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Q: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
Category: Computers > Software
Asked by: bbb-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 06 Sep 2004 09:32 PDT
Expires: 06 Oct 2004 09:32 PDT
Question ID: 397490
This concerns Outlook 2000, running on Windows 2000. Lately, Outlook
often does not open, or freezes after opening.

(I also have Norton Security Professional, with Security protection,
firewall, etc., usually ON, which maybe be relevant.)

What could cause this problem? (No other problems on computer.) The
"pst" file is currently over 800,000K in size, but I've seen on the
Web that it can safely go up to 2 gig.

Another issue, though, which may be connected: I have two main folders
for e-mail, inside Outlook--which might be a source of trouble. ??

Explanation. Several months ago, after a system overhaul, Outlook was
re-installed. Prior to that, in order to have e-mail files available
in case of a crash, I had normally been "manually" backing up the
"pst" file to a 2nd internal hard drive. (After drilling down into
Outlook, I'd find the "pst" file & click-drag a copy onto the 2nd hard
drive). So as part of re-installation, I manually restored the old
"pst" file from the 2nd drive.

When I opened Outlook, though, I saw two basic general folders within
it. Normally there's one, call "Personal folders," which Outlook
generates and which holds all the data: The Outlook-generated
sub-folders (Calendar, Contacts, Inbox, etc.), and also any
user-created sub-folders to sort mail.

Now I saw TWO such general folders. One (call it #1, because it's the
system-generated one) was the usual "Personal Folders", with active
sub-folders as indicated above. The other (#2) was named "Brad's
Personal Folders" (my first name, available through the system files),
and held all my restored sub-folders containing e-mails. Folder #2
also still held a set of default sub-folders, which it had had before,
but those were no longer  active. That is, incoming mail did not come
into the "Inbox" of general folder #2, but into the "Inbox" within the
new general folder (#1).

I wasn't sure this was a problem. I'm still not. However, it was a bit
inconvenient. To sort incoming mail into the existing sub-folders
(which I do a lot, to be able to find messages easily), I would move
an e-mail from the active "inbox" in folder #1, to the proper
sub-folder in folder #2. This required scrolling up.

However, I wondered if Outlook would be confused by the existence of
two such main folders, #1 and #2. I also thought that eventually I
should try to have the system get back to one main folder. In fact,
I?ve gradually moved all my user-created sub-folders from #2 into #1,
in preparation for simplifying. But I don't know what to do next.

In the meantime, as noted, Outlook is often now very hard to open. I
often have to try 10 times, sometimes with re-booting. Once open, it
runs fine.

Help! E-mail is crucial to my work (free-lance editorial work). This
is a long query, but maybe not complex in nature, in terms of what I
need to do.
To sum up, there are two basic issues: 1. How to get Outlook to open
normally (urgent). 2. How to get back to one general folder within
Outlook, to avoid any problems with later re-installations, etc.


Request for Question Clarification by clouseau-ga on 06 Sep 2004 10:48 PDT
Hello bbb,

Thank you for your question.

Your question is a little confusing, but let me see if this helps you
a bit. As with any critical computer app, do backup yourdata before
trying a cure:

The best way to transfer old .pst files is to first open a fresh
install of Outlook and then close it. This establishes the new
inbox.pst and other .pst files. Now, in Windows explorer, rename the
newly created folder, such as inbox.pst to inbox.pst.old. Now you can
copy over your old (and desired) folder and it will not rename it (1)
nor create a duplicate in the Outlook Tree.

Now, since you have already done it differently, you need to deide
which one to keep. So move the one you do not desire to another place
with Outlook closed. Rename the one you wish to keep as inbox.pst, for
example, without a (1) or whatever else may be there. Then open

This may be enough to clear the confusion and get Outlook running more
smoothly for you without duplicate folders. Repeat this for any other
folders that are duplicates and let me know what happens. Happy to
post as an answer if this cures the problem or I will research a bit
more tonight if it does not and another researcher has not stepped in
to help further.

Good luck.



