Advice required re backing up .ost and .pst files

abnet

New Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
I need to test and confirm best way to take backups of Outlook email account folders so that they can subsequently be imported back into Outlook and the user can then read all the old emails without connecting to the email account when it is later deleted from the remote mail server. The whys and hows of this are explained in detail much lower down in this post, so that (hopefully!) anyone with more time and patience can read exactly what I am trying to achieve, and maybe offer better advice or options!

The initial problem I have encountered is as follows. I previously set up a test account on within my Outlook 365 (2016 - 32 bit) using IMAP protocol. I sent and received some emails, and also created a custom folder and moved some emails to that. I then deleted the associated email account at the server end. I then confirmed that the emails for that account could still be viewed within Outlook, albeit that Outlook repeatedly pops up the mail account username/password box (as it can no longer find the email account on the remote mail server). I assumed a workaround to that particular annoyance would be to export the old IMAP account to a .pst file, remove the original account from Outlook, and then reinstate it from the previously exported file in .pst format. HOWEVER, this has not worked as I hoped. Here’s breakdown of the steps I followed:

  1. I checked I could still see and read all emails in all the folders of my test IMAP email account within my copy of Outlook 365. I could, but on clicking on any email it pops up the mail user/password verification box. This is expected as the account no longer exists on the mail server. But I want to avoid that annoying password box popping up so continued as follows...
  2. I used Outlook 365’s Export option to export all of the folders for that IMAP account as a .pst file. (I was careful to select the very top folder which named the specific IMAP account, and selected to include all sub-folders). I noted that once saved, the backed up .pst file said it was 41,433KB in size so was confident it had saved all of the emails within it.
  3. I went to remove the original .ost DATA file (from within Outlooks window listing data files and email accounts), but when I tried to remove it, it said “This file is associated with an email account, so you must remove the email account”.
  4. I removed the email account and it automatically removed the associated data file as well.
  5. Before continuing, and to be on safe side I then closed and reopened Outlook.
  6. I opened Outlook and selected File> Open & Export> Open Outlook Data file. I then selected the .pst file, as previously saved in step 2.
  7. It now displayed it on lower left side as “Outlook Data file” and all of the folders including the previously added custom folders were there.
  8. HOWEVER, when I look in any of the folders they are all empty - NONE of the emails are there!
  9. I tried removing the data file, and instead adding it by going to Manage Profiles> Data files - and adding it that way, but it is just the same as described in steps 7 & 8.
BUT.. HOLD IT!!! Before posting this I searched your website and found the page Fix the Outlook Folder Type after Exporting an IMAP Account and followed the instructions to run the 2nd macro. That fixed the problem and I can view all of the emails again in each folder. HOWEVER, that process will be way to complicated and scary for most of my customers. So my question is: Is there a better way to take a backup of an Outlook IMAP/.ost file so you can easily re-import that file into Outlook and immediately read all the emails?

Further background info and request for suggestions/advice:

I run a web design company from home, but we also host loads of our customers domains and email accounts via a reseller hosting service we use. Many of our older customer accounts are hosted on an old Windows server which my host has advised they are going to have to shut down. I already have access to an alternative new shared server and am therefore midway through the process of moving lots of my customers email accounts from one server to another. Email accounts on the new server are connected via a totally different mail server host address, so this has required that I set up new versions of each customer's email accounts (with same email address) on the new mail server. I have then had to instruct the customers to set up their email account within their mail apps again - as if it was a new account and with the new mail server settings. The benefit of this is that they can work with emails on the old and new server during the transition process. All good so far!

However, the old server is going to be decommissioned within next 3 weeks, so I now need to alert my customers to this and want to give them some guidance for what they can do to either backup/export copies of their old account’s emails, or migrate some across to the new version of their account. This is hard enough to offer advice on, as there are a mixture of some using POP and some IMAP for the old version of their accounts, and they are obviously using various different operating systems, devices, and email apps.

