How to Recover deleted items from Outlook .pst file



About 6 months ago I had a customer call with a bit of a crisis. They had deleted some folders in Outlook without realizing the cleared out a few things they NEEDED to keep. Up until then I hadn’t had much opportunity to try to find out what was recoverable, but I discovered there is a pretty easy way to deal with this.


For starters, Microsoft Outlook keeps it’s data in .pst files. In fact everything is kept in one BIG pst file. Essentially the Outlook pst file is a big database. As messages are downloaded the file gets larger and when things are deleted they’re moved to the deleted items folder. Emptying the deleted items folder within Outlook just de-references them within the database it doesn’t REALLY get rid of them, nor does it really free up the space the PST file takes up.

Now, if you’ve compacted your pst file to take up less space you are likely out of luck. Similarly if you deleted a message 6 months ago and are just now trying to retrieve it, once again you’re likely out of luck.

If neither of the above apply though, there’s a chance. First make a backup of your pst file (you don’t want to loose the rest do you?) Next find a hex editor. winhex editor might suit the bill

Essentially what we’re going to do is corrupt the Microsoft Outlook pst file and then repair it. When the file is repaired our deleted messages will be recovered.

Open the Microsoft outlook pst file with the hex editor and find the 7th position. (You should see data entered in pairs in the large part of the screen and random looking text in the right hand side.) The data in pairs should be made to read 20 in each position from the 7th through the 13th position. (This is the same effect of clearing the text in the right hand side.) Now remember this is hexadecimal notation so that means positions 00007, 00008, 00009, 0000a, 0000b, 0000c, 0000d, 0000e, 0000f, 00010, 00011, 00012, 00013.

Next save the file. It’s now a corrupted pst file.

The next step is to scan it with the Microsoft tool scanpst.exe It might be at C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMapi1033NT or C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMapi1033 or C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOfficescanpst.exe this will vary on Outlook version and Windows version. It may also be possible to download the tool.

Scanpst will make a backup of the file (this one will be corrupted though – the default is filename.bak) and it should fix the other problems. Once it’s done open up Outlook.

When Outlook opens look around to find your lost items. Some will be in the Deleted Items folder, still others I’ve seen given their correct folder name in the folder tree. It’s also possible that they will be in a “Lost & Found” directory.

That’s worked for me several times to recover lost and deleted messages and folders from Microsoft Outlook pst files. It beats paying $30 for a tool to do the same unless you’re terrified of the hex editors. It’s really not a bad operation as long as you back up the file first “just in case”.

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