How to open a .PST file without Outlook?

If you brought home an Outlook .pst file from work, but you don’t have Outlook at home, you may be asking yourself, “How can I open a .pst file without Outlook?”

This is a routine question for people who use Microsoft Outlook at work, but who hope to retain access to their contacts and email history when planning to leave their employer.  For many of us, our work day revolves around Outlook. Losing access to the .pst file that stores our Outlook data would be like losing a large piece of our memory.

As long as your employer has not taken steps to prevent data leakage by applying perimeter encryption (i/e automatically encrypting all files that are copied from the network),  then it is possible to open the .pst file, view and search email messages, and even export email to different formats.

Perimeter encryption is different than Outlook’s built-in encryption or Outlook password protection. In either of those latter cases, Pst Viewer Pro will be able to open those .pst files for you.

.PST file viewer email list
Pst Viewer Pro main menu

Pst Viewer Pro is an Outlook viewer software application for Windows that has advanced functions for managing .pst file contents.  You can download a free 15 day trial of Pst Viewer Pro if you would like to follow along with this article.

How to open a .pst file
To open a .pst file with Pst Viewer Pro, use the folder navigation on the left side of the screen to locate the folder containing your .pst file.  By clicking on the .pst file, you can expand it to reveal the folder structure.

Each folder within the .pst file relates directly to an email folder that you would see in Outlook. For example Inbox would be your Outlook inbox, and Outbox would be your Outlook outbox. 

.pst file structure
Pst Viewer Pro will show the structure of your Outlook .pst file

To view emails in the .pst file, just click on the file or folder you want to view. Pst Viewer Pro will go to work reading in the messages, and will display each message in the mail list.  Click on an email to have it display in the preview pane. If you need a closer look, double click on it to open in a full screen view. 

Pst Viewer Pro not only lets you view emails in your Outlook .pst file, but you can also search using advanced criteria such as a date range or email message text.

You can export emails from you .pst file to PDF and other formats, reply to messages, extract file attachments, and much more.

Download a free trial of Pst Viewer Pro and you’ll soon have access to all of the important content that is locked inside your Outlook .pst file.

Where Is My Outlook 2010 .PST File Stored?

PST files are Personal Storage files created by Microsoft Outlook. Outlook stores all of your emails, file attachments, notes, calendar items, address — everything is stored in your .pst file.  It’s a good idea to backup this file from time to time, to protect yourself against the loss of all of this important information.

A big hurdle to backing up a .pst file is locating it on your computer. Here are some tips to locate your Outlook .pst file.

With Outlook 2010, most of the time you will find the .PST file stored in a folder called something like this:

C:UsersBobDocumentsOutlook Files

Replace “Bob” with your Windows User account name.  If your Windows User account is called “Family,” then the first place to look for your files would be:

C:UsersFamilyDocumentsOutlook Files

If you don’t find the .pst files in this location, here is how to determine your Outlook .PST file location through Microsoft Outlook.
Step 1.  Open Outlook and right click on the top level of your email folder structure on your left-hand side. It will likely be named with your email address, unless you have renamed it to something else.  So right click on it, and then choose Data File Properties.

Outlook data file properties
To find your Outlook 2010 PST file, choose Data File Properties.

When the Data File Properties windows appears, select Advanced.

Outlook today properties

When the Advanced Window opens (it’s titled Outlook Data File), note the location that in the “Filename” field.  This is the absolute path to your Outlook 2010 .pst file.

An Absolute Path means that this path includes the file name of the .pst file.

Highlight this path using your cursor and then click CTRL-C to copy it.
It should now be stored in your clip board.  We’ll need it in a minute.

Outlook data file location

The next thing we want to do is to open the folder where the .PST file is stored.
We can use Windows Explorer to do this. Start Windows Explorer for this next step.

What? How do you start Windows Explorer?  Just Right Click on the Windows Start button, or in Windows 7, right click on the orb.  This will bring up a context menu from which you can select “Open Windows Explorer.”

Windows 7 start orb

When Windows Explorer opens, click in the navigation bar and paste in the file path that you copied just a few minutes ago.  To paste in the file location, type CTRL-V.

Windows Explorer

There’s one more small but important step we need to do before pressing the enter key.

