Recover Outlook contacts from IMAP account OST in Outlook 2013

Recover Outlook Contacts

The usage of OST files for saving IMAP mailbox data is something most Outlook users are familiar with. But not many users know that which mailbox folders get saved within an OST file differs according to the version of Outlook being used.

One of the best things about having an IMAP mailbox (like Exchange) is that as a user you don’t have to worry about regularly backing up your data locally. Outlook maintains an OST file locally which saves a replica of your server mailbox so that you can continue to read emails, edit / update contacts, make calendar entries and do a lot more on your mailbox even if you’re not connected to the original mail server. But there’s a catch to this whole setup.

Recover Outlook Contacts

IMAP-OST Folder Saving Mechanisms

While having your mailbox saved locally within an OST as well as on the server gives your data a double layer of safety, in recent versions of Outlook, a change in the default folder saving mechanisms has put a question mark on the safety of user mailbox data. Up until Outlook 2010, the Calendar and Contacts folders of your IMAP mailbox were saved within a PST file on the local machine whereas the other mailbox folders were saved within an OST file. So for each mailbox, there were two separate data files which could be easily backed up redundantly if needed. However, with Outlook 2013 and later versions, all mailbox data is saved within a single OST file along with the slightly troubling fact that the some mailbox folders (like ‘Sent Items’, ’Contacts’, and ‘Calendar’) are saved only on the local machine.

If you’re using an IMAP email server like Exchange and a recent Outlook version like 2013 or 2016, you might have noticed the words “This computer only” mentioned against some folders of your local Outlook profile. Well, these words literally mean that the data saved within such folders is saved only on the local machine and not on the server. So if you’re making new calendar entries for important meetings, or creating new contacts using your local Outlook profile, those changes will not be auto-synced with your IMAP account unless you do it specifically.

A problem scenario you would notice only when it is too late

While this may not sound to be such a big issue, it becomes one if some disaster (like file header corruption or virus infection) befalls your OST file. In such a case without the help of advanced software (like an application to recover outlook contacts from IMAP OST) or professional assistance, there would be no way for you to get access of your Contacts or Calendar items because they wouldn’t exist on the IMAP server. Getting the picture?

And while we’re on the topic we should also let you know that tricks like creating a new OST and making it the default one, importing OST by renaming its extension, etc. won’t help in pulling out your precious folders from the damaged OST file.

Thankfully, all is not lost yet- recover outlook contacts

If you are using an IMAP email account configured with Outlook 2013 / 2016, this post isn’t meant to scare you. We are merely trying to make you aware of how things work with this setup and trying to introduce you to techniques you can use to safeguard your data within this setup. All you need to learn is how to set things up the way as they were in Outlook 2010 to save and recover outlook contacts ,Calendar entries within PST and backup all that local data properly. Here are the broad steps to recover outlook contacts:


1. Create a new PST file within Outlook and set it as the default data file for your current profile

2. Restart Outlook

3. Move the items of the non-mail folders (Contacts, Calendar, etc.) to respective folders in the PST file

4. Now select the data file (OST) for your IMAP account

5. Restart Outlook again

6. Your IMAP account will now sync again but it will not create the additional “This computer only” folders. Now just ensure that your newly created PST file is included in your backup schedule.

While the above technique will work for all future Contacts and Calendar entries you make using your local Outlook profile, it doesn’t take care of all the data that’s already saved within your IMAP OST file. So you still need a technique to recover outlook contacts and other IMAP OST data like  Calendars, Notes, folders which are saved only locally.

The best way to recover user mailbox contents from IMAP OST files is by converting them to PST format. PST files are much more robust and flexible to handle as compared to OST files. But unfortunately Microsoft doesn’t offer any inbuilt mechanisms to extract data from within OST files and convert to any other format. So to recover outlook contacts from IMAP OST you need the help of advanced OST to PST converter software.

The best OST to PST Converter Software

Kernal OST to PST Converter is the best and most advanced application which can help you easily extract OST file data and convert it to PST format. The professional and easy-to-use product is adept at pulling out all mailbox contents (emails, attachments, contacts, calendars, etc.) from OST files and converting them to equivalent PST files. The application comes laced with an interactive GUI and a free preview feature which lets you take a peek at the converted data file before actually saving it.

Wrapping it up

Hopefully we managed to draw your attention towards a relevant IMAP OST loophole which could have caused problems for you in the near future. However now that you’re aware of it, do take proper measures to safeguard your local mailbox folders and backup everything. Also, keep trusty tools like Kernal OST to PST Converter handy to help out with problem scenarios.

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