General Question

flutherother's avatar

How can I view old emails that are in pst files on my hard drive?

Asked by flutherother (28988points) September 17th, 2010

Since I switched to Windows 7 I can no longer access my archived emails. There must be some way. I tried Thunderbird but it didn’t work for me. Anyone got any good ideas?

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10 Answers

earthduzt's avatar

Well pst (personal storage table) filename extension is used by Microsoft products…so therefore Thunderbird will not work. You need Outlook/Outlook Express. Have you tried one of those?

ipso's avatar

As @earthduzt states, a pst file is a Microsoft Outlook database file. You need to reinstall that application on your new machine and then open the pst file to access the contents.

If the file it NOT encrypted, there are various export tools you can purchase instead (if all you have is the pst file(s)

Or you can open the file on your old machine (or any machine that has Outlook installed) and export the contents to various database file types that you can then import to Thunderbird.

Or (best option) you can install Thunderbird on your old machine. The install process asks if you want to import all the Outlook contents. Then just migrate that to your new machine.

Note: I run Outlook and Thunderbird, but have never converted content either way.

flutherother's avatar

The pst files were rescued from an old defunct laptop and they are now inaccessible on the hard drive of my Windows 7 desktop. This uses Windows Live Mail which I don’t like much and which gives me error messages when I try to use it. Can Outlook Express be downloaded and used within Windows 7?

earthduzt's avatar

Yes you can, usually if you install the latest IE browser it will install Outlook Express on the computer also. (if it doesn’t install go to Microsoft website and get it there) You then need to configure it though, just have your incoming and outgoing server addresses as well as port numbers if you need them. usually you can just Google you ISP Server addresses and they will have what you need to configure Outlook.

Here is a nice little walkthrough on how to set it up. (still need your ISP incoming and outgoing servers)

flutherother's avatar

I have the latest IE browser, too recent maybe as it doesn’t install Outlook Express but Windows Live Mail instead. Is there a site that will let me download Outlook Express. I have a suspicion Microsoft won’t let me use it with Windows 7 and my version of Explorer but I would like to try. PS thanks for taking the time to give me advice on this. I have some emails of sentimental value I would like to keep

earthduzt's avatar

Yeah after a little investigating, Outlook Express no longer included with the IE, it’s now called Windows Live Mail. OE was integrated with IE7 and Windows XP. Now for Vista and 7 users it’s called Windows Live Mail. There is no stand alone download for Outlook Express.

“With the introduction of Internet Explorer 7, Outlook Express was apparently removed from the installation package. You can download IE7 all you want, but there’s no updated Outlook Express with it. In fact, from what I can tell there’s no way to get Outlook Express from Microsoft at all.
“For the rest of us, there does now appear to be a replacement for Outlook Express: Windows Live Mail”

Windows Vista users already have a replacement: Windows Mail. It’s the new version of Outlook Express, except it’s available on Windows Vista only.

For the rest of us, there does now appear to be a replacement for Outlook Express: Windows Live Mail (marked as being in Beta at this writing).

Windows Live Mail is more like a new mail program that you download and install onto your machine. Outlook Express is not affected, it’s not updated or removed. However when you fire up Windows Live Mail for the first time it does automatically import all your Outlook Express mail, contacts and settings. (Though it does appear to remove the Outlook Express menu item from your Start Menu, even though Outlook Express is still installed.)

Even though Windows Live Mail is installed as a new program, and has a new name, at it’s core, it really is just Outlook Express. Most of the UI has been changed significantly, which you may or may not like. Once you get down a level or two – say, the options dialog – things start to look very familiar for Outlook Express users.

So it looks like this:


If you’re running IE6 on pretty much any operating system, then you have the Outlook Express 6. You can download an Internet Explorer 6 SP1 package, and be as up to date as is possible.

If you’re running IE7, but not on Windows Vista you can download and install Windows Live Mail.

If you’re running IE7 on Vista, then you have Outlook Express. It’s just called Windows Mail instead.

The Way It Will Be – I Think

Outlook Express is dead. Long live Windows Mail. Or is it Windows Live Mail?

Microsoft has apparently replaced one naming confusion (the infamous “Outlook” versus “Outlook Express” debacle) with another: “Windows Mail” versus “Windows Live Mail”. They’re quite different, but this time they at least appear to have Outlook Express as a common ancestor.

It’s clear that Microsoft has decoupled Internet Explorer from any mail program. I would expect that not to change, and I consider that a good thing.

What You Need to Do

What you need to do depends on what problem you’re attempting to solve. Many people look for an OE6 download or reinstall when in fact they don’t really need it.


You’re running Windows XP, Outlook Express 6 is broken and you want to install a new copy: Run the System File Checker instead. It will look for missing or corrupt operating system components and replace them. As we noted, OE is part of the operating system, so it’s included in this. You may need your Windows install CD.

You’re running an older version of Windows, Outlook Express 6 is broken and you want to install a new copy: You can download and install Internet Explorer SP1 from the Microsoft web site. As we noted, OE6 is part of IE6 and is included in that download.

Back on Windows XP, Outlook Express 6 is broken, the system file checker didn’t work, and you still want to install a new copy: Perform a repair-install of Windows itself. OE6 is part of the operating system, and will be reinstalled as a part of this operation. You’ll probably need your Windows install CD, and you’ll want to visit Windows Update afterwards to make sure you get all the latest patches as well.

You’re not sure what’s broken, you’re not running Vista, and you just want Outlook Express back. Or something as close to it as possible. Download Windows Live Mail. As discussed above, this is the OE replacement that works on Windows XP.

You’re not sure what’s broken, you just want a working mail program. Download and run Thunderbird. Particularly if the suggestions above don’t work for you, just switch. Thunderbird is free, fairly similar to OE to use, and actually somewhat more powerful. It’s free, downloadable, it’s being updated, works on Windows XP and Vista as well as the Mac and Linux, and there are many add-ons available for it.

“Thanks to reader Jason Edward for pointing me at Windows Live Mail. There are several changes over Outlook Express (DBX files appear to be a thing of the past, and the ability to download your Hotmail account seems to have returned), so I’ll be looking more closely at Windows Live Mail
in upcoming articles”

That is the article I was reading

flutherother's avatar

Thanks for this. I have tried Thunderbird but it rejects the correct email password and I can’t use it. I have Windows Live Mail but I get an error message everytime I try and open it. I am sure I will get this resolved eventually but it is quite frustrating.

Response moderated (Spam)
flutherother's avatar

@sandro19 Thanks for the link but I have actually retrieved my emails through Windows Live Mail 2011 which seems to be a newer version compatible with my browser. I just discovered this a month or so ago.

Response moderated (Spam)

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