I would like to access my Microsoft Outlook archives (pst files) from machines that do not have Microsoft Office installed. Is that possible? Think of several years worth of PST archive files.

My basic criteria for access are as follows (in decreasing order of necessity),

  1. Open the PST file and view individual mails and attachments
    • Search the mails (as close as I can in Outlook)
    • Edit: delete mails or attachments
    • Reorganize: move around mails across folders in the PST or outside to other formats handled by the tool (Say the Thunderbird native formats for example)
    • Copy-in: move other mails into the PST file (this is stretching a bit far I guess)

If you know of tools that will work with some version of Outlook PST files, that is fine.

If you know of tools that are based on Linux rather than Windows, that is fine too.

Update: Recent Slashdot thread: Microsoft Opening Outlook's PST Format.
Based on this MSDN interoperability article:
Roadmap for Outlook Personal Folders (.pst) Documentation.

In order to facilitate interoperability and enable customers and vendors to access the data in .pst files on a variety of platforms, we will be releasing documentation for the .pst file format.

  • This question, as currently written, is technically off-topic as a software recommendation question. However, I will leave this question open because it is not as broad as some of the recommendation questions and serves a useful purpose for the community. You might want to look at this [meta.su] question: How do I ask a question that may require recommending software?
    – bwDraco
    Apr 22, 2014 at 12:20

6 Answers 6


The .PST file is a proprietary format, and AFAIK, can only be used by Microsoft products.

There are ways to get around this, such as using Thunderbird to open the file and creating a new archive based on the mbox format.

This initial conversion can only be done on Windows because it uses a built-in mail API to access the information, but once you have converted the archive it should be accessible by most email tools, both on Windows and Linux.

  • I guess this requires a Microsoft Outlook installed(?) Windows to begin. Once the conversion is done, the archives are available in the 'open' formats. That is a start.
    – nik
    Aug 7, 2009 at 15:00

libpst is an open source library which can be used to convert a PST file to a collection of mbox files. The latest version now works with the Outlook 2003 format, and it does not require Microsoft Outlook to be installed.

The readpst program is part of libpst, and is packaged for a number of Linux distributions including Ubuntu, RedHat, and Fedora. There does not appear to be a Windows executable available from the primary libpst site so you might have to compile your own from the source code if you wanted to use it on Windows.

  • @nik: You can download libpst binaries (including readpst) build for windows here: gate.alks.org/libpst
    – alk
    Nov 7, 2012 at 6:56

There is a tool called EX-Merge that allows you to extract all of the contents of an exchange mailbox. That one is only useful if you have an exchange server to connect to. Another program is a third party conversion utility. It can convert PSTs into a few different formats.

Transcend Utility for PST

Download ExMerge Here

  • So, the ExMerge is not usable on PST file archives that I have backed up. The Transcend utility sounds impressive, but it is not free. Thanks, will give these things more thought.
    – nik
    Aug 7, 2009 at 15:02

PST Walker lets you view and export items from a PST file.

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It does not require Outlook to read a PST file. Costs $49.


I don't believe that you can view PST files without Outlook.

If the PST file is corrupt - something that happens with monotonous regularity - you should run:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\SCANPST.exe

or - for 64bit Windows:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\SCANPST.exe

Run it a few times to try and get rid of the corruption.

To prevent (actually it only reduces occurrences) corruption of PST's:

  • Keep them small (many small PST's are better than 1 large)
  • Don't keep them on network drives
  • Close them except when actually really needed
  • Back them up using a tool that uses Windows Shadow Copy

PST files used to be JET database files though I don't know if that is still true. When they were, in theory you should have been able to use a database tool to read them. Never actually tried though.


FileLocator Pro from Mythicsoft can read PST files: http://www.mythicsoft.com/filelocatorpro

I've used it to read PST files on machines that don't have Outlook (usually to find an important email or contact), although because you have to 'search' for the item you want to read it's not great if you just want to browse.

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