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I am looking for a way to automatically back up my Outlook 2007 emails and contacts without having to open Outlook. I want to use Windows 7's backup utility like I would any other file on my PC.

Some research has lead me to the .pst files on my computer that, apparently, hold all the emails, folder structures (please correct me if I am wrong about that), and contacts. However, I have archive.pst and Outlook.pst in my Outlook folder under AppData. Which of these contains emails and contacts? If these are the files I need, is backing them up as simple as copying them or using a backup utility and then copying them back over when I want to restore them?

My main need for this is that I am about to reformat my drive and start over with a fresh install. When I restore my backup using Windows 7's backup utility, I want to be able to restore my backups like normal which would also include my emails and contacts.

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Yes, all of these details are stored in the PST file, or "Personal STorage folder". Everything you see in Outlook should be in what you see as Outlook.pst. Your Outlook may be configured to automatically archive older messages and data on a periodic basis, which would be the archive.pst. (The data in here would no longer be visible in Outlook, unless you chose to also open it as a data file within Outlook.)

Yes, the process for backing up and restoring these files is as simple as copying them.

Before you irreversibly reformat your hard drive, I would validate that you have the correct file(s) identified by switching to a new user account (creating one if necessary), opening Outlook, then opening the identified data file(s) - and ensure that you see all of the content that you expect.

Additional details (and validation) concerning this are available at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/287070.

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I just set up a test account in Windows 7 so I could do a test copy of my .pst files and the new account was able to import everything successfully. I was able to see all my messages in all the custom folders I made and my contacts were also copied successfully. I used the guest account which didn't have proper access to import directly, so I logged back on to my main admin account, copied all my .pst files to a folder in C:, then switched back to the guest account and copied everything in that folder to my guest account's folder. I overwrote all files and it worked. –  oscilatingcretin Feb 20 '12 at 1:35

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