Open, change, or close Outlook data files

When you run Outlook for the first time, the necessary data files are created automatically. However, sometimes you will create additional data files. For example, archived items are saved in another Outlook Data File (.pst). You might also keep information related to different projects in their own Outlook Data File (.pst).

Note:  Microsoft Exchange Server accounts usually don't use Outlook Data Files (.pst). Your information is saved on the server that is running Exchange, but archives you might create use Outlook Data Files (.pst) saved on your computer.

How can I tell if I have a Microsoft Exchange Server account?

Click the File tab. Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings. On the E-mail tab, the list of accounts indicates the type of each account.

Example of an Exchange Account in the Account Settings dialog box

Open an Outlook Data File (.pst)

If you have an Outlook Data File (.pst) that does not appear in the Navigation Pane, you can add it so that you can work with the items in the data file.

  1. Click the File tab.

  2. Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings.
    Account Settings in the Backstage view

  3. On the Data Files tab, click Add.

  4. Click the Outlook Data File (.pst) file that you want to open, and then click OK.

Data file locations

Outlook Data Files (.pst) created by using Microsoft Outlook 2010 are saved on your computer in the Documents\Outlook Files folder. If you are using Windows XP, these files are created in the My Documents\Outlook Files folder.

Files created in previous versions of Outlook are saved in a different location in a hidden folder.

  • Windows 7 and Windows Vista     drive:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

  • Windows XP     drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

Tip:  For information about hidden folders in Windows, see Windows Help and Support.

Change an Outlook Data File (.pst) display name

The file name that you specify for an Outlook Data File (.pst) appears in the Navigation Pane. Prior to Outlook 2010, the default display name for Outlook Data Files (.pst) was Personal Folders. This can be confusing if you work with multiple Outlook Data Files (.pst) that were created in previous versions of Outlook. We recommend that you use a descriptive display name for each Outlook Data File (.pst).

  1. Click the File tab.

  2. Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings.

  3. On the Data Files tab, click the Outlook Data File (.pst) file, and then click Settings.

  4. In the Name box, enter a descriptive name for the Outlook Data File (.pst).

    Outlook Data File dialog box

    Note:  Changing the display name does not rename the file. Only the name as it appears in the Navigation Pane is changed..

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Close an Outlook Data File (.pst)

When you no longer need frequent access to an Outlook Data File (.pst), you can close the file. A closed file no longer appears in the Navigation Pane, but is not deleted from your computer.

  • Right-click the name of the Outlook Data File (.pst) that you want to remove from the Navigation Pane, and then click Close name.

    Close Outlook Data File (.pst) command

If the Close command is not available, you are probably trying to remove the default Outlook Data File (.pst) file that is used to save your new messages. If you were to remove that data file, new messages would have nowhere to go.

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