Restoring a .PST File

Hello Experts,

One of my clients has switched from a POP3 mailbox to an IMAP mailbox. However, the configuration change from POP3 to IMAP on Oulook 2010 has not been done yet.

When he was on POP3, the option to leave mails on the webmail server was not set. Therefore, all the mails were essentially downloaded into a .PST file. Now that he has switched to IMAP, I need to restore all the emails from the .PST file back onto the webmail server before I can reconfigure Outlook 2010 on all the computers to use IMAP.

This is because the client also want all the other computers in the company (that'll be using the same mail account) to be configured to the IMAP mailbox to also be able to download the same email - thus giving my client the flexibility to check his emails from any computer in the company.

Any pointers in how to go about doing this would be highly appreciated.

With Many Thanks,

Mudasir NooraniSenior Analyst ProgrammerAsked:
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TTauriConnect With a Mentor Commented:

This should be fairly easy:

1. Export everything to an outlook data file (not obvious but you need to go to file -> open -> import -> choose "Export to a file" -> choose "outlook data file (.pst)" -> choose the mail account you want to backup -> change the path to the file to something you will find easily like desktop.  You will now have a copy of all the emails in that PST file.  Close outlook to ensure the file is not in use.

2. Setup another computer to connect correctly to the IMAP email and check its working (could use same computer but by doing it on a seperate machine you still have the original if it goes wrong.

3. Copy the .pst file you created to a new computer then in Outlook go to file -> open -> open outlook data file and select the file you created earlier on the first computer.

4. The new computer will now have the backup copy of the emails shown below all the folders for the mail account on the left had side.  You can just drag and drop them from this backup file into the real email inbox.

5. If paranoid connect a third computer to the IMAP inbox and check it can see everything.  If happy you are then safe to close the pst files (right click and disconnect) and delete the original files from the main computer.

It is possible to do all this on one computer but since you have (and want) the emails to be accessable from all computers and have not done this before doing the different parts on seperate computers should give you more confidence that each stage has worked correctly.  If you see the emails on the third computer you know they got there via IMAP and you still have the original computer to try again if something goes wrong.

Neil RussellTechnical Development LeadCommented:
Apart from Forwarding them back to the email address of the account you have no real options.
Mudasir NooraniSenior Analyst ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Hey TTauri,

Thanks a lot for the instructions. I'll definately try them out later today and get back to you to award points.

Just for the record, POP3 is to .PST Files as IMAP is to ?

From the above instructions, I can understand that IMAP also uses .PST files. If so, are they the in same format as POP3 or are they of a different format? The reason im asking is, instead of importing them as a separate backup, is it possible to import the .PST file to integrate into the IMAP .PST file?

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PST files are independent of POP3 and IMAP.  PST files are just (one of) the file types that Outlook uses to store emails on the local hard drive.  POP3 and IMAP are the "languages" that outlook uses to talk to the email server.  So the instructions above basically make a copy of all the emails into a PST backup file.  The the backup file is connected to the second computer and by dragging and dropping them in Outlook from the PST file into the "inbox" which is set up to use IMAP outlook effectivly copies them back to the mail server using the IMAP connection.  They will then be back on the server and all clients will be able to see them.

The emails in the outlook inbox are I believe stored in a slightly different file type hidden in the users profile directory.  Importing directly from this file is trickier and more likely to have issues so I have always done it as described above.

Two more things to bear in mind - the PST files have a file size limit of a couple of GB so if the emails are huge it might have problems in which case you will need to split the backup into a couple of PST files (I can clarify if needed).  Also make sure when done you do remove the backup file or you might get a confused user looking in the backup instead of their "real" inbox.

Good luck and let me know if you get stuck anywhere.
Mudasir NooraniSenior Analyst ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Hey TTauri,

Thank you very very much. Quite a bit that I've learnt from you .... Im going to the client site this afternoon and surely by this evening Im sure I'll have awarded the points.

I read somewhere on Experts-Exchange that the .PST file limit for 2010 versions is 20GB. Im sure my clients .PST file is not that large just as yet. However, for future maintenance, how do I archive the old .PST file and set a new one to store the emails - or will that automatically be done by outlook ?

Please do stay tuned just for today, in case there's anything, I'll post the problem if I dont get the solution.

Regards (and many thanks as well !!!)

I would expect the user to have performance problems before they hit the hard limit, but either way you can set up an auto archive or manual archive to delete messages older than a certain date.  

Manual archive to PST file:
File -> info -> cleanup tools -> archive

Automatic archive:
Right click on the "Inbox" folder -> Properties -> auto archive tab

Its also a good idea to encourage users gently to delete old emails and clear out every now and again as otherwise people have a tendency to hoard useless emails which makes it harder for them to find things they need and makes it more likely that they will have problems with performance etc.
Mudasir NooraniSenior Analyst ProgrammerAuthor Commented:
Hey TTauri,

Thanks a million mate !!!

Not only was your solution a neat one, but it was to the point and very effective. I was able to upload all the mails back onto the Mail Server and all the other computer configured with IMAP got all the mails.

You're a genius.


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