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How I Revived an Outlook PST Data File That was on Top of Bad Disk Sectors
Posted 31 months ago on 3/21/2019 and updated 10/27/2020
Take Away:

This article discusses the steps I had to take to rescue an Outlook PST file from disk sector errors.


I recently had a computer repair issue for a long time customer. He was using a Windows 8 laptop running Microsoft Outlook 2007. Outlook seemed to run OK, though rather slowly. He could send and receive emails and access his contacts and do everything he needed to do with Outlook 2007. But there was one catch. He could not copy the Outlook PST file to another folder on the C: drive or to external storage media. We tried to do this repeatedly and it always failed. We even used the included PST recovery utility, SCANPST.EXE, that comes with Outlook and that did not work either.

Finally, I decided the only option left was to use PST file recovery software. I knew we would have to pay for it, but there was no other way in my mind to get this PST file to copy to another location or device. I tried about six highly rated PST file recovery software utilities and none of them worked. They would start off fine, and then after some progress they would get stuck and stay stuck. All six of them did the same thing. So after all that wasted time and frustration, I began to think there had to be a better way.

For many years I have had a software utility called R-Studio NTFS. I have used it successfully to recover lost or damaged files or even parts of files. I began to think this might be the way to go since R-Studio NTFS could process the files on a deeper, more primitive level than the PST file recovery software utilities. So I began the attempt to recover the Outlook PST file with R-Studio NTFS. It took a while, but nonetheless the progress was steady and it eventually recovered the PST to a separate location. Along the way, it displayed messages that it could not recover disk sector error blah blah blah, but at least it moved on to the next part instead of just getting stuck. So now I at least had a copy of the Outlook PST data file that was no longer marooned on the pesky disk sector errors.

Next, I ran PST file recovery software to whip the R-Studio extracted PST file back into shape. I used a utility called “Systools Outlook Recovery”. This was one of the six PST recovery utilities I tried before with no success. However, this time it ran through to completion, albeit slowly since the PST file was quite large. This go around, it did not get sandbagged by disk sector errors. I assume the other five PST recovery utilities would have run through to completion also. I was able to import the rejuvenated Outlook PST file into Outlook 365, which the customer was now using on a new hard drive I set up with Windows 10 and all his other stuff from the old disk with the sector errors on it. We needed to jump to Outlook 365, because he was using a CRM called “Goldmine”, which required a newer version of Outlook to interface with rather than the old Outlook 2007.

So my old version of R-studio NTFS saved the day. I have said it before and I will say it again. The newest, sleekest, most cutting edge technology may not be the best solution to a problem. What is considered old or obsolete may be exactly what you need to deal with a "fix my PC" problem.


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