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As a rule, it's a bad idea to rely on personal store (.PST) files for Microsoft Outlook e-mail. They can get corrupted and are difficult to manage on a large scale. They also decentralize e-mail, which defeats the purpose of having a central mail server like Microsoft Exchange in the first place.
Still, in some scenarios, it's hard to avoid using .PSTs -- if you have many remote workers that can't remain consistently connected, for instance.
OutlookFIX deals with some of the main problems than can arise as a byproduct of using .PSTs -- specifically, how to repair them if they get damaged, or if they grow larger than their 2 GB size limit.
The program can also perform undelete operations on .PST files, including recovering attachments and items like Contacts and Notes. It can also split existing .PST files into smaller ones (which is one way of non-destructively getting around the aforementioned 2 GB boundary).
All recovered data can be previewed directly before being committed to an entirely new file, so a recovery operation will not cause any damage.
The program comes in two editions: Pro and Enterprise. The only significant difference between the two is that Enterprise can perform batch operations on multiple .PST files; otherwise, they're completely identical.
OutlookFIX is under constant development. Some of the newer features include recovery of HTML and RTF-formatted messages and full support for all versions of Microsoft Outlook from Outlook 97 through Outlook 2003.
A free trial version can be downloaded -- but it's limited in that it cannot write the recovered changes, only display them. The full version starts at U.S. $139.30.
The application also requires that Outlook be installed on the computer in question in order to run, and can only recover password-protected files if they are not encrypted.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.
"As a rule, it's a bad idea to rely on personal store (.PST) files for Microsoft Outlook e-mail."
I found your opinion about .PST files a bit interesting, but I tend to disagree. We have clients where most of the users have big mailboxes (1GB and above) and keeping that kind of info on the Exchange server would be a burden for the server. We use the .PST backup utility, so in case the .PST gets damaged we can always restore it. I also noticed that big corporations tend to limit the Exchange mailbox storage to 50 MB or 100 MB per user and everything else goes into personal .PSTs.
The exact scenario is always going to vary based on need and policy. I've noticed that the use of a local .PST vs. a central Exchange mailbox often has to do with how much control the company wants to keep over e-mail, and also what kind of backup policies they have. It's easier to back up one central mail repository than it is to back up many desktops, and many organizations don't like the idea of making mail backup the responsibility of the individual. (There are products that perform incremental desktop backups that are mirrored to a central server, which kind of solves both problems at once.)
Serdar Yegulalp, tip author
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