Email Repair

How to Fix ‘PST File is not an Outlook Data File’ Error?

Author: Charanjeet Kaur | Updated on July 22, 2020 to Resource | Email Repair

Summary: While opening or importing a PST file into Outlook on another system, you may encounter the ‘PST file is not an Outlook data file’error. This article outlines the possible reasons behind the error. It also describes solutions on ‘how to fix PST file is not an Outlook data file’error.

Personal Storage Table (PST) File is an Outlook Data File that is used to store emails, calendar, and other mailbox items for POP3 accounts, on your computer.

Note: In Outlook 2013 and previous versions, PST file is also used to store emails and other information for IMAP accounts.

Also referred to as Outlook Personal Folder (.pst) file, it can be used to archive older messages and mailbox items – not just by POP3 accounts – but also IMAP and Exchange accounts. More importantly, a PST file can be moved from one machine to another, allowing users to transfer Outlook data to another system. However, users often report about receiving ‘PST file is not an Outlook data file’ error message when opening or importing PST file into an Outlook application installed on another machine.

The exact error message looks similar to:

Error Message

Figure 1 - PST is not an Outlook data file error message

Why the ‘PST File is not an Outlook Data File’ Error Occurs?

If you get The file is not an Outlook data file (.pst)” error when trying to import or open a PST file in another computer, it indicates a problem with the Import/Export process or the file.

Following are some reasons that may result in the error:

Reason 1 – Corrupt PST File
It usually occurs when the data file you are trying to transfer (or import) is corrupt. The PST file may get corrupt due to any of these reasons:

  1. Abrupt Termination of Outlook Application: A PST file may turn corrupt if Outlook application terminates abnormally, when you’re migrating mailbox data to another computer. 
  2. Presence of Bad Sectors in Hard Drive: Bad sectors on a hard drive used to move Outlook data from one computer to the other computer can also result in PST file corruption.
  3. Oversized PST: PST file can grow fairly large in size when you start adding messages with large attachments. And an Outlook data file exceeding its defined size limit (50 GB) can easily become corrupt.

Note: The size limit of .pst file in Outlook 2007 is 20 GB.

Reason 2 – Exporting Outlook Data to a New PST from an Existing PST File
If your Outlook client is not connected to an Exchange mailbox, then all the mailbox data will be stored in a .pst file. So, you don’t need to export data to Outlook Personal Folder File. That’s because, exporting data to a PST file from an already existing (opened) PST file will result in data loss and the error in question.

How to Solve ‘PST File is not an Outlook Data File’ Error?

Before moving on to solutions, follow these troubleshooting steps to resolve the issue:

Step 1 – Uncheck the File ‘Read-Only’ Attribute

If you are trying to access a PST file saved on a removable media, portable drive or any other storage media, verify if the PST file status is set to read-only. To do so, right-click on the PST file, and then select Properties. From the Properties window, in the General tab, make sure that the ‘Read-only’ attribute is unchecked. If not, uncheck it and see if you can open the PST file.

Pst File Properties Windows

Figure 2 - PST File Properties Window

Step 2 - Copy the PST File to Another Location

Try copying the PST file to another location. For instance, copy the file from default location and paste it into the Documents folder on your PC, and then go to File > Open for opening the Outlook Data File within Outlook.

Step 3 - Check PST File Size

If you get the error message “The file is not an Outlook Data File (.pst)”, when trying to restore backup of an original PST file, check if your PST file is oversized. Simply put, make sure that the file you are trying to access hasn’t exceeded its permissible size limit. If it has, the PST file may become unstable (or corrupt).

You will need to repair a corrupt PST file to access the file contents

Read this: How to Deal With Too Large PST File > 50GB?

Solutions to Fix ‘PST File is not an Outlook Data File’ Error

Following are some solutions that can help resolve the issue:

Solution 1 – Try Repairing the File Using the Inbox Repair Utility

As discussed above, corruption in PST file could be the major reason behind ‘PST not an Outlook data file’ error. You can try repairing the PST file to access its data. Use the Microsoft built-in repair utility, called the Inbox Repair Tool (ScanPST.exe) to diagnose and repair Outlook Data File errors.

To use Scanpst.exe, follow these steps:

Step 1: Find Scanpst.exe

SCANPST.exe comes along with Microsoft Outlook installation. It is located in the Outlook installation directory. But, the location of SCANPST.exe will vary depending on the Outlook version installed on your PC and the Outlook edition (64-bit or 32-bit) you are using. Browse it in the following locations:

In Outlook 2019 (Office 365)

  1. 32-bit Version: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office19
  2. 64-bit Version: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office19

In Outlook 2016:

  1. 32-bit Outlook: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\
  2. 64-bit Outlook: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\

In Outlook 2013:

  1. 32-bit Outlook: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\
  2. 64-bit Outlook: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\

In Outlook 2010:

  1. 32-bit Outlook: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\
  2. 64-bit Outlook: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\

In Outlook 2007:

  1. 32-bit Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\
  2. 64-bit Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\

Note: If you still cannot locate Scanpst.exe, try repairing the Office installation.

