Someone at work in the IT department is insistent that "it's bad practice to copy/move emails from one .PST file in Outlook into another, and this generally leads to corruption of the new PST file.".

Is this true?

Has anyone heard of this before? In my experience this goes very quickly and smoothly and never itself seems to be the cause of PST corruption (usually I will use it to salvage emails from a flaky PST after having repaired it following corruption issues).

Surely, if moving/copying emails between PST files was known to cause corruption, then simply archiving emails using Outlook's archive feature would also cause corruption of the archive PST file, as it is simply an automated cut/paste of certain emails into a different PST anyway?

The guy has been with the company for many years- so I'm inclined to trust his experience. However at the same time my own experience and common sense is telling me the opposite is true here. He says "Microsoft is known to do an appalling job of handling databases- including PST files, so it's not surprising this problem happens all the time."

Your thoughts? Is he right? Wrong? Thanks!

  • Been using Outlook since 97, never had a problem copying emails between PSTs. – snowdude Feb 25 '13 at 9:38
  • Interesting first question @Dan. Maybe time to get the training for your IT guy updated! Things in outlook land have moved on from the bad old days and PST files are a lot more robust now. – Julian Knight Mar 3 '13 at 15:32

As a general rule, no. If you start with a pst that's not already corrupted, copying messages to a new pst for archiving in Outlook will not corrupt anything. The biggest effect you'll notice is that the new pst file will likely be a lot smaller because you'll have collapsed out all the fragmentation losses that happen when you delete messages. This happens because Outlook doesn't shrink the whole rest of the file back over that unused space when you delete a message unless you compact the whole pst.

But when you introduce the question, what happens when the pst you start with is corrupted, frankly all bets are off until we know what sort of corruption you mean. It's also time to get more defensive about anything you do, starting with exiting Outlook and making a backup of the suspected pst file before you begin doing anything. To fix the corruption, try using scanpst.exe.

Anything you copy from a corrupted pst to the new pst may or may not be corrupted. It's worth clarifying that when we say a pst is "corrupted", what we mean is that there's a mistake somewhere in the file format. For example, the link from one message to the next or a message length might be off. If you copy the spot with the mistake, you copy the mistake, otherwise maybe not.

  • Excellent. I knew he was probably just making it up as he went along. This is a fantastic site. Such detailed responses- and so quickly too. – Austin ''Danger'' Powers Feb 22 '13 at 20:34

Though I can not debunk your IT guy's misgivings, I can point you to a resource that I found helpful when I was worried.

I have been using Outlook for around 8 years and I have had to transfer all kinds of emails between different pst files as well as creating more when one got too big and as you can imagine, this took all kinds of copying from one to another.

I have only ever had a pst file become corrupt in two instances:

One time I had a massive failure while outlook was closing, this corrupted my personal pst file.

the only other time I had a pst fail on me was back in the days of 2000 when I had one get to almost 2 gig in size. They get real unreliable near 2 gigs in older versions of outlook.

So though I can not point you directly to a resource that says he is wrong or misguided, I can assure you that searching google for a half an hour about the subject shows no links that say copying emails from one pst to another has been a vector for corruption.

but hey who knows, this is Microsoft we are talking about.

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