Recovering a 2GB PST File

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In Sue Mosher's Outlook Tips and Techniques, March 2001, she discussed how to recover a Personal Folders (.pst) file that had grown to more than Outlook's 2GB limit. When a .pst file exceeds 2GB, users can't archive more items, and they can't access the existing archives.

I've found a way to recover all the mail stored in a 2GB file. The method is rather simple but time-consuming, and it requires access to the mailbox. I've been successful with more than 80 sets of Personal Folders, and I've had only two failed recovery attempts. Here's what I do:

  1. Run the Inbox Repair Tool (scanpst.exe) on the file. First, locate the .pst file, then quit Outlook. Choose Start, Find, then search for scanpst.exe; run the program when you locate it. The tool reports any error it finds; to repair the damaged files, click Repair. (This step isn't always necessary but might be if the .pst file is corrupted.)
  2. Create a profile that points to the person's mailbox (on the Exchange server), and log on from an account that holds permissions to the mailbox.
  3. Import the items from the .pst file into the mailbox.
  4. From here, the user must create another set of Personal Folders and clean up the mailbox.

On my network, recovering a 2GB file takes about 6 hours. The recovery takes less time if I copy the file directly to hard disk space on the server, but my organization has limited resources.