How To Move Offline Outlook Data File (OST)

 

What is OST File?


OST files are stored in the "AppData" folder of the user profile. However, users can relocate their offline Outlook data files or OSTs from their default locations. This blog discussed moving OST files from an Exchange account to another drive (internal/external), network storage, or a new computer.

How To Move Offline Outlook Data File (OST)



A popular query related to OST files is "how to move OST files to another location." We have also encountered the same question,

1. Without starting Outlook, I moved the IMAP OST from C drive to D drive. I wish Outlook would ask me where the File is. However, it creates a new one at the exact location. How do I get Outlook to use the new place?

2. I'm running out of disk space on my main drive and notice that my OST file is enormous. I know how to move PST files, but that method doesn't work with OST files. Please help!

If you have similar questions, please read this article!

An OST file is an offline cached copy of mailbox data stored on an Exchange server or IMAP mail server. Outlook creates an OST file when you configure Outlook in Cached Exchange Mode. It is saved in the default location under the user profile folder on the computer.

Although you generally do not need to move or relocate OST files, you may encounter situations that prompt you to move your Outlook data files to another drive location. Some everyday cases where you need to move the Outlook OST file from its default location are as follows:

  • Insufficient free disk space on the drive where the OST file is stored
  • You need to move the OST file to the new computer

READ ALSO: How do I transfer Outlook data to a new computer?

But moving or relocating OST files from the default location is not an easy task. Unlike PST files, moving OST files requires you to do several things and is more complicated than you might think.

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  • Ways to Move or Relocate an Offline Outlook Data File (OST) to Another Drive or Computer
  • Method 1: Use the ForceOSTPath registry key
  • Method 2: Use a symbolic link
  • Method three: When setting up an Outlook account
  • Method 4: Export OST file data to PST

Ways to Move or Relocate an Offline Outlook Data File (OST) to Another Drive or Computer

You can move OST files in Outlook 2010, 2013, 2016, and 2019 in the following ways:

  • Using the ForceOSTPath registry key
  • Use symbolic links
  • When setting up an Outlook account
  • Export OST file data to PST

But before you go any further, please backup your current OST file. If something goes wrong, you can use Stellar Converter for OSTsoftware to restore mail items such as emails, contacts, attachments, Etc., from a backup OST file to PST. The software can help you quickly convert large or oversized OST files to single or multiple PST files while maintaining data integrity. Therefore, it can help you move mail items from an OST file to another Outlook profile or computer.

The software can also help you move inaccessible or orphaned OST files by converting them to Outlook-importable PST format with 100% integrity. It supports converting OST files created by Outlook 2019, 2016, 2013, 2010, and earlier versions.


Method 1: Use the ForceOSTPath registry key

ForceOSTPath is a registry key that relocates or moves an OST file from its default location to another drive or network storage. 

This is one of the best ways to move OST files without much trouble. However, this requires you to reconfigure your Outlook account. Therefore, before proceeding, make sure that all changes stored in the local OST file are synchronized with the mailbox.

Warning: Registry keys store important information about the system, settings, and applications. Any incorrect modification or accidental deletion of registry keys can cause serious problems during this process. Make sure to follow these steps correctly and back up your registry (File > Export via regedit) so you can restore them if something goes wrong.

Proceed as follows:

  • Back up your current OST file via the Import/Export Wizard, delete your Outlook profile and close MS Outlook.
  • Press the "Windows" + "R" keys, enter Regedit, and then press "Enter" or click "OK." This will open the Registry Editor window.

Figure 1 - Type Regedit in the Run window

  • In the Registry Editor window, navigate to the following path based on the version of Outlook installed on your system.

For Outlook 2019 and 2016HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook


 Outlook 2013HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook


 Outlook 2010HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook


Outlook 2007HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook


Outlook 2003HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\11.0\Outlook


  • Once found, right-click Outlook > New and select Expandable String Value.

Figure 2 - Selecting Expandable String Values

  • Right-click on New Value #1 and choose Rename. Then rename the key. Right-click the ForceOSTPath key and select Modify….
  • Now open File Explorer and navigate to the location where you want to move the Outlook OST file. Copy the path and paste it into the Value Data field of ForceOSTPath. Finally, click OK to save the changes.

Figure 3 - Enter OST file location

  • Now, quit Registry Editor and restart the system.
  • Open Microsoft Outlook and configure your Exchange or IMAP account. Outlook will create a new OST file at the location you entered in the ForceOSTPath registry key.

Note: If you use an IMAP account with Outlook 2010 or earlier, you must create the ForcePSTPath registry key because these versions use PST files to cache IMAP data.

