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Where is My PST File and How Can I Move It Somewhere Else?

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.

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Alternately, in Outlook 2007, click Account Settings from the Tools menu.

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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.

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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.

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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:

%localappdata%\Microsoft\Outlook\

Alternately, on Windows XP, enter the following:

%appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook\

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.

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Enter ForcePSTPath as the value’s name, then right-click it and select Modify.

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Enter the location to the folder where you wish to store your Outlook data files, and then click Ok.

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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!

Conclusion

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.

Matthew digs up tasty bytes about Windows, Virtualization, and the cloud, and serves them up for all to enjoy!

  • Published 07/6/10

Comments (25)

  1. Doug

    There is an easier way. Follow the instructions to the Data files part and then open that location. When you have the location opened close out of Outlook completely. Then move your file to the new location you want, take everything in the old location. When you re-launch Outlook it will complain about the PST file not being there and will want to look for it. Point it to your new location, it will complain a little and shut down again but when you open it again you will be pointed at the new file location.

    I hate touching the registry if you don’t have to. I have been doing this since office 2003 without any problems.

  2. Matthew Guay

    @Doug – True, this does often work, but with webmail accounts Outlook seems to often just re-download the messages instead of asking you for the new location. Since I couldn’t get it consistently to work by just moving the file, I figured it was better to show the more complicated way that always works :) Glad it works for you, though!

  3. Steve

    I have the same ‘challenge’ with webmail – Gmail in particular. I’ve followed the above to the letter, but the Gmail data file just gets re-created in %appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook\.

    Any alternative suggestions?

  4. Matthew Guay

    @Steve – did you try the registry change?

  5. Bobro

    why dont you do an artical on the .NK2 file for outlook that keeps the email address history information.

    I have found this is very usefull for some directors here who dont remember emails, note them down, save them etc and then when things go wrong have no way to get them back…

  6. cavin

    Since the use of exchange, which the company had to use outlook

  7. Steve

    @Matthew – Yes – to the letter, as I said. Not sure if this is an Win7/Outlook 2007 ‘undocumented feature’…

    I’ve tried a number of methods from other forums (e.g. move the data file, access the account settings through Control Panel – Mail and use ‘Settings’ to point these references to the new location). Outlook.pst & Archive.pst relocate without a hitch. The Gmail data file just gets re-created in %appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook\ as soon as Outlook is fired up again.

    Even went as far as a clean installation with no rules or add-ins. Same result.

    Ah well. Back to the drawing board, I suppose…

  8. Ayeshade

    Great article…..but, what if I use a desktop and a laptop. How can I use outlook on both and have the same messages/data on both?

  9. Doug

    I have done this on my laptop and desktop. I save my .pst file on my second drive “Z”. I used to leave my desktop on all the time and shared out that location. I had to map that location on my laptop then pointed it to where my .pst file was kept and it worked without problem, you just can’t have both Outlooks open at the same time. I haven’t done this on webmail but I do receive gmail through POP3 and it works fine for me.

  10. wanderSick

    Thanks. I’m used to opening a Command Prompt and do:

    C:\Users\Wanderer>dir /a /b /s *.pst

    That should return the pst path:

    C:\Users\Wanderer\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\Outlook.pst

    Notes:

    1: By default, Command Prompt should start at the current user’s directory. Change directory first to C:\Users (or “C:\Documents and Settings” for XP) to find pst files for other users.
    2: Alternatively, use “Everything”, the quick file locator for NTFS drives, to do a search for “*.pst”

  11. Deion

    I tried the step above but I got the following error: “Sending reported error (0x800410F): Outlook data file cannot be accessed.”

  12. Sunil Bhingare

    Thanx!

  13. Mike

    Thanks — worked great. I had to delete my GMail/IMAP account, close outlook, remove the PST files, then create the account.

