5 Quick PST-File Tips to Boost Your Email Productivity

04 March 2020 by Anith eDiscovery pst email ost free-pst pst-viewer

Takeaway: PSTs are a vital part of modern business communication. So, here’s how to get the best out of them: (1) Keep them small, (2) Fix them with Outlook’s PST repair tool (3) Track where you’re storing them, (4) Add layers of security, (5) For eDiscovery, don’t open them with Outlook.

PSTs are a big part of most business communication. But how can we optimize them?

When they were first released in 1996, Personal Storage Tables (PSTs) were the perfect solution to sketchy internet connections. They ingeniously let you store emails on your computer, so you could work on them offline. But as email technology evolved, some weaknesses started popping up. PSTs are still a big part of business communication though, so here’s how to get the best out of them.

1. Try to keep PST files small. They’re much more stable that way.

PSTs are cool because they can grow almost endlessly (technically, they could get as big as 4,194,304 GB!). But larger PSTs tend to get corrupted and slow your computer down – which is why Microsoft sets a default value of 50 GB for newer PSTs. You could change this default, but we recommend you go in the other direction and keep PSTs small. Here are some ways to do that.

  1. Create multiple PSTs instead of a single one. If you have a lot of emails to archive, divide them into different groups and save them as separate PSTs. Keep each PST to less than 1.5 GB for older versions of Outlook, and less than 10 GB for newer ones.
  2. Split up existing large PSTs. Outlook doesn’t have a dedicated PST splitter, but there are workarounds. For example, you could use its ‘Export’ function to export some folders and subfolders from your mailbox into a new PST. Learn more about how to split PSTs.
  3. Compact your PSTs. Deleted items in a PST file automatically get ‘compacted’ when you’re not using Outlook, to save space. But you can start the compacting process manually.

2. Use Outlook’s PST repair tool to fix corrupted PSTs

Outlook comes with a pre-installed Inbox Repair Tool (it’s the scanpst.exe file) which can help fix corrupted PSTs. Just run the repair tool and choose the PST you want to be repaired. Outlook will fix it and then let you move the recovered items into a new PST file. [Note: The repair tool can also fix other problems like imports/exports not completing, repeated send/receive errors, or Outlook crashing whenever you open a folder.] Another thing you could do is create weekly backups of your PSTs. That way, even if they get corrupted, you can revert to last week’s version.

3. Note down where your PSTs are stored. That way, you won’t lose track of them.

It’s surprisingly easy to lose track of a PST – especially if it’s an older one that you don’t use anymore. And this gets magnified in an office full of people, where each employee has multiple ‘orphaned’ PSTs stranded in an unknown folder. This is a nightmare for IT teams to track, especially if they’re trying to enforce a data retention policy. Missing a PST archive means a bunch of emails that could be unnecessarily subpoenaed for litigation. So keep track of where your PSTs are and preferably keep them all in the same place. If you’re not sure where a PST is, here’s what you can do:

  1. Check Outlook’s default PST folder. Auto-archived emails are usually stored here: C:\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook in Windows.
  2. Run a search for *.pst, choose your PST, and note down which folder it’s in. Here are some in-depth instructions on how to find a missing PST file.

4. Add layers of security to your PSTs to keep them safe

PSTs aren’t designed to be tamper-proof, so you’ll need to add layers of security to keep them safe. Here are three things you can do:

  1. Change your PST’s password regularly. Your PST’s password is the first line of defense, so try to change it frequently. But remember that it’s not hard to crack a PST password. For example, with certain versions of Outlook, you could crack the password just by repurposing Outlook’s PST repair tool.
  2. Password-protect your computer. Here’s where the more reliable protection begins. Microsoft suggests that you, “… create a password-protected Windows user account for any person who uses the computer.” The idea is that Windows is tougher to hack than your PST. Here’s how to create a password in Windows.
  3. Use Cloud storage for eDiscovery. The Cloud uses advanced security measures – the type that banks use for their online transactions. So, for things like eDiscovery, you’re best off keeping your PSTs in password-protected eDiscovery software that stores your PSTs in the Cloud. Note: This works only if you want to analyze PSTs, not use them to send/receive emails.

5. For eDiscovery, don’t use Outlook to open your PSTs

PSTs are great for eDiscovery because they keep data almost exactly as it is stored and used by Outlook. But opening a PST in Outlook will change the PST’s metadata (i.e., information about the PST, like when it was created and when it was last modified). Instead, here are two other options:

  1. Use an eDiscovery-friendly PST viewer. If you just want to look at a PSTs contents, find a free eDiscovery-friendly PST viewer. For example, GoldFynch’s PST viewer runs in your web browser, opens PSTs without you needing to upload anything, and doesn’t alter PST metadata.
  2. Use dependable eDiscovery software. It’ll leave metadata untouched, but it’ll also give you options that Outlook can’t. For example, Outlook lets you search for emails in your mailbox. But eDiscovery software will let you search for emails in multiple mailboxes simultaneously. Here’s how to choose the right software for your firm.

Need to use PSTs & OSTs for eDiscovery? Try GoldFynch.

It’s an affordable eDiscovery application that’s perfect for email eDiscovery. Here’s why small and midsize law firms love it:

  • It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up front how much you’ll be paying. It takes just a few clicks to move from one plan to another, and billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch and you’re good to go. Plus, it’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • It keeps you flexible. To build a defensible case, you need to be able to add and delete files freely. Many applications charge to process each file you upload, so you’ll be reluctant to let your case organically shrink and grow. And this stifles you. With GoldFynch, you get unlimited processing for free. So, on a 3 GB plan, you could add and delete 5 GB of data at no extra cost – as long as there’s only 3 GB in your case at any point. And if you do cross 3 GB, your plan upgrades automatically and you’ll be charged for only the time spent on each plan. That’s the beauty of prorated pricing.
  • Access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?

For more about eDiscovery for small law firms, check out these articles