How to connect Outlook offline data back to Exchange.

Posted on 2008-11-11
Last Modified: 2012-05-05
This is a variation on a number of related questions but that did not address this simple problem.

We have a remote machine with Outlook 2003 that generally works off-line and syncs with our Small Business Server 2003 about twice a month.  

The disk on that machine failed.  However, we were able recovery all the user files from the machine including the Outlook off-line file (the .OST file).

As you can image we have a few weeks worth of messages, contact updates, etc. in that offline file that have not been synced with the server.  

So we now have a new machine joined to the domain and logged in with the same user account.  

So what are the steps we should take to re-connect and sync from that file?

We are guessing for a procedure like this:

1.  Create an Outlook profile connected to the mailbox on the server.
2.  Configure for "cached mode" which would create a new "ost" file.
3.  Shutdown Outlook
4.  Copy the old "ost" file back over the new one that was created.
5.  Startup Outlook
6.  Sync away and have all the data back.

So could one of you experts let us know if this would work.  Of if there is something else that would need to be done.

Thanks in advance for all all your help.  Many of your other comments and suggestions on other issues have been right on the mark and we appreciate your work.

If you need additional information, let us know.

Question by:BernardJL
    LVL 76

    Expert Comment

    by:David Lee
    Hi, BernardJL.

    I've never had to do this, so I can't speak from experience.  That said, here's what I recommend.  

    1.  Make a copy of the .ost file and keep it in a safe place.  Always work from a copy of it, never the master backup.

    2.  Try the steps outlined in this Microsoft article:

    3.  If those steps don't work, then grab one of the tools that converts an .ost to a .pst.  Once the mailbox is re-connected, open the .pst and copy its contents back into the mailbox.
    LVL 13

    Expert Comment

    Hallo Bernie!

    * If it is only the emails which you want to extract from that offline file (OST) then it would be easy to convert that OST to a PST file and access the data inside it.

    You could use the method advised in the following link to convert the OST file to a PST only if your OST was compatible with versions earlier than Outlook 2003:

    * Please not that the above link will not work for OST files which got created in Outlook 2003 (You could still give it a try as some OST files could be converted)

    * In case your OST file was created in Outlook 2003 then there isn't any free tool that I am aware about to convert it to a PST file, however you could get this done at a reasonable price:
    But once you have converted into a PST file then your purpose should get solved.

    Hope this helps.
    Let us know if this doesn't.


    Author Comment

    OK, you guys have come up with some good points.  In reading the Microsoft Knowledge base article I saw this statement:

    "You can recover mail stored in an OST, provided that you have not tried to modify the profile that was used to create the OST file. If the profile used to create the OST file has been modified to point to a new mailbox, the information contained in the OST file may be lost."

    So since we have recovered most of the files from that machine, it would seem if we can get the profiles from the machine, locate them in the right place on the new machine, then start Outlook, we would be good to go.

    So that brings up the question where are the Outlook profiles located and are there any other items that are used to by Outlook 2003 when it starts?

    To your other comments:
    -- These files were all created with Outlook 2003 and Exchange Server 2003.  There has been no migration from an older version.
    -- Thanks for the comment on using a copy of the "ost" file.  We will be sure to do that since it seems Outlook gets pretty agressive with its files.
    -- The "ost" to "pst" conversion may not work so well since there are updates to other folders including an off-line copy of some "public" folders.

    Let me know what  you about getting the profile.
    LVL 76

    Expert Comment

    by:David Lee
    Outlook profiles are stored in the registry at this location:
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Outlook

    Author Comment

    Blue Devil Fan:

    Thanks for that great tidbit.  I looks like we might be able to get this OST connected.  Here is the current plan.

    1.  On the spare machine, configure Outlook in cached mode for the old user and mailbox.  Give the offline folder a known location.  Be sure everything looks good.
    2.  Shutdown Outlook, drop in the old offline folder to replace the new one that is there.
    3.  Retrieve the "ntuser.dat" file from the old harddrive and copy it to a known location on the new machine.
    4.  Run "regedt32" and click on "HKEY_USERS" and select File -> Load Hive and connect to the old "nuser.dat".
    5.  <This part is not clear yet>  Select the "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Outlook" location in the hive we just loaded and perhaps export it.  
    6.  Disconnect from the old "ntuser.dat" and import to replace that location in the current registry.
    7.  Exit regedit, Start Outlook, it will connect and sync like nothing happened!  (or not).

    If you guys have any suggestions on anything I might have overlooked I would appreciate your input.  

    As far as I can tell this should create an Outlook environment that matches what was on the failed machine and I can see no other data that Outlook might rely upon to function.

    We will give this a try tomorrow when we get the spare machine set up.  So any comments are really appreciated.


    LVL 76

    Accepted Solution

    I've never tried the registry portion of your action plan, but in theory it seems sound.  So long as you have a backup copy of the OST file I think it's safe to move forward with a test to see what happens.

    Author Comment

    Well just to close this topic out, we did start the execution of the plan outlined.  

    However, before we got too far there appeared to be a problem with the "ost" file.  A check of the "ost"file via "scanpst.exe" when though the first few phases, but then reported an internal error with the file.  

    So it turns out we did not manage to get a clean copy of the "ost" file during the restore.

    To further make matters worse, the "ntuser.dat" file on the broken hard drive was completely inaccessible.  Which is consistent with an earlier report when the drive was failing that this file had a problem.

    So we did not manage to recover anything from the "ost".  

    What a bother.

    However, the procedure should work in theory.  

    We did add another item to the list.  We re-created the user and profiles on another Windows/XP machine so that ownership of all files would be the same.  

    Thanks for all your guys suggestions.  We really were looking for a different outcome.

    Thanks again.

    Author Closing Comment

    Great thoughtful background information.  The information looks like it would have worked but we had other problems that prevented us from getting the outcome we wanted.  

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