What Is A Crashed Outlook Data File? Why Do PST Files Get Corrupted?

If you work for a business and work on Windows, Microsoft Outlook needs no introduction, and Outlook Data File is one of the most important databases for you. Today we are going to learn about a product that helps us to recover email data.

Previously, we have shared how to backup Outlook.


Microsoft Outlook saves emails in the local hard disk and syncs with the web server based on configuration settings (either POP3 or IMAP). Almost any mail ID using POP3 or IMAP & SMTP protocol can be configured in Outlook. Once you have successfully configured your email ID to use Outlook, without logging in to the web server repeatedly, you can read and send emails. Also, you can organize emails by forwarding to some other user or moving to a particular folder based on rules which can be created using Outlook.

What is Outlook Data File? (What is PST?)

The email with its header, attachment, and body is saved in the local system allowing you to read mail even without the internet. Once you connect to the Internet, it just syncs all your emails and keeps reading on the go.

In basic understanding, those emails are saved in a database. Typically the database is called Outlook Data File and has a .pst (Personal Storage Table) file extension.

The rise of the problem

Most of the time, you have to go and you need to shut-down your computer. But Outlook was running in the background. The Outlook Data file can crash, resulting in a corrupted mailbox causing lots of problems. Let us have a look at the reasons why Outlook data file corrupts.

  1. Sudden power cut
    If the electricity goes off suddenly and your desktop running without UPS or notebook having no battery backup, the device will power off. This kind of power off is unplanned and the system cannot close background activities which are using databases and other files. This results in loss of data on active files as well as bad sectors in the hard-disk.

  2. Virus problem
    While Outlook is the best method to access and organize a large number of emails and even multiple accounts with multiple data files, but this is the most virus-prone application. As the attachment is downloaded automatically to the local system and if the system is not up-to-date with good antivirus software installed, there are many chances of getting attacked by malicious attachments sent by hackers. In most cases, those hackers attack the data file.

  3. OS Upgrades
    While upgrade should not be the reason, sometimes it is the only reason. Suppose you are running on Windows 7 with Microsoft Office 2007 and planned an upgrade to Windows 10 with Office 2016, your data file needs some conversions. During that procedure, if anything wrong happened or a configuration mistake happens, there are high chances of data corruption.

  4. Re-installing Office
    When you re-install Office, the file needs to be checked and if outlook is closed between the process or the process is interrupted in-between, there are very high chances of data file corruption. This process might be in the same PC or different PC.

There might also be many more reasons based on conditions like migrating to newer PCs and restoring earlier files and/or any of the above conditions.

Outlook Data File

The Solution

As this is a generic problem and can be commonly seen in many cases, Microsoft has already built a tool and included that in Windows itself. The name of that tool is scanpst.exe and can be found in Office Installation directory of Program Files.

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