Questions about ANSI-Unicode PST conversion article

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Jennifer Murphy

Senior Member
Outlook version
Outlook 2016 64 bit
Email Account
Office 365 Exchange
I am trying to convert my PST from the old (ANSI) format to the new (Unicode) format. I found this article:

I have a few questions:

Question #1: Which Method?

The article describes 3 methods. At the top, it says, "Methods 1 and 2 are best used with new profiles or existing profiles if they were created in Outlook 2003 or 2007. Method 1 (Import) copies every thing over to the new PST, Method 2 (manual move) is better if you want to control what is moved, keeping old items in the ANSI PST and only moving items you need going forward. If you upgraded your version and are using a profile created in Outlook 2002 or earlier, Method 3 (archiving) is generally better.

My PST was created a long time ago. I am not sure if it was in Outlook 2003 or an earlier version. I think it was earlier. We upgraded our computer about 6 years ago and installed Office 2007 at that time. Apparently, the tech support company that did the upgrade just copied the old PST files over. The statement above seems to indicate that I should use Method 3. But in reading over the three methods, Method 2 seems like the most reliable. Method 1 uses Import, which it says does not import/preserve all settings. Method 3 uses Archive, which seems more complicated and I have read a number of comments about Archive being unreliable.

Method 2 seems like the best one for me. The description says,

  • This method is slower and best suited for PSTs with fewer folders, although it works pretty good if you have a large number of subfolders, since you can move them in one group. This is a good method to use if you are moving to a new computer as it works best with a new profile.
  • Using Move will preserve the last modified dates. If you move entire folders, published forms and custom views for those folders will moved to the new pst.

This method seems to preserve the most settings and it gives me more active control over the process. Is that correct?

I have attached a screen shot of my Mail folders. There are only 12 of them and several of those are empty (AVG Virus Vault, Junk E-mail, RSS Feeds) and a couple of others are not important (Deleted Items, $Test of separate PST file, Drafts, Search Folders).

My plan is to create the new Unicode PST and move the folders over one at a time.

Question #2: How to Handle System Folders?

How do I handle the "system" folders, like Inbox, Outbox, Deleted Items, etc.? Can those be copied just like any other folder?

I created a new Unicode PST. It appeared with two folders: Deleted Items and Search Folders. It does not have an Inbox folder. Is this because it is not the default? When I make it the default, will an Inbox be created? When I make the new PST the default, will the inbox in the old PST be deleted?

I have several subfolders under the Inbox folder. Is this a bad idea? Should I move them to a new folder before doing this conversion?

Question #3: Work Offline?

It seems to me that it would be better if Outlook were not downloading new messages while this conversion is underway, especially when I am moving the Inbox. Should I switch to Work Offline or even disconnect from the Internet?

I did a little reading about the Word Offline setting. For an Exchange account, this seems to be quite complicated and involves OST files. I think I have a POP3 account. I know we don't have Exchange. For POP3 accounts, is this a simple on/off setting? That is, can I switch between Work Offline and Work Online and the only effect is whether Outlook will send and received messages?

Thanks for the help. I just want to make sure I am doing this right. We have a lot of mission-critical messages that I cannot afford to lose.


  • Outlook 20130912 Mail folders.jpg
    Outlook 20130912 Mail folders.jpg
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#1. Do you use published custom forms, custom views? The last modified date only matters when you Archive and may or may not be a problem and there are now reg settings that force outlook to use the received date. If you don't use custom view or have published custom forms, then you could take the easy way out and use Import. Method 3, archiving, is not my favorite but it's not complicated either. (I used 2, drag and drop because i like control and use custom views and custom forms.)

#2 you can copy the system folders (drag to move, then at the end outlook will whine about can't move the folder- everything will be moved, but the folder not deleted from the old pst.) I'm not sure if Outlook will use them as the defaults or create new system folders. You can try it - leave the old pst set as default, move everything then change the default pst. You can move the contents in the folders (use select all and in calendar, use a list view) into the new default folders if outlook won't use the ones you moved. If you set the new pst as default before doing anything, outlook creates the system folders.

#3 If you set the new pst default now, it won't be a problem, but i would definitely go offline - if you prefer to disable the network, that is fine, but clicking the work offline button should work too. The work offline button just cuts the connection outlook has with the server - the stuff about exchange and an ost won't apply here. Oh, and in send and receive settings, if you have outlook set to check every xx min when offline, you either need to change that - actually, it might be a lot easier just to disconnect the computer from the network. You can disable the network card or if you have wired internet, disconnect the lan cable from your computer.
I also recommend making a copy of the old pst, if you don't already make backups. It's always a good idea to have backups anyway...
Hi, Diane, thanks for the quick reply.

I do not use custom forms as far as I know. I have changed the view of some folders and would hope to preserve those. I think the Move method will work best for me.

For a stand-alone Outlook account (not Exchange), the Work Offline setting is a simple on/off toggle, right? There are no unpleasant side-effects?

Do you think I should run ScanPST on the old PST before starting the conversion? One site recommended that to avoid carrying corrupt items forward.

What about doing a compact? Is there any point in doing that before starting the conversion?


PS: I have several backups. :eek:
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