However, as I am a long time Outlook user, and I know that many of our customers also use Outlook, I hoped I could at least offer some guidance for backing up and re-opening their old account’s emails in Outlook. I assumed that suggesting they export their old email account to a .pst file would be best suggestion as you can apparently do that with an existing data file that is in .pst format, or with the newer .ost format as used for IMAP accounts. So I decided to test this today, and above sums up the first problem I encountered.

So, apart from any advice re my specific problem as described in the steps above, if anyone can suggest some better general advice or methods I should point my customers to for backing up their existing emails before we delete the associated email accounts off the old mail server, I will be extremely grateful for that.


And if you've read all the way down to here, thanks very much for your time and patience :p
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
Rather than using the macro, tell the clients to change the view on the folders - at this time, it can't be avoided when exporting an imap and that is the easiest / best way to backup imap accounts.

However, the old server is going to be decommissioned within next 3 weeks, so I now need to alert my customers to this and want to give them some guidance for what they can do to either backup/export copies of their old account’s emails, or migrate some across to the new version of their account. This is hard enough to offer advice on, as there are a mixture of some using POP and some IMAP for the old version of their accounts, and they are obviously using various different operating systems, devices, and email apps.
The imap users might be able to import the pst into their new account - unless the mailbox sizes are changing or the new imap server has different requirements for folder names or locations.
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
BTW, pop users won't need to do anything - if using outlook they can remove the old account and add the new one. It will be pretty much the same for other clients too.

IMAP users will need to export - just changing the server names will cause the data file to refresh and all old mail will be deleted.
 

abnet

New Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
Hi Diane

Thanks very much for such a quick response. But re your comment:

Rather than using the macro, tell the clients to change the view on the folders - at this time, it can't be avoided when exporting an imap and that is the easiest / best way to backup imap accounts.
When you say change the view on the folders, I saw your description of that in one of your articles. I did not realise it was an alternative option to using the macros. So to be clear - should you change the view BEFORE exporting the account to a .pst file, or is this only done AFTER you have re-imported back in as a .pst file?

And when you change the view to IMAP messages does that view "stick" forever, or only for the current session of Outlook?
 

abnet

New Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
The imap users might be able to import the pst into their new account - unless the mailbox sizes are changing or the new imap server has different requirements for folder names or locations.
When you say "The imap users might be able to import the pst into their new account" what is the exact process for that. Do you have an article that explains it?
 

abnet

New Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
And another question..... Diane (or anyone else) can you recommend a service that works well for doing a DIRECT transfer of the contents of an IMAP account from one server to another? That is, one that does not require you to download the emails from the first server to your PC and then upload them back to the new server. I have found following which seems to offer such a service and just wondered if anyone has any experience of using them.

YippieMove Sounds good but not sure if they are still operating as no updates to website for a long time and support have not responded to my enquiry sent weeks ago.

BitTitan Migrationwiz Just found this recently so have not contacted them. Costs $11.99 per user. Sounds promising.

I have some customers who have only ever accessed their mail via WebMail and don't want to download their mail to a mail client/app in order to migrate it to the new server. They could use a product like MailStore to download their mail from the old server to their PC, and then upload it back to the new server. However, some have loads of mail and/or very poor internet connections, so a "direct" server to server transfer might be a better option for that and I'm unsure what to recommend to such customers.
 

Diane Poremsky

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 32 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
When you say change the view on the folders, I saw your description of that in one of your articles. I did not realise it was an alternative option to using the macros. So to be clear - should you change the view BEFORE exporting the account to a .pst file, or is this only done AFTER you have re-imported back in as a .pst file?
The user will do this to see the messages in the pst. Exported folders will always use the default view as the view is not included in the export.

When you say "The imap users might be able to import the pst into their new account" what is the exact process for that. Do you have an article that explains it?
I don't have an article for this specific scenario - but its just the basic import - choose the imap data file as the file to import into. Not all imap servers will create the folders though and may not like the folder names if they contain special characters.

I have not used any of those services. If the new account allows connected IMAP accounts, you can suck everything over from an imap account. Most companies will only pull from the inbox though. :(

If addresses/username are the same, it's a wonder there isn't a script that can do the migration. :(
 

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