How to Open MSG Files [With and Without Outlook]

03 March 2021 by Anith ediscovery msg email outlook

NOTE: MSG files are no longer supported in the current PST/OST viewer. We are working on a new viewer that also supports MSG and MBOX files. In the interim, you can use GoldFynch to open and view MSG and MBOX files. Sign up for a free trial account here.

Takeaway: For a quick check of an MSG file’s contents, use Microsoft Outlook or a reliable third-party application (e.g., GoldFynch’s MSG/PST viewer). For more advanced tasks like eDiscovery, choose specialized software that protects metadata and can open all MSG-types.

Microsoft Outlook stores your emails as MSGs and PSTs. But what are they?

If you’ve used Outlook but aren’t much of a techie, you probably aren’t quite sure what goes on behind the scenes. Here’s what you need to know.

1. An MSG file is how Outlook stores single emails.

Microsoft’s email client Outlook uses the MSG format (i.e., a file with a ‘.msg’ extension) to store single email messages. When you drag-and-drop an email from Outlook to a folder on your computer, it’s converted into an MSG file. This file stores the email text, but it also stores the email metadata – things like who sent the email, who received it and when, etc. And it also stores links and attachments from the email. Microsoft owns the MSG format, though. So, you have to open MSGs with Outlook or Microsoft-compatible software.

2. PSTs are how Outlook stores groups of emails.

An email gets converted into an MSG file when you move it out of Outlook. But while it’s in Outlook, it’s stored along with all your other emails, as a PST file (i.e., a file with a ‘.pst’ extension). PST stands for Personal Storage Table. And when Microsoft developed them in the 90s, they were a revolutionary way of storing email. (Learn more about PSTs.)

You’ll most often work with PSTs, but MSGs do pop up from time to time. And when they do, remember that they aren’t always only emails.

Outlook is more than just an email client. It’s also a calendar, task manager, Rolodex, journal, notepad, and more. So, an MSG could be an email, an appointment, a task, a contact, etc. Any Outlook ‘item’ really. It’s stored as a different MSG subtype, and as we’ll see, this is relevant when you’re opening MSGs.

So, what’s the simplest way to open an MSG? Well, it depends. What do you want to do with it?

Your options change depending on if you want just a glance at an MSG’s contents, or if you need to use those contents as evidence in a trial or deposition (i.e., as part of eDiscovery).

Option 1: Opening an MSG for a glance at its contents.

If you only want an informal glimpse, it’s relatively easy to open an MSG.

  1. Open the MSG with Outlook (in Windows): If you have access to Outlook, double-click the MSG and it’ll automatically open using Outlook. If it doesn’t, right-click on it, choose the ‘Open With’ option, and select ‘Outlook’. Alternatively, you can copy/paste the MSG manually. (Right-click it and select ‘Copy’, then go to the Outlook window. Here, right-click and select ‘Paste’.)
  2. Open the MSG with a third-party application (Windows & Mac): If you don’t have access to Outlook, you can use any third-party application that Google shows you. (If you’re a Mac user, you’ll have to do this by default because the Mac’s Outlook doesn’t open or export MSGs.) These applications often come bundled with malware, though. That’s why we developed GoldFynch’s free MSG/PST viewer to work from your browser, instead of having to be installed on your computer. (Learn more about why GoldFynch’s MSG/PST viewer is safe.)

Option 2: Opening an MSG for eDiscovery.

eDiscovery is a much more complicated process, and most third-party viewers don’t have the right features. For example, they might change file metadata (i.e., the file’s digital footprint), or not be able to recognize different MSG subtypes.

Here’s where GoldFynch can help. It opens any kind of MSG and is highly secure.

GoldFynch is an eDiscovery service that handles all types of PSTs and MSGs while protecting their metadata. Also, it’s highly secure because it doesn’t install anything on your computer (so you’re cutting out a key access point for malware). Instead, it temporarily downloads software libraries (i.e., programming code) from the Cloud onto your web browser. And since the GoldFynch MSG/PST viewer runs in your browser and reads your files locally on your computer, your data never leaves your hard drive. In fact, once you’re on the viewer’s webpage, you can disconnect from the internet and still use the software.

Most importantly, GoldFynch has all the other eDiscovery tools you’ll need.

Here are some other reasons you’ll love GoldFynch.

  • It costs just $27 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’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 learn more about GoldFynch?