Notice that you pasted in the exact absolute path to the file name.   Remove the file name from the path.  We want to go to the folder that holds the files. Typing in the exact location of the file might cause it to open in Microsoft Outlook, and we don’t want to do that. We just want to go the folder where that .pst file lives.

After you have removed the file name from the path, press enter. Voila!

.PST file location for Outlook 2010.
Location of PST files

You are now in the the folder where all of your Outlook 2010 .pst files live.

Right click on any of the .pst files and choose “Copy To” and specify a location. This will cause Windows to Copy or Backup your Outlook .pst file to the place you specify.

Note that some .PST files can be quite large. In the picture above, notice that one of my .pst files is 2.5 GB in side. Be sure to have a DVD or a large capacity USB drive ready to receive the your .pst files.

Follow this link for more information about Outlook PST files.

How to convert email to PDF

So you want to convert an email into a PDF file?  We’ll look at a couple of different ways that you can accomplish this goal.
Sometimes its nice to have a PDF copy of an email. PDF’s are easy to share. Just about anyone can open a PDF file, no matter which computer platform, tablet or mobile device they are using. PDF files are not tied to particular email client such as Microsoft Outlook and can be read with free PDF viewing software. More and more companies are choosing to PDF for email archiving.

An important question to consider when when planning to convert email to PDF is, “What do I want done with the email file attachments?”

If an email has no attachments, then there’s no problem.  But many emails do indeed contain file attachments attached to them (about 32%, according to experts). Some of them can be quite large. Since email attachments can be the most important part of an email message, handling them correctly during a pdf conversion process is also important.

Before we discuss specific solutions for converting an email into a PDF, let’s first consider the four ways we can choose to handle email file attachments:

1. Ignore them. Just convert the email message and totally ignore the file attachments. This works if we are only convert a few email messages to PDF, and we know they don’t have attachments, or if know that the attachments are not important.

2. Save them to disk. Convert the email message to PDF, and put the file attachments in a folder on your computer where you can find them later. Again, this is a good option when we’re only converting a small quantity of emails to PDF.

3. Embed the file attachments.  You could choose to convert the email to PDF, and then place the entire file attachment inside of the PDF file.  A PDF viewer like Adobe Reader will usually display a little paper clip icon when a file is embedded. Clicking the icon will reveal the name of the file.  The file could then be saved outside of the PDF file.  This is convenient for preserving the context of the email message and the original email file attachment.

Email File attachment embedded inside a .pst file
A file embedded inside of a PDF file.

4. Convert the email file attachments into the PDF image.
This option would print your email message to the PDF file, and then convert your file attachments into the PDF image.  This is a convenient mode of conversion, because it makes everything easily visible within the PDF file.

Ok, so how do I convert email to PDF?
Right, let’s get to the meat of the matter, shall we?

If you choose method 1, “ignore file attachments and just convert the email message to PDF,”  then life is simple.  Any free “Virtual PDF Printer,” should suffice. A Virtual PDF Printer will capture the print image of your email message and save it as a PDF file.  In Windows 7, your print output may look something like the picture below.  So basically you just open the email message, print it using your software’s print function, and select your virtual PDF printer as the destination.  Virtual PDF printers are a very handy tool, and they will print individual email messages as well as any other document on your computer. A free virtual PDF printer that has worked well for me is Bullzip PDF.

PDF Printer
Select a virtual PDF printer

PDF virtual printer
Tell the virtual PDF printer where to save the resulting .pdf file with your email.


I don’t want to ignore email file attachments in the PDF file. Now what I do?
If you simply can’t ignore email file attachments, or if you’re converting a large quantity of emails to PDF, then you’ll need some specialized software. Fortunately, there’s a couple of good options for you to consider.

Pst Viewer Pro is Windows software for viewing email messages that are sourced as Outlook .pst or .msg files, .ost or .eml files. Pst Viewer Pro can export one message, or thousands of email messages. Using Pst Viewer Pro’s export manager, you can select the option for managing file attachments that best suites you:  save to disk, embed attachments as part of the PDF image (handles most popular document types) or save the files to disk.

