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Personal Folders: why am I seeing them listed more than once in Outlook?

In Outlook I have two copies of everything even though I only created one.
There are two separate copies of Outlook Today (Personal Folders). Everything
you do in one appears in the other. I can’t seem to find a way to delete the
extra one without impacting the original. I have heard of others having the
same type of problem, but none of us has ever been able to come up with a
solution. It’s a pain as it makes the PST file twice as big as it should be.
Any thoughts?

If it helps, I have exactly the same problem. Well, almost exactly .. I have
three copies of my personal folders showing.

And while it’s slightly annoying, it appears to be benign. And it’s not as
annoying as the solution is, for me at least.

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Here’s an image of what I mean:

Outlook Folder List

While each entry at the top level of the folder list is supposed to
represent a different PST (Personal mail STore) file, it shows three while I
only have one. Each of those three entries actually refers to the same, single
PST. If I make a change in one, it appears in the others.

More annoying is the fact that I can’t close any of them – that option is
grayed out. Fundamentally, Outlook is confused – it simultaneously thinks there
are three because it displays three, and it thinks there is only one since it
disallows closing the last PST and greys out the close menu item in that
case.

I haven’t done it, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, but as I understand
it, the solution is to create a new Profile. (A profile defines your email
accounts, and the location of your PST.) The steps would be:

“Fundamentally, Outlook is confused – it simultaneously
thinks there are three [PSTs] … and it thinks there is only one …”
  • Close Outlook

  • In Control Panel, click on Mail

  • Click on Show Profiles

  • Click on Add

  • Give the new profile a name, and then configure all your email accounts from
    scratch. Click Finish in the account wizard when done.

  • Select on Prompt for a profile to be used

  • Click on the new profile and click on Properties

  • Click on Data Files

  • Click on Add, select either type, and in the resulting File
    Open dialog, locate and select your existing PST.

  • OK back to the Mail Setup dialog and click on the
    E-mail Accounts button.

  • Select View or change… and hit Next

  • Look for the drop-down list labeled Deliver new e-mail to the
    following location:
    – if you drop down that list, it’s likely that it
    will show “Personal Folders” twice – that’s actually OK, and expected. One will
    be selected, select the other one (which will be your existing PST)
    and click Finish.

  • Now, go back to Data Files and you’ll see that the item
    labeled “Mail Delivery Location…” has moved from one to the other. Click on
    the one now not labeled “Mail Delivery Location…” and click
    Remove

  • You’re almost done…

As I said, we’ve created a new profile defining your email accounts (which
you had to recreate by hand), and the location of your PST (which you had to
change from the new one created for you to your old, existing PST). We’ve also
left the old profile in place, and instructed Outlook to ask us, on start up,
which profile it should use. If you elect to use the new profile you should
(hopefully) see only one instance of your Personal Folders. Once you’re
satisfied that all is working well, you can go back and delete the old profile,
and tell Outlook just to use the new one automatically on start up.

Here’s why I haven’t done this, and actually don’t recommend
it:

Put simply:

  • The original problem is benign – I’ve yet to actually be affected by it in
    any way, other than the minor annoyance of seeing the duplicate top-level
    entries.

  • The solution is more annoying than the problem – That list of instructions
    is fairly long, and in areas most people rarely deal with on a regular basis.
    Duplicating email account definitions by hand is one thing if you have only one
    account – I have seven defined, and I would have to re-enter each by hand,
    since Outlook has no import/export of account settings.

It’s important to note that this is not a problem with the
PST, and does not cause your PST to double or triple in size.
It’s just Outlook’s way of looking at your PST that appears slightly messed
up.

As a side note: there do appear to be solutions out on the internet that
involve registry fixes that work for some versions of Outlook. They did not
apply in my case, but could in yours, and they’re listed in the related links
section below.

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22 comments on “Personal Folders: why am I seeing them listed more than once in Outlook?”