Clarification of Question by bbb-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:17 PDT
to Clouseau:

When you talk about "inbox.pst", I'm quite puzzled. One of the points
about Outlook that makes it tough to work with is that so far as I can
tell--and this is the way it's been explained to me also, ALL the
sub-folders--like inbox, drafts, outbox, etc.--are visible within
Outlook but NOT visible in the Windows file directory. That is, those
are not really separate folders; they look that way within the program
(virtual folders?), but Outlook handles them as one massive file.

And sure enough, outside the program, in Windows directories (or file
searches--I just did another, for "*.pst") all I ever see is one huge
"Outlook.pst" file, which apparently contains within it all those
theoretical sub-folders. I've never seen any ".pst" file except either
"Outlook.pst" or "Archive.pst" (which is the archive that Outlook does
automatically, as I understand it). Moreover, when I "moved
sub-folders" inside of Outlook, as descrbied in my question, I would
then see that Outlook.pst file grow correspondingly larger in my
Windows directory lists.

Thus there's no way to rename "inbox.pst" as "inbox.pst.old" in
Explorer, since "inbox.pst" doesn't appear.

Thus, I'm totally puzzled. Your explanation makes logical sense, of
course, but does not seem to be the way Outlook works. Help, please.
How can you see an "inbox.pst" file, if I don't? Thanks!
Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:27 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi again,

Its possible that Outlook works differently than Outlook Express and
all folders are indeed in one. In that scase, I would do as I
explained with the "Outlook.pst" folder. Choose the one you wish to
keep, close Outlook, rename the unused one to outlook.pst.old, change
the nema of the other outlook.pst to remove any (1) or any number in
it and reopen Outlook. If there are more outlook.pst folders, you will
have to select which one to keep and rename all others.

See if this works for you. And again, keep backups just in case. But
having the files named as .old will allow you to go back if the
results are not as expected.


Clarification of Answer by clouseau-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:29 PDT
Arrrgh. I did  not mean to answer this question, but inadvertantly hit
the wrong button. My apologies. If this does not work, I will contact
the answer editors and have them remove this answer so that you will
not be charged. It may be late this evening though as I shall be
leaving in a short time for the day.

My apologies for the inconvenience, bbb.


Request for Answer Clarification by bbb-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:33 PDT
Thanks for clarification - I'll try to digest it and/or try it -- and
for note re premature button-push. But I think it's not "closed" until
I accept it as closed, so the conversation should be able to go on, as
needed. Thnanks a lot!

Clarification of Answer by clouseau-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:41 PDT
Thanks for understanding, bbb. And let me know your results.

And 800KB is not too large for an Outlook file. As you noted, it will
handle 2GB. It might be a little slow opening, but should not be the
cause of your problem.

bbb-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
I did get a lot of helpful info re Outlook, throughout. However, I
must say that I'm still not quite clear on how to handle that *.pst
file. I did move all the sub-folders from that second folder, then
right-clicked on it and closed it, and things look back to normal.

Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
From: dreamboat-ga on 06 Sep 2004 11:09 PDT
I'd just like to add to closeau's comments in hopes of assisting.

I don't believe you did anything wrong. While closeau's method is
best, your method should not have produced the problems you're

Have you tried running Detect and Repair from the Help menu in
Outlook? This is always the first step toward troubleshooting.
Alternatively, programs like Norton Antivirus can slow down
applications if it's scanning for you. Many people will turn off the
Office *plug in* (or whatever it is called--sorry, I use McAfee and
have no such problems) in Norton because the files are scanned as
they're downloaded to your PC, so there's no point in scanning again
when you open existing emails and such.

As I understand it, you've got all in one Outlook personal folder now,
so you *should* be able to right-click "Brad's folder" and choose to
Close it.

Please let us know if any of this helps.
Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
From: bbb-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:30 PDT
Dreamboat: Many thanks for continued interest.

First, please see my response to Clouseau. As detailed there, I've
never been able to see Outlook files, in directories outside the
program, except the big Outlook.pst file itself.

Second, when Outlook was re-installed, it created a set of default
basic sub-folders (i.e., virtual folders, as they seem to me) in that
folder I'm calling #1 (primary, since system-generated)--that is:
inbox, sent mail, etc. And Outlook is using those folders.

However,as noted, the same set exists in the general folder #2--and is
not being used--but I can't delete them from Outlook by
right-clicking; the "delete" option is grayed out.