Exporting .pst or .msg files to .pdf files with Pst Viewer Pro.
Save email as PDF files with Pst Viewer Pro

You can download a free trial of PST Viewer Pro software.

Add a PDF add-in to Microsoft Outlook
If you are a Microsoft Outlook user, then you should take a look at MessageExport.  MessageExport is an add-in for Outlook that lets you export your emails to PDF and other formats.  Because it’s an add-in, MessageExport is fully integrated to Outlook.

Adding Email to .PDF export to Outlook Email client.
MessageExport adds PDF and many other export formats to Microsoft Outlook

To use MessageExport, first highlight the messages you want to export. Next, choose the export format  (such as PDF – attachments convert).  Finally, click the blue “Export” button. MessageExport goes to work converting your Outlook email messages and file attachments into PDF files.

You can download a free 15 day trial of MessageExport.

Converting email messages to PDF can be very simple, or fairly complex, depending on how many emails you are exporting, and how you want to handle email file attachments. A virtual PDF printer can be very useful for converting a handful of emails to .pdf.  For more complicated email-to-pdf export operations, Pst Viewer Pro or the MessageExport add-in for Outlook may be a better fit.

Open Outlook .PST files with Pst Viewer Lite

Outlook .pst viewer lite

Pst Viewer Lite is an Outlook .pst file viewer priced right at $29.99. It lets you search, print, copy and export the emails in your Outlook .pst file.  Export your Outlook emails to different formats for archiving, including .PDF, CSV, HTML, and other formats.  It also is a .msg file viewer, and can even read .eml files.

When Pst Viewer Lite loads, you’ll see an interface that mimics a standard email client.  

Pst Viewer Lite email viewer
Pst Viewer Lite Viewer for Outlook .pst files

To read a .pst file, use the folder list to select the location of your .pst or .msg files.   When selecting a .pst file, just click on it and Pst Viewer Lite will display the folder structure of the .pst file.

Examine .pst file folder structure
Pst Viewer Lite will show the .Pst file folder structure.

Click on the top folder in your .pst file to load all of the email messages. If you want to load emails from a specific folder, just click on that folder.

The emails in the folder you select will appear in the mail list.

Email list
Email messages display in Pst Viewer Lite’s list. Double click on any message to open in a full view window.

The Pst Viewer Lite toolbar puts important functions within one click of your email list.  You can reply, reply all, or forward email messages in your .pst file using your default email client.  A Print function lets you print out a paper copy of select emails.

Pst Viewer Lite toolbar
Pst Viewer Lite toolbar
Search a .pst file
Search Your Outlook .PST file with Pst Viewer Lite

Pst Viewer Lite has an advanced search function that lets you search an entire .pst file for emails that match a specific criteria.  No indexing is required for Pst Viewer Lite to execute a search.  Results are displayed in the mail list.

System administrators who want to deploy a .pst file viewer to their enterprise will find Pst Viewer Lite has many necessary admin features:  adjust the user interface, remove unwanted functions from the menu, .MSI file for deployment, command line registration, silent deployment, and much more. To learn more, see Pst Viewer Lite’s help file instructions for full details.

PST viewer command line switches
Enterprise deployment help of Pst Viewer Lite is included in the Help File

For the price, Pst Viewer Lite packs many powerful features for .pst file management.   To learn more about Pst Viewer Lite, try it free for 15 days.

 Download a free trial of Pst Viewer Lite from the product website.

“How can I open a PST file without Outlook?”

Opening a PST file without Outlook.

Thanks to Microsoft’s release of the PST file specification to software developers, its now possible to open PST files without Outlook.
Microsoft Outlook email client is the original source of billions of .PST files in the world. For years, their PST format was a closed secret. But in 2010, Microsoft began publishing parts of the PST specification. This has allowed software developers to create tools such as PST Viewers (often referred to as Outlook Viewers) that can give you access to your emails, even if you don’t have Microsoft Outlook installed on your computer.

