Restore an Outlook PST Contacts and Emails File

Detail of a back-up disc and a marker on a laptop
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Outlook stores emails, address book entries, and other data in a PST (Outlook Personal Information Store) file. If you've made a backup of the PST file or need information from a different PST file, you can easily restore it through the Outlook program itself.

Losing this information can be scary, but Outlook makes it really simple to restore the data so that you can recover your Outlook contacts or emails.

If you do not have a backup copy of your Outlook data and are instead looking for how to recover the PST file itself, consider using a file recovery program and searching for ".PST" as the file extension.

Restore an Outlook PST File for Mail, Contacts, and Data

The steps for doing this are slightly different in Outlook 2016 down through Outlook 2000, so make sure to take note of those differences pointed out in these instructions:

If you want to restore a PST file into Outlook but not actually import the data, and instead just use it as another data file, the steps are a bit different. Skip to the bottom section to learn more.

  1. In Outlook 2016 and 2013, open the FILE > Open & Export > Import/Export menu.

    In Outlook 2007-2000, use File > Import and Export.

  2. Choose Import from another program or file.

  3. Click the Next button.

  4. Highlight the option called Outlook Data File (.pst) or Personal Folder File (PST) depending on the version of Outlook you're using.

  5. Click Next again.

  6. Choose Browse... to find and select the PST file that you want to import data from.

    Outlook might check for a backup.pst file in the user's \Document\Outlook Files\ folder first but you can use the Browse... button to change where it searches.

  7. Before continuing, make sure to pick the option you want to be fulfilled.

    Replace duplicates with items imported will make sure that everything is imported and will just replace whatever is the same.

    You can instead choose Allow duplicates to be created if you don't care that some items will be the same. Make sure you realize what this will do if you select this option; every email and contact will be imported even if you already have them in your current PST file.

    Do not import duplicates will avoid the duplication issue altogether.

  8. Choose Next after selecting one of those options.

  9. Finish the import process with the Finish button.

How to Add a New PST Data File to Outlook

Outlook lets you add additional PST files that you can use along with the default one. You can also change the default data file in much the same way.

  1. Instead of opening the Import/Export menu like above, use the FILE > Account and Social Network Settings > Account Settings... option.

  2. From that new Account Settings screen, go to the Data Files tab.

  3. Choose the Add... button to add another PST file to Outlook.

To make it the new default data file, select it and click the Set as Default button.