Import/Export a PST File Using Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular email clients in use today. For businesses, it's possibly THE most popular. As such, users may find the need to move email accounts from one Outlook installation to another by moving their PST file -- the file that Outlook creates to store your email messages, contacts, calendar items, etc. Outlook makes this relatively easy, and the best part is you can move a PST from from a Windows machine to a Mac and vice versa. 

NOTE: SmarterMail does not allow the following characters to be used in folder names:
/ \ : * ? < > " | . u000 (a unicode null character) and leading/trailing spaces

When importing a PST file, SmarterMail will replace any disallowed character with an underscore (_). Therefore, if your folder in Outlook is labeled Problems?, once the import occurs it will show up as Problems_. Folders in webmail can be renamed to remove the underscores, but none of the restricted characters can be used in the rename. 

How To Import/Export PST Files
The simplest and most effective way to import OR export a PST file is using Microsoft Outlook. Using Outlook ensures that you capture all the data you want to transfer (specific email folders, calendars, address book(s), etc.), plus it ensures the file is in the correct format so that managing the file within another Outlook client works exactly as you, and Microsoft, intend it.  

Importing a PST File Using Outlook
NOTE: The Import steps were gathered using Microsoft Outlook 2019: The Export steps were gathered using Microsoft Outlook 2013:

  1. First, you'll want to open Outlook and create your Profile. You do this by simply setting up your account in Outlook. 
  2. With Outlook open, select File from the top ribbon. 
  3. You'll be taken to a settings area, with some options down the left hand side of Outlook. From here, select Open & Export. Then, click the Import/Export button.
  4. You're presented with a modal window. Select the Import from another program or file option, then click the Next button.
  5. Another modal will open. Select Outlook Data File (.pst), then click the Next button.
  6. Yet another modal window opens. Here, you'll want to use the Browse... button and find the PST file you want to import. In addition, you'll need to decide what you want to do with any duplicates found when you do the import. If you're importing into an empty PST, your selection won't matter as there won't be any duplicates. However, if you're importing into a PST that already has data, you'll want to decide how you want duplicates -- if any -- to be handled. Once you've done this, click the Next button. (If the PST is secured with a password you will need to enter it before you can continue.)
  7. Guess what? Another modal window...In this one, you'll choose which existing Outlook Data File you want to import into. Generally, this will be the default one created when you set up your account. Therefore, select that Data File, then select Import items into the current folder. (During the creation of this KB, you can see we selected Import items into the same folder in: -- that did not have any issues.)
  8. Finally, there's a Finish button. Click that and the items from the PST you're importing will be moved into the PST you just selected. 
Exporting a PST Using Outlook
Exporting a PST essentially follows the same steps at importing a PST file:
  1. With Outlook open, select File from the top ribbon. 
  2. You'll be taken to a settings area, with some options down the left hand side of Outlook. From here, select Open & Export. Then, click the Import/Export button.
  3. You're presented with a modal window. Select the Export to a file option, then click the Next button.
  4. Another modal will open. Select Outlook Data File (.pst), then click the Next button.
  5. Here, you're presented with a list of all of the exportable "folders" available to you. If you want to export the entire account, simply select the top-most email address. However, it IS possible to simply export one or more email folders, just the Calendar or Contacts, etc. To ensure you get everything for whatever it is you're exporting, you'll also want to have Include subfolders checked. Click the Next button.
  6. Next, you need to select where you want the exported file to be saved. Simply use the Browse... button to pick where you want the file saved. By default, the file is saved as "backup.pst" -- if another is already in the location you want to save, it will automatically rename itself to backup-copy.pst. Select whichever Options suit your needs, and click the Finish button.
  7. You may be prompted to supply a password for the exported file, which is a great idea if your file will contain sensitive data. If you want to add one, that's perfectly fine: just be sure you remember what it is when you're ready to import the file into another Outlook client. If you don't want to create a password, simply leave the fields blank and click the OK button.
  8. Once you click OK, the export process will start. The time it takes to export is purely dependent on what you've exported and the amount of data being exported. Generally, the export process is pretty quick, however.