If you need to open a PST file, why not just install Outlook? That is certainly a fair question, because Outlook is an excellent email client (although it can be a bit pricey). I have used Outlook for years, and I love it.
But there are occasions where its easy to envision the usefulness of a PST viewer:

If you used Outlook at work, but you don’t have it at home and you wish to have access to your work email.  
If you have moved on to a different email client, like Lotus Notes or Thunderbird, and its important to you have access to your email history, then a Outlook Viewer may be the right choice.
If you have several PST files you need to search immediately and you don’t have days to wait for Outlook to index your files, a PST viewer can give you quick access to your emails.

How do Outlook .PST Viewers Work?

Most Outlook viewers are fairly straight forward and function in a manner similar to Outlook.  When the viewer starts, you can select a PST file from a list.  This will cause the Outlook Viewer to examine the file and present a list of emails messages, which you can sort by different criteria.
Main menu of an Outlook Viewer software application for reading .PST files.
PST Viewer Pro menu showing emails

The Outlook viewer shown here is Pst Viewer Pro by Encryptomatic LLC. A free trial can be downloaded for the PST Viewer website.
Outlook Viewers will vary in quality
and the features they offer. An advanced reader like PST Viewer Pro will allow
you to convert email messages to PDF and other formats. You’ll be able to reply
to messages using your existing email client. It’s often possible to do a deep
search of the PST file to find important emails.  They should give you full access to the file
attachments and embedded images with the email message.  You should be able to expand an email to a
full screen view by clicking on it.

Although there are some readers on
the market that are free, be careful that you don’t install a viewer that tries
to install spyware on your computer. Free viewers may just provide the most
basic features and may require you to view commercial offers during the
installation process. They may try to recoup their costs by installing software on you computer that serve ads, or prospect for other services they can sell you.

A paid commercial Outlook viewer should not behave that
way, if the developer is credible.  Also
be certain that the installation package is “code signed,” by the developer. You can
tell if its signed because when you start the installer, Microsoft will
announce who the developer is. An unsigned installer will be from an “Unknown”

Outlook Viewers are helpful tools
that make your emails more accessible, especially in environments where Outlook
is not installed or when it’s not convenient to wait for Outlook to complete
indexing of the PST files. 
The best way to experience the
benefits of an Outlook viewer is download a free trial and see for yourself if
it is a good fit for your needs.

Leaving your job? How to take your Outlook email with you.

Microsoft Outlook has existed since the days of MS-DOS, before 1997.  There are probably billions of  Outlook .pst files, or personal storage files in the world. Each contains a wealth of a history, thousands of email messages, contacts, calendar items, journal entries, notes, and file attachments.  Until Outlook 2003,  pst files had a size limit of 2GB, forcing users to create even more PST files, lest the file become corrupt and they lose their data.

If a company was organized, these old .pst files were archived in a centralized data vault where they remain until needed for legal reasons. Or they were converted to different formats such as PDF/A and then archived.

When leaving a job, a worker would understandably want to make a copy of a pst file. From the employee’s perspective, a .pst file contains precious contact information which would be useful in a job search. Employers often wish to prevent employees from taking PST files with them, seeing this practice as a threat to their intellectual property. 

Some employers implement perimeter encryption.  This means that if an employee copies a .pst file to a flash drive or any other removable media, they will be unable to view the file at home; the file is only decrypted when the flash drive is connected to the company network.

It’s important to respect your employer’s wishes about network data.  You may feel that the email messages you wrote belong to you, but your employer may feel otherwise.  You don’t want your employer to sue you for stealing company property.  Also remember that your employer may be retaining a copy of every file that is copied off the company network, thereby holding employees accountable. Copying your email messages or even destroying them from inside of MS Outlook will not permanently remove the messages from your employers email backups.

Assuming your employer didn’t encrypt the pst file when you copied it to your flash drive, you could buy your own copy of Outlook and use to access the pst file.  The downside of this is that it could a week or more for the files to become fully indexed by Windows, making it very difficult or impossible to find the data you need today by searching in Outlook. 

An alternative to Outlook that would allow immediate searching and viewing of the emails in your .pst file would be to use a 3rd party .pst file viewer, such as PST Viewer Pro, which can also read individual Outlook .msg files as well as pst files.

Copying PST files can be difficult, however. Since the 2GB size limit was removed in Outlook 2003, PST files may be gigantic, maybe 20 GB or even larger.  You’ll need a good sized flash disk and a lot of time to copy that file.