After synchronization, you can import the backup PST file into your Outlook account if you find missing mail items.


Method 2: Use a symbolic link

A symbolic link, also known as a weak link or symbolic link, is used in Windows to point to a file or folder stored in another location. Therefore, the link command can create a symbolic link to move the OST file to another location. You can point MS Outlook to this new OST file location by creating a symbolic link to the default OST file path.

Proceed as follows:

  • Close Microsoft Outlook and copy the OST file from its default location (%localappdata%\Microsoft\Outlook) to the new place where you want to store it.
  • Now open a command prompt as an administrator.
  • Execute the following mklink command:

mklink “C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\[email protected]” “E:\MyOSTDataFile\[email protected]

This will create a symbolic link to move the OST file. Create a shortcut in the default OST file location (C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\[email protected]) to redirect Outlook to the new location (E:\MyOSTDataFile\[email protected] .com.ost).

To restore or change a symbolic link, delete the shortcut (symbolic link).


Method 3: When setting up an Outlook account

You can also move the OST file to a different location when setting up your Outlook account through the advanced Outlook data file settings. Proceed as follows:

Steps to move an existing OST file to another place:

  • Copy the current—ost file from its default path to the new site.
  • Open Outlook and navigate to File> Account Settings > Account Settings.
  • Select and delete the current account in your Outlook profile.
  • Click New and enter your username and password. Outlook will connect to the server and retrieve your account information.
  • In the Add Account window, click Change Account Settings and click Next.
  • Click More Settings, and then under the Advanced tab, click Outlook Data File Settings.
  • Click Browse to select the .ost File you copied earlier, then click Open.

To create and move new OST files,

  • Click Browse, select the desired location, and enter a filename. Press "Enter" to create a new OST file at your desired location.
  • Restart Outlook for the changes to take effect.

Outlook will now use this location to store mailbox data in the OST file.

Limitations of the above methods

  • Modifying registry keys is a complex and risky process. Incorrectly performing a single step to set the ForceOSTPath key to change the Outlook .ost file location can have serious repercussions.
  • These methods can help you move the OST file to another location on an internal or external drive or network storage connected to the same system. However, these methods cannot move the OST file to a new computer or another system.
  • These methods cannot fix OST file issues and errors. It only works if your Outlook profile and OST file are healthy. It will not work if the OST file is inaccessible/orphaned or the Outlook account is not working.
  • Outlook's built-in Import and Export Wizard to export specific mail items from an OST file to a PST can take considerable time.
  • Data integrity may be at risk.

Method 4: Export OST file data to PST

An Offline Outlook Data File (OST) can only be opened with the account created and on the same computer used to create the account. Therefore, if you want to move an OST file to a new computer or other systems, you first need to convert the OST file data to PST.

Assuming you have access to your Outlook account and the OST file, you can try exporting the OST data to PST using the Outlook Import and Export Wizard. The detailed steps are as follows:

  • Open Microsoft Outlook and navigate to File> Open and Export, then click Import/Export.
  • From the Import and Export Wizard window, select Export to file and click Next.
  • When the Export to File dialog box opens, select Outlook Data File (.pst) and click Next.
  • Now select the mail account or specific mail item (e.g., Inbox, Calendar, Etc.) to export to PST.
  • Click Browse to select the location where you want to save the exported OST file backup as a PST, then select any options. Click Finish.
  • You may be prompted for a password for the PST file (this is an optional step). Click OK to finish.

Note: The Import and Export Wizard will not work if the OST file is inaccessible or if the Outlook profile is damaged, or if the account is inactive. However, you can easily convert inaccessible OST files to PST using Stellar Converter for OST software. The software also works when the Outlook account doesn't work.

Read: How to Convert OST to PST for Free with Stellar Converter for OST Software?


Stellar Converter for OST is a powerful OST to PST converter software that can help you move OST files to a new computer with completeness and precision. Top editors highly recommend it.

The following is a detailed introduction to Stellar Converter for OST.

bottom line

You may need to move Offline Outlook Data File (OST) data to another drive or location from time to time. While modifying the ForceOSTPath registry entry can help relocate or move the .ost File to another drive, migrating the OST file to another computer requires exporting the OST file to PST using the Outlook Import and Export Wizard. The wizard can be accessed when an Outlook profile and OST file are active. To move inaccessible or orphaned OST files to another computer, you can use the professional Stellar Converter for OST software. The software can convert all or specific OST file items to PST in just a few clicks without losing mailbox data. It can also help move multiple OST files by converting them to corresponding PST files.

Check out Stellar's MVPssay on the OST to PST tool.

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