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Transfer Outlook Email Between Computers

  • I have an older computer with Windows XP Professional. This computer has over 5,500 emails in my Inbox with over 6,500 in the Sent Item folder in Microsoft Outlook, with many other folders which have been created that contain email messages. In total, there would be around 15,000 emails in Outlook. Recently I purchased a new Toshiba laptop running Windows Vista Ultimate and wish to transfer the Outlook email from the old computer to the new laptop. However, I have already started using the laptop and email so I do not wish to overwrite any of the emails on the laptop, but instead merge/consolidate the emails from the old computer onto the new computer. I have an external USB hard drive to assist in the transfer if necessary. What do I need to copy?

    When using Outlook in single-user mode (i.e. not with a corporate Microsoft Exchange email server) all email is stored within an Outlook Personal Folders File for the user, known as the PST file. If you had not started using Outlook on the new computer, the process of migrating the email between computers would have been relatively straight-forward, as you could have copied the PST file from the old computer to the new machine and simply commenced to use that PST file for your email. However, as you have already been using Outlook on the laptop, a new PST file has been created and already has email. Simply copying the PST file from your old computer to the new computer will overwrite this file and also overwrite any email contained within that new PST file. Therefore, as you commented, we need to merge/consolidate the email contained within the PST file from your old computer and the PST file on your new computer.

    Before commencing, I assume that all the email account settings have already been setup within Outlook on the new computer (as you have been using Outlook on the new computer successfully to send and receive email). Therefore, the only operation we need to complete is to transfer email between the two computers. There are several methods which can be used to achieve this outcome. For all of these procedures you will need to copy the Outlook PST file from your old computer to your new computer. To find the location of the PST file, open Outlook on the old computer and in the left-hand pane you should see a listing of all your email folders, with the root heading being “Personal Folders”. This is your Personal Folders PST file which contains all your email. Right-click on the “Personal Folders” heading and select “Properties”. In the Properties window that appears for Personal Folders, click the “General” tab and the “Advanced” button. In the next window that appears there should be a field called “Filename”. This denotes the location of the PST file which contains all the email and folders within your Personal Folders PST file. Write down the location of the PST file and then click “Cancel” twice to close the two open windows.

    Open Windows Explorer or My Computer and navigate to the location of your PST file. Be aware, you may need to enable the display of hidden files and folders to see the path to the PST file, as it might be a hidden path. To do this, go to the “Tools” menu > “Folder Options”. In the window that appears, click the “View” tab and enable “Show hidden files and folders” then click OK to save and close. Once you have located the PST file you can confirm that the file is correct by looking at the size of the PST file – it should be quite large, considering you have about 15,000 emails! Copy this file to your USB hard drive.

    Once the file has been copied to the USB hard drive, disconnect the USB hard drive from your old computer and then connect it to the new computer. Copy the PST file to a memorable location, such as the desktop (this is only temporary, and this PST file will be removed once the email transfer has been completed). After the PST file has been copied to the new computer we can commence importing the contents of the old PST file into your installation of Outlook on the new computer. The first method to complete the importing is to use the in-built Outlook import function. Open Outlook on the new computer then go to the “File” menu > “Import and Export”. The Import and Export Wizard window will appear. Select “Import from another program or file” and click “Next”. On the next screen asking you to choose the file type, select “Personal Folder File (.pst)” and click “Next”. The next screen will ask you to select the file to import. Click the “Browse” button and navigate to the location to which you copied the PST file from your old computer (in our example before this was the Desktop). Under “Options” select one of the options depending on how you wish the import to behave. I suggest you leave this at the default setting of “Replace duplicates with items imported” as you should not have any duplicates. Click “Next”. This last screen before the import allows you to specify exactly what should be imported. If you wish to import everything from your old PST file (i.e. mail, calendar, contacts, etc.) then underneath “Select the folder to import from” choose the root “Personal Folders” node as this will import everything underneath “Personal Folders” in your old PST file. As you can see, this includes emails and also the calendar, contacts, and other folders. Make sure “Include subfolders” is ticked and enable “Import items into the same folder in” then select “Personal Folders”. This will import all the data under your old Personal Folders into your new Personal Folders. Click “Finish” to commence the import. It could take a while considering the number of emails which need to transfer across. Once the process has completed check the results. If you are satisfied then you can safely delete the copied PST file from your old computer, as all the data from that file has been imported into your PST file for your installation of Outlook on the new computer.

    The second method to import the email is a more manual method and should only be used if you would like fairly granular control over the items which are imported from your old PST file into the new PST file. Open Outlook on the new computer and in the left-hand pane you will see the Personal Folders hierarchy representing the PST file which is currently being used within Outlook on the new computer. We are going to open your old PST file and it will also appear in the left-hand pane, allowing you to copy specific emails and/or folders between the old and new Personal Folders hierarchies. With Outlook open, go to the “File” menu > “Open” > “Outlook Data File”. In the Open window find and select the PST file which was copied from the old computer and click “Open”. You will see another “Personal Folders” listing appear in the left-hand pane within Outlook. The first Personal Folders listing refers to your new PST file (i.e. the actively used PST file) and the second refers to your old PST file (i.e. the one you just opened, which was copied from the old computer). Now you can manually copy emails between the old PST file and the new PST file. As you can see, this is a much more labour intensive process. Use the first method if you wish to automatically import all your data from the old PST file to the new PST file. However, you may wish to consider using this second method should you wish to only copy particular data between the PST files.

    Once you have finished manually copying any required data between the PST files, close the old PST file by clicking on the second “Personal Folders” hierarchy heading and select “Close Personal Folders”. Having confirmed that you have copied all the data which you require you can then delete the old PST file copied to the new computer, as this is no longer required.

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