  14. Michael Mockley

    I have 5 computers and a Windows Home Server v1 and was wondering if I could move my pst file onto the server and direct all my clients (all running win7 & outlook 2010) to the same pst file on the WHS in order for all of them to use the same information. Thanks

  15. John

    I made the move as described at the top and all went smoothly. If I now look at Account Settings in Outlook, all the data-files are pointed in the proper (new) place save for Hotmail which is just given as “Not available”. However, at the first start-up after a re-boot of the PC a new set of files was created for my two IMAP accounts (Gmail and Fastmail) and Hotmail. They are:
    RoamCache (folder)
    mapisvc.inf
    Outlook.sharing.xml.obi
    hotmail.ost
    and one .pst each for the two IMAP accounts.
    Does this mean that even with the Registry change in fact it’s only the local .pst files that can be moved to a location of choice and that Outlook insists on keeping other files where it wants?

  16. AlexR

    Using W7 with Outlook 2010 and trying to get a couple of other accounts delivered into one Hotmail box (Inbox + Sent). I tried to point the PST data files for the other accounts to the Hotmail one, but this is not recognized as a Data file :-(. Suggestions ?

  17. ost

    repair ost file with one click tool visits us : convertostpst.org

  18. ost

    I have a right solution OST to PST Converter – visits us :- convertoutlookost.com

  19. AMO

    I’m moved PSTs for years with no issues. The the problem most of you are experiencing is with an IMAP account like GMAIL uses vs a POP3 acccount. POP3 gives you the option to move the PST where you want like the directions above say. With an IMAP you can’t select the location of the PST even when setting up the account. For the last two days I’ve done everything short of a registry hack to move my PST from the C: to the D: with no luck. Using other instructions from a blog I closed Outlook and opened up the mail settings in the Win 7 control panel. I then moved the PSTs to the D: and clicked on the data file. It said it couldn’t be found and let me select the new location. It was then able to access the e-mails and get new e-mail but I could’t send. It would say “Sending reported error (0x800410F): Outlook data file cannot be accessed.” as one of you reported above. I tried deleting the accounts and recreating them from scratch but didn’t have the option to select the file location once I selected IMAP. I left it set as a POP 3 account but set up everythign else for IMAP and it appeared to work at first but then I started getting certificate errors and couldn’t access many of the mail folders. I gave up and deleted all the accounts, put the PSTs back in the default location, and reinstalled the e-mail accounts. Even then it created anohter PST instead of using the one already there. I found this site looking for a registry hack but it doesn’t see to fix the problem either. Does anyone know how to move an IMAP PST to a different Hard Drive?

  20. Sudha

    i jus wish i had seen this page sooner!

  21. Shahrukh A. Khan

    It does not work for me either I tried the following steps
    move my pst files from the desired location (in my case G:\outlook\)
    I changed the registry with the mentioned above tricks
    and now my outlook is re-downloading all the emails in old location which is default location don’t know what to do this article wasn’t help me so far

  22. Sharron

    I have an issue. I get this error message when trying to login as administrator, the primary account I use: The User Profile Service failed the logon. User profile cannot be loaded.

    So I am unable to retrieve my PST in the methods suggested. I have been able to retrieve all my files by booting in Safe Mode and then moving files to the Public folders, but I cannot seem to get to my PST this way.

    I’m running Vista and need to access my PST for Outlook. Anyone know how to do this with a DOS command?

    Even when I try to make changes that require an Admin password, I can enter the correct password and still cannot access or make changes.

    I have only a few days left before I have to give up and return the hard drive and the old system back to Dell.

    Thanks for any help!

  23. Luciana

    I followed all the instructions, but when I was finished and reopened Outlook I got a message saying: “Business Contact Manager for Outlook could not complete your
    last action or actions. Please try again.”
    What have I done wrong? Please help me, I cannot get this box to go away and thus have to shut down Outlook with Task Manager.

    Thank you,
    Luciana

  24. Eamon

    Thanks a lot.
    1) I did the regedit procedure and redirected to my data drive D:\Eamon KEEP\Outlook Data.
    2) Then moved the contents of the C:\Users\Eamon\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook to the above address.
    3) Opened Outlook (2010, WIN 7 64-bit Ultimate) and it found the location.

    This issue was really annoying. I am so pleased to have found your instruction and the inputs from all the above readers.

    Be Happy.
    Eamon

  25. Jennifer

    Can you do the same with a .ost file? My .ost file is over 30gb and my hard drive is only 74gb, so you can see how this creates a problem. I am using a corporate account, and I do not necessary need to have offline storage. Can I move the .ost file to one of my network drives?

    Thanks,
    Jen

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