. PST stands for personal storage table, is the file format for the data files that Outlook uses to store all of your Outlook data, including your emails, contacts, calendar, and more. The data may or may not be compressed and encrypted, depending on your settings.You may notice that Outlook slows down as more data is stored in your PST file; occasionally Outlook will offer to archive your old emails to help alleviate this problem.
You may also notice files with an .ost extension in your Outlook data folder. OST files are the same format as PST, but are generally used as offline storage of email whereas PST files are used for email archival. Thus, a standard POP3 or IMAP account’s emails may be stored in a PST file, while emails synced from a Hotmail account with the Hotmail Connector may be stored in a OST file. Exchange accounts may use both an OST file for offline access and a PST file for data backup.
Find Your PST File
You can quickly find your current PST file from Outlook. In Outlook 2010, open the File menu and choose Account Settings.
Alternately, in Outlook 2007, click Account Settings from the Tools menu.
This will open the Account Settings window. Click the Data Files tab to see your Outlook data files, including PST and OST files. If you have multiple accounts in Outlook, you may notice several data files listed. You can choose settings for each file, or click Open File Location to open the Outlook data folder in Explorer.
Note that some data files, including ones from Hotmail accounts, may say that they are not available. However, if you browse to the Outlook data folder listed below, you will still be able to find the files.
Where Are my PST Files Saved?
By default, your PST files are stored in your User Data folder. To access this folder in Windows 7 or Vista, enter the following in the address bar in Explorer or in the Run command:
Alternately, on Windows XP, enter the following:
As noted above, you can also open this folder from the Account Settings window in Outlook.
Move Your PST File
If you’re running out of storage space on your primary drive or would like to place your Outlook files in a more manageable location, you may want to move where Outlook stores your data files. By default, if you simply move your Outlook data files to a new location, Outlook will automatically redownload your emails to a new PST file. All that would accomplish is make you have to spend longer re-downloading your emails, as well as make it impossible to view older, archived emails from Outlook.
Instead, you’ll first need to change a registry value to change where Outlook stores its data files. Exit Outlook, and then enter regedit in the Start Menu search or Run command to open the registry editor. Browse to the correct key, depending on your version of Outlook:
Outlook 2010: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook\
Outlook 2007: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\
Outlook 2003: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Outlook\
Now, right-click on the Outlook folder in the registry, select New, and then click Expandable String Value.
Enter ForcePSTPath as the value’s name, then right-click it and select Modify.
Enter the location to the folder where you wish to store your Outlook data files, and then click Ok.
Now, move all of the contents of your Outlook data folder you opened above to the new folder you specified, and then reopen Outlook. Everything should work as before, except now your Data files are stored where you want them to be stored!
Whether you’re a professional with years of emails in Outlook or a personal user that wants to backup their Gmail account offline, Outlook is a standard tool of many of our daily lives. Now you know a bit more about your Outlook data files and what you can do with them. With today’s massive inbox sizes, your PST files can often be some of your larger personal data files, but the above trick can help you store it where you want to make it easier to manage.
- Published 07/6/10