  1. Well, I didn’t find this article in time to tell me to not apply the fix, but I found another website with the same instructions for fixing it. In the end I did this process, but used “How should I setup Outlook – Ask Leo!.htm” in the process and wound up with a much better organization of my stuff/my husband’s stuff. So worth it. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. I used to use Outlook but quickly got fed up of it over small(ish) bugs similar to this one. Whilst I was never affected by exactly this bug, there are (too) many other silly irritating things about Outlook that made me drop it. Among them was the way some email clients receive an attachment called winmail.dat on all emails sent from Outlook.

    I use the free & open-source Thunderbird, which handles huge profiles very well indeed, and its instant search feature is not bothered by the huge size of my email profile.

    Reply
  3. I have noticed the problem w/ duplicate .pst however what I have read of the solutions seems to be more of a problem than a true solution… Question, has anyone heard MS response to the problem i.e. any true fix for the problem/ patch in the works??

    Thanks,
    TClip

    Reply
  4. I maintain a large user base and this often happens when exporting/importing an Outlook pst file from one computer to another. Apparently LookOut gets confused and the file can get corrupted. This appears to be especially true when exporting from an older version of LookOut.

    That said, the above procedure for creating a new profile and then deleting the old one works perfectly. It may seem like a bunch of steps, but it’s very easy and painless.

    I’d follow the above instructions and you’ll be happy with the results.

    JF

    Reply
  5. I have had this happen periodically as well. The key is to create a new profile with a new name (most people recreate the profile which carries over the corruption). I did have one case where this did not work. We had to create a new Windows profile to resolve the problem.

    Reply
  6. This problem happens to me every so often because I copy .pst files from machine to machine.

    A bit of wisdom I learned is to keep a copy of your regular profie. I call mine “good copy” Then when the regular one gets trashed, just delete it and make a new copy from “good copy”. Takes 10 seconds to fix the problem then

    Reply
  7. I used to have just my Outlook Today – (Personal Folders) in my Folder list. I work from home and can’t just delete work related emails so I started archiving them. This produced another folder in my Folder List called Archive Folders. Periodically I will back up my pst file just in case. One time I did this back up and the previous back up file name and location auto filled in the “save to” box. I wanted to save to the same spot but I forgot to change the date in the file name. After completing the back up I realized this. I went to the spot on my hard drive where I store the back up pst files and I changed the file name of the new back up to now have the proper date. It was after that I noticed a new Personal Folder in my Folder Files List. It doesn’t seem to affect Outlook so I have not done anything about it but it does not exactly mirror the Outlook Today – (Personal Folders) which is what I use every day. Some stuff is the same but other things are not. I am buying a new computer this week and I will have to install Office XP again and export my “email stuff” from the coputer I use now to the new computer. I need all of my emails to be transfered to the new machine (current and archived). How can I combine the Personal Folders file with the Outlook Today – (Personal Folders) so that I only have one copy of each email (all of them)? I know how to export to a pst file and import from a pst file on a new install but I have never had 3 files to deal with and i don’t want to loose anything. Can I export the archive folder and the Personal Folder(s) at the same time? Sorry about the rambling but I’m a bit confused and I can’t just ignore it now. The computer I’m on now with be wiped clean and I won’t have access to my pst file back ups after I give it back to the boss.

    Thanks and I look forward to your comments.

    Reply
  8. I had 3 occurrences of Personal Folders in my Outlook 2003 program. I opted to try the above fix as Outlook needed continuing repairing (scanpst.exe) and I was unable to retain any folders in the Favorite Folders area. Once I had completed the repair, Outlook performed faster and the Favorite Folders retained their folders.

    Reply
  9. Hi, what i have done to fix the “duplicate” Personal Folders is this:

    Close Outlook

    Open Explorer and browse to:
    C:\Documents and Settings\Christo\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

    I then moved the Outlook.pst file to the desktop and opened Outlook. When launching Outlook, an error message appeared: “Cannot start Office Outlook. Unable to open the Outlook window. The set of folders could not be opened”

    With Outlook terminated. I then moved the Outlook.pst file back and re-opened Outlook. Voila!

