What Is a PST File?

If you have to work with e-mail data, one format you will need to be familiar with are PST files.  These types of files are associated with Microsoft Outlook e-mails. PST is a "personal storage table" which is created by Microsoft Outlook to store data and items such as email messages, calendar events and contact information.   This data can be very valuable to you in your case.  

How can you obtain a PST file from Outlook?

  1. Within Microsoft Outlook, click on FILE
  2. Select Open & Export
  3. Choose Import/Export option
  4. Choose Export to a file
  5. Select Outlook Data File (.pst)
  6. Select what you want to export
  7. Choose the location where you want the file to be saved.
The next part is the tricky part of PST files.  How are you going to review them?   The most obvious answer would be to import them into your own Outlook.  STOP!  Think about this for a minute or two.  Importing another PST file into your own Outlook could taint the metadata.  You run a high risk of altering the data.  For instance, if you were reviewing emails and your phone rings or you have to leave your office, when you return you could forget and think they were your emails.  Any litigation support professional would advise you NOT to review PST files in your own Outlook.

That leaves you with three options:

  1. Create a dummy outlook profile
  2. Use reviewing tool
  3. Process PSTs through a data management system.
If you want to create a dummy outlook profile which isn't assigned to an individual, you can do so following these instructions:  https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/office/use-outlook-without-an-email-account-477a1fc3-4423-4156-bef4-67489edfdbef

There are many options available for software that will allow you to view PST files.  One I have used with success is ostpstviewer.  This software allows you to open, view and search PST files.   You can find it here: https://www.ostpstviewer.com/free-pst-file-viewer-and-pst-reader?gclid=CjwKCAjw-sqKBhBjEiwAVaQ9az_v0UnEH0wwWS5o7T_-gQukltB9n_qVLwaCnCKm7nh7FfXOcgDZqRoC9RkQAvD_BwE

You can also try PstViewer Pro or GoldFynch PST Viewer.  GoldFynch is a free online PST viewer which lets you analyze PST files using your web browser, but without uploading any data.

If you have lots of PST data, you best option would be to use a data management system or contact a litigation support vendor.  

Here are some examples of court rulings regarding PST files:

In Russell v. Kiewit Corp., No. 18-2144-KHV (D. Kan. June 4, 2019), Kansas Magistrate Judge James P. O’Hara denied the plaintiff’s motion seeking to compel supplemental discovery responses by the seven defendants, including the request to receive his entire e-mail personal storage (PST) file, agreeing with the defendants’ contention that the request was overly broad and not proportional.

In CP Solutions PTE, Ltd. v. General Elec. Co., 2006 WL 1272615 (D. Conn. Feb. 6, 2006), Magistrate denies request for production of native PST files but orders defendants to produce electronic material in a readable, usable format.

When handling PST files in a case it is best to review your local court rules regarding how to produce the data or use them in court.  

PST files can be a valuable tool in your case but you need to handle them with care.  


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