Step 2: Run SCANPST

Once you have located the Scanpst.exe tool, follow these steps to repair a corrupt PST file:

Note: Before running the tool, make sure to close the Outlook application. Also, since Scanpst.exe is a hidden file, you will need the ‘Show hidden files and folders’ option to be enabled in your Folder options.

  • Double-click SCANPST.

Figure 3 - Scan the Selected PST File

  • The tool will begin to scan the selected file. If it displays any errors, make sure that the 'Make backup of scanned file before repairing' checkbox is checked.

Figure 4 - Scanpst Repair PST File

  • Click Repair.
  • On successfully repairing the file, the ‘Repair Complete’ message will appear. Click OK and try accessing the repaired PST file. 

Figure 5 - PST Repair Complete Message Box

Note: If you receive an error message ‘PST file is in use’, close your Outlook application and try accessing the file again.

Some Shortcomings of Scanpst.exe

Scanpst.exe is a free to use repair utility, but it has certain downsides:

  • It may fail to fix an oversized or severely corrupt PST file.
  • Several users have reported that the Inbox Repair Tool may freeze or stop responding in the middle of repair process.
  • You may have to run the tool several times to fix corruption errors in PST file, which makes the repair process tedious and time-consuming. 

To overcome such limitations, you need a more reliable PST file repair tool to deal with corruption and other Outlook data file errors.

Solution 2 – Use Stellar Repair for Outlook Software

If none of the troubleshooting steps or solutions helps resolve the ‘PST file is not an Outlook Data File’ issue, use Stellar Repair for Outlook software to quickly restore the file to its original format.

The software is the best alternative to Scanpst.exe tool. It can parse through severely damaged or corrupt PST files and repair them in just a few clicks. Also, it recovers all mailbox items including emails, attachments, contacts, calendars, etc. into a new usable PST.

The software has an easy-to-use GUI, repairs encrypted PST file, previews recoverable mail items before saving, and has option to ‘Find’ PST file. These are some of the features that make Stellar Repair for Outlook the best alternative to Scanpst.exe.

Steps to Repair Corrupt PST by Using Stellar Repair for Outlook Software

To scan and repair PST file, download and install Stellar Repair for Outlook software. Once it is installed, run the software and then follow these steps:

Step 1: From the software home menu, click Browse or Find in the ‘Select PST file for Repair’ dialog box.

Figure 6 - Select PST file to Repair

Step 2: After selecting the PST file, click Repair to begin repairing the file.

Figure 7 - Repair Corrupt PST file

Step 3: The software begins to scan the corrupt PST file.

Note: The scanning process may take time based on the severity of .pst file corruption.

Figure 8 - Stellar Repair for Outlook PST Scanning Process

Step 4: Once scanning is complete, the software displays a preview of the repaired items on the left panel of the preview window. You can browse and check contents of a mailbox item by selecting the right folder.

Note: You can save the scanned Outlook data file information by clicking 'Save Scan'. You can use the saved scan results to perform PST repair or recovery at a later stage.

Figure 9 - Preview of Repaired PST File

Step 5: For saving the repaired PST file, choose the Save Repaired File option on File menu.

Step 6: In the ‘Save As’ dialog box, choose PST file format from the multiple saving options. Next, click Browse to select the location where you wish to save the repaired (and recovered) PST file.

Figure 10 - File Saving Options

Step 7: Click OK to proceed with the file saving process.

Figure 11 - PST File Saving in Progress

Step 8: When the ‘Saving Complete’ message box pops-up, click OK.

Figure 12 - PST File Saving Complete

Now you can find your repaired PST file at the selected location.

Technical Requirements to Install the Software
Supported Operating System:
Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP
RAM Required: 2 GB Minimum (4 GB recommended)
Hard Disk: 250 MB of free space
Supported Outlook Version: MS Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003, and earlier versions

Conclusion

You may encounter ‘PST is not an Outlook Data File’ error when trying to open or import a PST file into another machine. It may occur due to reasons such as corruption in PST file, exporting Outlook data to a PST file from an already opened (or existing) .pst file, etc.

You can troubleshoot the error by ensuring that the file status is not set to ‘Read-only’ or check if the Outlook data file size does not exceed its recommended limit. If the error persists, repair the PST file by using Scanpst.exe tool. If the tool fails to fix corruption in the Outlook data file, you can take the help of a professional PST repair tool such as Stellar Repair for Outlook to repair and recover mailbox data.

Once you have restored your Outlook Personal Folder (.pst) file, note these important points to prevent the error from occurring again:

  1. Avoid using the Import/Export wizard to move Outlook data file (.pst) from one Outlook version to another. Instead, you can copy the PST file, with Outlook closed.
  2. Avoid pasting the copied PST file into the default location.
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