Maybe you would prefer to be more selective, and not take the entire pst file. An alternative to taking the entire PST file would be to just copy the most important emails. If you drag and drop a selection of messages from Outlook to a desktop folder, they will be converted to a .msg file, which can also be opened in Outlook or a msg/pst file viewer.

A helpful tool for exporting and organizing Outlook email messages is MessageExport. It’s an add-in for Outlook that can export entire email folders. MessageExport can save emails to PDF (either one email to one PDF file, or many emails to one PDF file), or export the selected messages to a single MBOX file for later import to Thunderbird.

MessageExport lets you create thousands of possible combinations for exporting Outlook message that can be combined into unique “export profiles” to suite just about any need. It also has a scheduler to automatically export new emails on a regular basis.
For example, say you set up a folder in Outlook called “Kudos,” into which you copied every nice email your boss sent you. Since these emails could be helpful in a job search some day, why not save them?  MessageExport could look into the Kudos folder every day, and if it sees that you copied in a new message, it can save it as a pdf file that you could easily take with you. 

Have you copied your PST file from a company you worked at? What was your result? Tell us below.

How to search an Outlook .PST file that has not been indexed.

Perform a Quick Search of Outlook .PST Files with PST Viewer Pro software.
Searching .pst files for an important email can be done from within Microsoft Outlook. Outlook will return excellent search results if the .pst file has been indexed.

If the .pst file has not been indexed, Outlook may require several days to complete the process. Until the indexing is completed, any results returned in a search operation may be incomplete. 

What can you do if you do not have Microsoft Outlook on your computer, or if you need to search a .PST file that has not  been indexed?  For people in the litigation industry who are receiving .pst files as part of the discovery process that must be completed quickly, waiting days for Outlook to finishing indexing  a .pst file is not acceptable.

There are software applications that can perform an immediate search of Outlook .pst files.  PST Viewer Pro is a viewer that will allow you to search, print, view, and export email stored in Outlook .pst files.  Pst Viewer Pro does not depend on the presence of Microsoft Outlook, as some applications do, to be able to open .pst files.  After a brief enumerating period where it scans the messages in the pst file, Pst Viewer Pro can allow you to perform an immediate search on an entire .pst file, or just selected folders.

To begin the process, first download a 15 free trial of PST Viewer Pro and start it up. When the software loads, use the folder view on your left side to navigate to the folder where you .pst file resides.  Click on  the .PST file you wish to search.

Download a Free Trial of PST Viewer Pro

To tell Pst Viewer Pro that you want to search the entire .pst file, right click on it and choose “Switch to scan with subfolders.”  This will cause any search operation to begin at the top of the .pst file, and move through all recursive directories.

Screen shot of Outlook .pst file nested directory folder structure.
Pst Viewer Pro shows folder structure of Outlook .pst files.

There are two basic searches that can be performed with PST Viewer Pro: a quick search, and an advanced search.

To perform a quick search of the .pst file, type your search term into the search box on the upper right corner of PstViewer Pro. You will soon see any results matching your query displayed in the viewing window.

Search a .PST file quickly using PstViewer Pro’s quick search box.

PstViewer Pro can also perform an advanced search.  To enter the search menu, click the Search icon in main toolbar.

Advanced search Icon in PST Viewer Pro

You will now see a search window into which you can enter additional criteria for searching your Outlook .PST file.

PstViewer Pro search criteria window

There are various options you can specify to tell Pst Viewer Pro whether it should search subfolders.  Because Pst Viewer Pro also can search .msg and .eml files, you have the option to include those items in your search.  You can tell Pst Viewer Pro to match the case of the text, match whole words, or to search emails that fall between a stard date and an end date.

 To go even deeper into setting PST file search criteria, click the Advanced tab.

PstViewer Pro advanced search criteria window.

Advanced PST search criteria also lets you focus your search on specific email fields, such as From, Subject, email header, To, CC and message text.

If you find yourself having to perform a search on a Outlook .pst file, download PstViewer Pro and get started. The trial runs 14 days and is unrestricted, except that export operations are limited to 50 items at a time.  PstViewer Pro is $69.99. Click the link to buy.

Visit the PST Viewer Pro home page for more information.