Recovering impossibly corrupted Outlook email…

I’ve been through two fairly serious hard drive crashes over the last four months. This last one a few weeks ago was a doozy; even IBM’s (Lenovo’s?) wonderful little Rescue and Recovery app gave up hope.

Here’s how I recovered (mostly) what seemed to be some unrecoverable .pst email archives:

  1. When your disk appears to be beyond repair, check out the fantastic and free TestDisk. If the data is out there, TestDisk will find it. Boot from a DOS disk if, like me, your operating system is gone.
    • To grab files via TestDisk, run the app, select your disk, and go to Analyze. Continue through the partition summary screens, highlight the partition you want, and select “P” to list files. From here you can traverse the directory tree and copy “C“the files you want to rescue.
    • Under Vista, the Outlook .pst files will typically be under C:\Users\<User_Name>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\
    • Be sure to copy to a destination drive with plenty of space. Most USB drives should be recognized these days, even when booting from DOS.
  2. Once you’ve got your (probably mangled) .pst file safely on a new disk, you’ll want to try to de-mangle it of course. There are a number of apps out there for this. Here are the ones with which I experimented:
    • Advanced Outlook Repair (~$250 USD)
      Recovered and/or identified over 800 messages as well as over 500 disembodied attachments (stored in a directory of their own). Unlike some of the other apps below, most of the attachements would appear to be intact. Some of the original folders are preserved. Unicode not supported.
    • Disk Doctors Outlook Mail Recovery
      Creates a new profile containing recovered messages in the Inbox as well as a new .pst file. Though the interface is clumsy, the Disk Doctors did manage to recover over 400 messages.
    • Kernel for Outlook (~$50 USD)
      Failed to recover anything. Clone of RecoveryFix below.
    • OutlookFIX Pro (~$200 USD)
      Great demo interface shows full text of messages (save is disabled), but only discovered about 100 messages in my case. Unicode not supported.
    • Outlook Recovery Toolbox (~$50 USD)
      Couldn’t really get this to work. Crashed on save and had to kill the process from the Task Manager.
    • PSTStation (~80 EUR)
      Appears as though it tried to repair the .pst directly but without luck.
    • RecoveryFix for Outlook (~$80 USD)
      Failed to recover anything. Clone of Kernel above
    • Recovery for Outook (~$250 USD)
      Recovered over 400 messages as well as identified and or recovered over 300 disembodied attachments (stored in a directory of their own; many corrupt). Not much is left of the original folder structures. Unicode supported!
    • R-Mail for Outlook (~$115 USD)
      Recovered some uncategorized folders, but only one message per folder. (Not sure if this is a limitation of the demo mode or not.)
    • Stellar Mailbox Professional (~$130 USD)
      Nice interface. Recovered over 400 messages. Unicode not supported.

Interestingly, all of the above seemed to recover different sets of email (if they could recover anything at all…) In the end I went with Advanced Outlook Repair given that only a small subset of my emails are Unicode (Japanese). Take a look at Recovery for Outlook if you need Unicode support.

If you just want to see what you might be lurking in your .pst archive, OutlookFIX’s demo will allow you to get a complete peak at the content of many recoverable messages.

5 thoughts on “Recovering impossibly corrupted Outlook email…

  1. I know similar program able do this-outlook recover,tool recover Outlook files and recover Outlook messages from corrupted *.ost files of Microsoft Exchange versions 5.0, 5.5, 2000, 2003,Runs under all Windows operating systems starting from Windows 98 (Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP); The Outlook PST recovery tool compatible with Windows Vista,increases your chances to successfully recovery for Outlook data from corrupted Microsoft Outlook pst files that seemed permanently lost manifold.

  2. It’s been quite a few months since you compared these Outlook repair apps. Any updates or additional comments you want to add?

    This post was VERY helpful in my evaluating the different applications. There’s not a a lot to choose from in the marketplace it seems.

    Thanks again!

  3. Not a lot to add. I was a little annoyed that AOR crashed when I finally tried to do a full recovery (see Advanced Outlook Repair Crash). The folks at DataNumen had me upload my .pst to an ftp server, they did the recovery themselves and then sent me the results.. End result is the same, I recovered a surprising amount of data. And of course I can now vouch for the quality of DataNumen’s support. 😉

  4. Folks, note that the posters above (Alex Krenvalk and “Repair Pst”) are promoting repackaged versions of the same software I list above. (Although, Alex Krenvalk’s link may be to the actual product site where I have posted a reseller.. it’s difficult to tell.)

    For whatever reason, there is a lot of this kind of thing with Microsoft repair tools, antivirus software, and the like. There seems to be two types of scenarios:

    1. Vendors wrapping their own interface around a library and selling the product as their own.
    2. Aggregators reselling software.

    I would avoid both. Probably you won’t get the support you need.

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