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How can I move my Outlook Master Category List to another machine?

How can I move my Outlook Master Category List to another machine?

Outlook categories are a fairly powerful way to categorize and organize
email, appointments, tasks … just about any object that Outlook is
capable of tracking. Categories are arbitrary text, but you can create a
“Master List” of categories to choose from to ensure consistency and
avoid a bit of possibly error prone typing.

Unfortunately, while you can edit your master category list to your
heart’s content, Outlook doesn’t yet provide a way to export or import
one. It’s also not obvious where the list is kept.

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It’s probably not surprising that the list is kept in the registry.
It’s stored as a REG_BINARY entry as a Unicode string.

It’s a slightly different location for each version of

The best way to manage your master category list in that case is to:

  • Create the master category list you want in Outlook.
  • Use the registry editor to save the category list registry entry to
    disk as a .reg file.
  • “Execute” that .reg file to install that master category list on
    other computers running outlook that should have the same list. Note that
    on these computers any prior master category list will be replaced with
    this new one.

It’s really not too bad. Here are the Microsoft Support articles
that describe the process for each version of Outlook:

Why is there no user interface? My guess is that it comes down
to the old feature versus schedule tradeoff. The demand for a user interface
for this didn’t warrant the additional time and expense to design, develop,
and test it. But that’s just speculation on my part.

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16 comments on “How can I move my Outlook Master Category List to another machine?”

  1. Not that I’m aware of directly. You could go into the registry editor, I suppose, and set security on that specific key to disallow writing, but exactly how outlook would react to this is anyone’s guess.


  2. If it is a registry key then perhaps utilizing Active Directory Group Policies would be a great way to enforce a consistent list across your office.

    I havn’t tried this yet but I plan to test very soon.

  3. I took a look at Netzero, and unfortunately I don’t see a way to import an external address book. As a subscriber, perhaps their customer support can answer this question for you.


  4. Not that I’m aware of. Not easily anyway. I’d look into writing a macro that used the Outlook object model and see if it’s exposed therein, but that’s going to require some macro programming, so it’s certainly not for everyone.

  5. I am looking for an enterprise wide solution — making all master category lists the same through active directory is exactly what I would like to do. Any ideas or thoughts? Where is the key in the regestry?

    Thanks for any help.

  6. You can save your custom Outlook categories by exporting a registry key.

    Outlook 2000

    Outlook 2002

    Outlook 2003

    Right click on the Categories folder and choose Export.

    To restore it double click the *.reg.

    Note that the key does not exist until you create a custom category.

  7. Hi. I am not sure that the above article & postings cover my problem. I have had Outlook 2003 transfered to a new laptop from my old PC’s hardrive. All my contacts are there and each contact has it’s category(s) attached in the little box at the bottom. But the actual category pop-up menu does not contain those categories. If I have missed the point, could someone point me to the right bit, or if it has not been explained, could some kind soul explain how to get the old master categories across to my laptop. Grateful thanks in advance.

  8. @CharlieP, as you’ve seen your master category list is lost. With Category Manager you can get it back easily. The tool can read the categories assigned to all of your items, and add them back to the master category list.
    @Guillermo, for Outlook 2007 the categories are stored in the PST file itself. You won’t find them in the registry anymore.

  9. Subject: Transferring my Categories list on Outlook 2007 to our association’s new shared Outlook Contacts on MS Exchange.

    How does one proceed if there is no more registry key?
    The ‘Category Manager’ on is from 2006 and costs way too much for a small association with 6 member PCs. And what we need for keepong a Master Category list seems to be the Enterprise Manager costing even more. The trial version leads to a licence fee that has to be approved but makes no mention that it concerns a trial version.
    Any other solution?
    Many thanks!


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