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Trouble managing an overly huge PST file

Posted on 2003-03-13
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Last Modified: 2008-10-13
I've unwisely allowed my pst file to get to a size of approximately 372 mb.  It's been all I could just to get it to open, and now I can't seem to reduce it in size because the file can't be accessed, although all the email does eventually display.  Also can't export it because of some kind of Outlook problem that requires me to run setup, but I can't run setup because of some kind of windows problem.  Also tried splitting the pst file up with a splitter utility, but I get a data stream error.  Also can't transfer the file over a network to another computer or copy it to a CD or even copy it to another location on the same hard drive.  Any suggestions?
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Question by:patrickthx
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11 Comments
 
LVL 1

Expert Comment

by:mviertel
ID: 8127386
Hi there,

I've had PST files to the size of almost a Gigabyte. It works fine if you have a fast enough system, RAM and HDD. I guess from the size of your PST file that your system is clearly struggling with it.

You don't need to export or split it. What I did to get the PST size down is to create another PST file in TOOLS/SERVICES. In my case, I created one per previous employer (yes, I am an electronic packrat), one for private mail and one for the current company I work for. That then is subdivided into current and archive. This way I can have larger archive PSTs that don't change much and a smaller current PST that does change but usually stays within 100Megs.

Once you've created the new PST file, just drag and drop from a full folder from one PST to the new in the folder window. This may all be VERY slow, because the system has a lot to do. Make sure you have ample space on your harddrive for this. The new PST file will start filling up quickly, but more efficiently then the old one, as there are no gaps. You will find that after moving all those folders, you won't need to compress the new PST, as it is already aligned in the best way. The old PST however will remain as big until you compress it.
Again, this can take an awful long time. Your best strategy in your situation would probably be to move everything into one (or more) new PST files and then simply delete the old one. No need to waste all that time on compressing.

Let me know how you get on.

Marcus
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LVL 4

Expert Comment

by:snewo
ID: 8127704

You mention that you are not able to get it to reduce in size.   After you delete mail from a .pst file you need to compact it.  Do the following:

1. Right click on pst folder in folder list
2. Select properties
3. Click "Advanced"
4. Select "Compact now"

This should reduce the pst file. Maybe deleting e-mail and doing this will help you solve the issue.


Snewo
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Expert Comment

by:mviertel
ID: 8127955
To snewo:

In fairness, if his system is struggling to open the PST file, trying to compact it as it is would likely render that PC unusable for days as it's trying to reorganise that PST file. I've seen it before ...

Marcus
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Expert Comment

by:Fuchs19
ID: 8130080
can you copy the file anywhere? not necessarily move the original, but copy to a different directory. If you cant do that, I would say you have more problems than just the .pst file. Make sure you close all your apps to save mem and try making a duplicate. After that go ahead and run the setup for outlook if you can, perhaps something is messed up in the install. If you cant run that install, I think you'll find most of your problems elsewhere.
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Expert Comment

by:snewo
ID: 8130703

Taking mviertel's comment to me and expanding it, maybe the problem is more of a Windows issue.  How much memory do you have?   How much disk space do you have on the c: drive?   Is that where you keep the swap file, or have you moved it?  

The first step to solving this might be to clean up the system a bit.  Here is a good place to start if space is running low:

1. Delete all files from c:\windows\temp that do not have today's date.
2. Add/Remove all programs you no longer need.
3. Scandisk your drive.   Remove any FILEXXXX.chk files that were created.  They will be in the root of the checked drive.
4. Clear your browser caches.
5. Delete any other files you KNOW (REALLY KNOW) you no longer need.  Focus on things you've downloaded. (Product installs, MP3's you've ripped, etc.)
6. Empty the recycle bin.
7. Reboot
8. Defrag

Then try again.  


Snewo
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Author Comment

by:patrickthx
ID: 8136219
More details not in the original question:

My system is as follows: dell dimension 8100, win2K, 1.7 ghz p4, 20 gb hd (6 gb remaining), 512k ram, no other major apps running during the above problems, swap file in default location.  

This problem began when windows startup failed.  Fixed the failure by using windows recovery from CD and emerg repair disk.  Some system instability followed.  Proceeded to backup everything and prepare to do a clean re-install.  All files backed-up except for the PST.  Couldn't copy it to networked drive, couldn't copy it to CD or jaz, couldn't even copy it elsewhere on local computer - tells me it can't access the file (privilege problem? I've been using the computer with administrator account, so there's no higher access level or other user that would be assoc with the file).  

Have been able to view all email data, and even copy some email to alternate pst, but it's hit and miss and takes 3-4 minutes just to open a folder (on the large pst, usually not on the smaller ones).  Have been able to back up some additional email this way.  I can't change anything about the original pst, am told it can't be accessed, and seem to have read-only access only - file is not flagged read-only, at times the archive flag is checked.

Fixed outlook startup error messages by reinstalling.  But still, why would the pst file be affected when moving or copying it when outlook is not running?

Since I'm ready to wipe the system, have no problem uninstalling apps and clearing memory, but a little concerned about scandisk and defrag - could they corrupt the file if it is already having problems?  System has been humming along for almost two years, with the occasional (and recently more frequent) blue screen of death, and then the failure to startup the other day.

Have tried:
-Copying the file - error in all cases (local disk to local disk = "Cannot copy OutlookEmail: The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error" - note that all other files move and copy just fine).
-Opening file over network from outlook on another computer - "can't access" error.
-Split pst - data stream error.

Yes, I thought at first that it was a system problem, but then when I saw the size of the pst, decided it might be a pst file problem.  Even if it is system, still seems to be focused on this one file (?).  

Next steps:
-scandisk
-Will chop my HD to the bone and then create a HD image containing the OS and the email file, then try to extract the email file to another computer.
-defrag
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LVL 4

Expert Comment

by:snewo
ID: 8136286

If you are concerned about the scandisk you could always use Norton Ghost to make a copy of the drive on another disk.   This would give you a backup that you could play with.   I think it's time for scandisk though.  Could it further damage the damaged file?  I don't know.  Ghost by it's nature will defrag when creating the backup disk BTW.

Snewo



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Accepted Solution

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Fuchs19 earned 300 total points
ID: 8136357
also you could try (after) backing it up with Ghost, run the inbox repair tool to fix the .pst file. If you have a newer version of outlook you'll need to use scanpst.exe

What about making a "new" .pst file within your outlook and try copying the read only files to the new location within outlook. Not sure if it will work, but then you could back them up into a new .pst file.
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LVL 1

Expert Comment

by:mviertel
ID: 8136613
The file access problem may be related to some MAPI client keeping the file open. Did you try to start Windows in safe mode and make a copy of the PST file then?
You may not have access to the Jazz or network drives, but you should be able to make a copy of it on the same HDD. When you then start back into normal mode, the backup file should have no read-locks on it and you should be able to transfer it off the HDD.

Marcus
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Author Comment

by:patrickthx
ID: 8170721
Holy cow, I finally got it working.  Regular scandisk fixed some bad clusters and repaired the taking-forecer-to-open problem.  Scanpst.ext made all email in the file accessible and allowed me to copy it all to a new file.  Thanks, Bill, love your software.
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Author Comment

by:patrickthx
ID: 8170731
Thanks everyone for the help.  Fuchs19 had the most direct suggestion that did it.  Not sure what the etiquette is on this site, it's my  first time using it, but I guess the points go to him.
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