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How to open a PST file in Microsoft Outlook



Microsoft Outlook logo

If you want to extract a single email from a backup file, importing that entire email file into Outlook is a time consuming overkill. Here’s how to open a PST file in Microsoft Outlook and browse its contents, without importing.

Backing up your emails to a PST file is a good way to create a long-term email archive and save space in your email account. But one potential drawback is that it is not clear how to access an individual email in a PST file without importing the whole file.

Fortunately, Outlook lets you open a PST file without importing it, so you can browse its contents as if it were just a folder. You can read, copy or move the messages to your account, delete, reply, forward, create a task or meeting, and anything else you can do with traditional emails.

First, open the Microsoft Office application, click “File,”

; then select Open & Export> Open Outlook Data File.

Outlook's

Browse to the PST file you wish to open and click ‘OK’.

Window's file picker dialog.

The PST is displayed at the bottom of the navigation pane as “Outlook Data File”.

The .pst file displayed in Outlook.

Browse the folders in the PST like any other folder in Outlook. You can leave the file open for as long as you want, even if you close and reopen Outlook. This makes backup files very useful to reduce the amount of email in your inbox as the messages in the PST file only exist in that file and not in your online account.

What is the difference between Outlook PST and OST files?

If you have multiple PST files open, or if you want to remind yourself what the file is, you can rename the default ‘Outlook data file’ to something more meaningful

Right-click on “Outlook Data File” and choose “Data File Properties” from the menu.

The menu option

Click on the “Advanced” button.

The

Change the “Name” field to a more meaningful name.

The

This will not rename the PST file, only the name shown in Outlook.

You can also password protect your PST file by clicking ‘Change password’.

The option

This will open the “Change Password” dialog where you can add a password. That way, no one can open the file without your password.

Outlook password dialog.

We give the standard warning here: If you lose the password, you will lose access to the contents of the PST, so make sure to keep your password somewhere safe, such as a password manager.

Click “OK” in the “Change Password” dialog box …

The

… And then “OK” on the next two panels.

The

The “Outlook Data File” will now be given the name you renamed it.

The renamed data file.

When you no longer need to see the PST file, removing it is as easy as adding it. Right-click on the file name and then select “Close [Folder Name]. “

The menu option

Microsoft Outlook remembers if you changed the name, so if you close the PST and reopen it in the future, it will show up as the name you changed it in instead of ‘Outlook data file’.




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