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How to recover from a Microsoft Outlook auto-archiving disaster

Retrieve Microsoft Outlook auto-archived data by searching for Archive.PST files on your hard drive or network home directory.

My boss clicked yes to "auto archive" in Microsoft Outlook not knowing it was set to permanently delete. There is NOTHING in .PST, trash, etc. Microsoft said it's somewhere in the hard drive. Can you help?

VIEW MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A.

It sounds to me like your boss has an Archive.PST file located somewhere on his hard drive or network home directory. Search the hard drive and home directory for all .PST files. Once you find them, take note of where they are saved, their size and their last modified date. Chances are the largest one with the most recent 'last modified' date is the one you want. Open it within Microsoft Outlook and you should find the messages.

If you end up searching and not finding any more .PST files in the locations I specified, then it sounds like you are out of luck. You will need to recover your boss's mailbox from backup tape and then restore them into his production mailbox or into a .PST for his reference.

(As a last ditch effort you could also try asking whoever you spoke with at Microsoft what they meant when they said "it's somewhere on the hard drive," though I suspect they were just trying to point you to a local Archive.PST file.)

MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS ASK THE EXPERT Q&A:

Go into Microsoft Outlook, right-click on the archive in the folder view and select Properties. Click on Advanced and it will show you the location of the .PST.
—Brian C.

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What about using the DumpsterAlwaysOn Microsoft Outlook registry hack? That would probably allow the moved/deleted email to be recovered from Exchange, as long as it is within the auto-retention period.

Read Recovering "hard" deleted items from outside of the Deleted Items folder for more information.
—Neill T.

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You could try setting the registry key "DumpsterAlwaysOn" to see if the items are in there. Depending on how the Exchange server is configured, you will be able to recover hard-deleted items from any folder.
—Matt H.

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This was last published in May 2005

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