Outlook – “Unable to open your default email folders” error

This article describes how to fix this error using the Inbox Repair Tool (scanpst.exe). This works on Microsoft Outlook 2000, 2002 or 2003. If you are using Microsoft Outlook 2007 or 2010 you will need to use the Office Diagnostics tools to perform a similar operation.

Symptoms: You open Outlook and get the error “Unable to open your default e-mail folders. Errors have been detected in the file ….Outlook.pst”

This is because your Outlook data file – the one ending .pst – is corrupt. Repairing it is fairly straightforward but will take time. To do this, close all open programs and search for the file “scanpst.exe” on your PC. This may not be found unless your computer is set to show hidden and system files. I have found the location of this file varies drastically, it can typically be found in:

C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12 (or Office 13 etc)
C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMSMAPI1033


Even a corrupt backup could be better than none at all, never work on a file without a copy. I would call this Outlook.pcrmb or similar and place it in a new folder that describes what stage the repair is at, eg “corrupt_pre_scanpst_repair”

Open the scanpst.exe program and it will ask for the location of the corrupt .pst file. Navigate to it and allow the program to make a second backup copy. Allow time for it to repair. It may say “not responding” but look for the activity on your PC, the hard drive light may be permanently flashing showing it is working hard on the repair.

When finished it will tell you and you simply need to restart Outlook. I suggest deleting unwanted emails, emptying deleted items then compacting the database.

Finally save a new backup of the .pst file and archive.pst where necessary.

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