Again, this might seem academic, since all my data is now within the
system-generated folder. But I'm still concerned that this peculiar
situation will cause problems as I backup & restore in the future.
Computers don't like "peculiar situations," I know, and I'm concerned
that at some point all my e-mail may become unavailable. That is, I'm
trying not to just hope for the best; I'd like to clear this up.

Also: Can you tell me if an Outlook file of over 800,000 KB is
dangerously large? I could go through it and delete deadwood, if wise.
(I've already done so, believe it or not.)
Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
From: crythias-ga on 06 Sep 2004 12:45 PDT
1) 800MB pst file is not too big, although I personally have issues
with people keeping "files" in an email system. It's my own pet peave,
2) You can change the .pst file that Outlook uses in the "profiles"
(If you are using Corporate/Workgroup and not Internet Mail Only).
(Right-click on Outlook icon, properties, Show Profiles...)
3) Your particular issue may be because you're previewing (preview
pane) email. This is a hard thing to get around if you're previewing
the default open email and the default (topmost) email is corrupted.
This is the reason I turn preview pane off on all folders. Also, I'm
not quite interested to "accidentally" be bombarded with inappropriate
content, especially at work.
4) You need to look for "Disconnect" instead of "Delete" for the
Personal folders that you don't want.

Clousseau's comments are valid, though. "inbox.pst" is mean to say
"outlook.pst", I believe. Don't be confused by the name of the file.
The name of the file is not intended to describe a specific folder.

To prune "better" the files:
right-click on "outlook today", choose "Properties", Click "Folder
Size", and it will tell you what folder(s) are taking up how many
files and spaces.

For each folder, make sure "Size" is as well a column option, either
using "Field Chooser" or Customize Current View. Then, sort by size.
You can keep thousands of emails if you merely let go of the
attachments ...

Hope this helps.
Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
From: dreamboat-ga on 07 Sep 2004 00:25 PDT
Different versions of Outlook AND different versions of Windows handle
data stores differently. bbb: You state that you see only one PST
file. Please be sure that in Windows you are viewing hidden and system
files (and I also like to view file extensions), all of which can be
found under My Computer-->Tools-->Folder options-->View tab. Once
you've checked those settings, search again for PST.

Of course, Outlook could just be bad. In which case, if you really
have what appears to be two personal folders INSIDE Outlook, but only
ONE PST file outside Outlook, then I'd MOVE that outlook.pst file
while Outlook is closed. The relaunch Outlook and tell it to create a
new PST. Then File-Import...from your old PST to the new one.

There is a lot to understand about Outlook folders and PSTs, and it
can be confusing. I'm one of those people that stores their files in
Outlook, but I have clients, and it's my "record of proof" so to
speak. Then, I just archive older stuff to keep my PST well below the
2GB mark. I have an 80GB hard drive that isn't even half full, so I
see no reason to worry about my PST. I've also found Outlook 2003 to
be much friendlier and faster in accessing it.

clouseau and crythias: you guys are awesome.
Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
From: woet-ga on 29 Dec 2004 14:02 PST
hmmm, seem to have the same problem.
I have also a 'virtual' personal folder on my outlook 2003.
Can not remove it. there is only one outlook.pst folder.
Removed and reinstalled the complete office 2003, but didn't solve the problem.
Strange thing is when I log in with a different user on my XP-machine
that outlook doesn't have any problem.
When changing this .pst file on the 'problem' user still have the two
personal folder.

bbb did you solve the problem already and if so how??

Subject: Re: Outlook - "pst" file - problems - too big?
From: bbb-ga on 29 Dec 2004 15:53 PST
To Wouter-

All I could do was to move all my (hundreds of) folders into the new
default folder which Outlook had created. That took a long time, since
there was no way to move them in groups; I had to drag them one at a

I now THINK i'm ok, though with Outlook, I never know. For a couple of
years, I have manually copied the *.pst file onto another internal
hard drive, to back it up. Now I can't do that; the system tells me
"another process" is using the *.pst file. Closing my security
programs temporarily used to solve the problem (which made sense). 
But now that doesn't work, I have no idea why. So I can't back up my

Wish I could give you better news.


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