    Reply
  10. Hi…before I format my pc I export all my messages from my microsoft outlook to one folder using access and excel type instead of pst. type. And to my dismay, after i import it back to my account in microsoft outlook, i found out that the receiving date is no longer there. Please help me how to retrieve the date because it is very important for our company the date we received those e-mails. Is it possible to return it? Thank you so much and your help is very important to me.

    Reply
  11. EASIER WAY:

    1. Open Control Panel.
    2. Click on Mail.
    3. Show Profiles.
    4. Property.
    5. Data Files.
    6. Remove duplicated data file (not the one that says mail delivery location).
    7. Open Outlook.
    8. Duplicate Personal Folder gone.
    9. Done.

    Reply
  12. I did a similar fix as Christo above. I renamed the file then loaded outlook which then wanted to find a pst file to open. After closing, renaming the pst back then reopening outlook… no change.

    After a few other attempts I tried this again but this time I chose the renamed pst file. It accepted it once then spat the dummy when it must have tried opening it the second time, citing it couldn’t find the file. I renamed it back to outlook.pst and upon reopening outlook, all was good.

    Reply
  13. This worked for me on XP 2003;
    copy or keep your outlook.pst in
    regedit – rename HKCU\Soft\Mic\winnt\curver\WMS\profiles _profiles, restart outlook create a new outlook1.pst etc click the
    [New outlook Data File…] button, OK button, select outlook.pst, OK, make it the default, click Finish. Now tidy up, from control panel, mail data file remove outlook1.pst, job done!

    Reply
  14. anyone have new comments about duplicate PST folders for Outlook 2007? (not sure if it matters, but I’m using Windows 7)

    Unlike previous comments, the problem does not seem to be benign. I’m getting duplicate tasks showing up. If I complete a task, both tasks are completed (likewise, if I delete one task, the duplicate is also deleted.) It’s really annoying b/c it makes it seem like I have twice as many tasks to do.

    anyone know how to fix this?

    Reply
  15. And to my dismay, after i import it back to my account in microsoft outlook, i found out that the receiving date is no longer there. Please help me how to retrieve the date because it is very important for our company the date we received those e-mails.

    ________________________________________

    Johnpeter

    __________________________________________

    johnpeter
    Personal Finance Bible

    Reply
  16. I used the easy version, open to view profiles. I had only one, but it had 3 x personal folders – each pointing to the same location. I deleted 2 of them. Then I re-started Outlook and so far, it seems good.

    Reply
  17. I right-clicked on the second Personal Folders and closed it. All the duplicate reminders and calendars and other folders disappeared. I hope it’s permanent!

    Reply
  18. In Outlook 2007, I opened File|Data Management and saw 2 data files for the one account. It was an IMAP account, so I figured if something went horribly wrong the email was all still on the remote server. So I deleted the duplicate data file, and now only one IMAP email account is listed in Outlook. In other words, it worked and I didn’t lose any mail. Yay. (P.S. The problem occurred when I was looking for some old email in an archive folder, and opened the PST twice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Outlook archives email held in an IMAP account. That’s just silly.)

    Reply
  19. Hi Leo,

    Absolutely great post thanks for the info. I’ve faffed around with this issue each time I done a clean install of windows and always had to look at 2 sets of duplicated personal folders.

    Many thanks
    Derek

    Reply
  20. Each night before shutting down computer, I make sure all email windows/files are closed first. Why is it that each morning after turning on computer and attempting to get emails, I have a small window on my screen that is titled Microsoft Office Outlook. Inside it says” The data file “personal folders” was not closed properly. The file is being checked for problems. A horizontal bar also appears that moves from left to right very slowly, with a changing number of minutes appearing below the bar. After about 20 minutes, the bar has moved completely to the right and my emails then appear on my screen. Ironically, in looking at my folder list, I do not see “personal folders”. Sure could use some help here. I’ve read the article as others, but not able to find answer to my specific question. Thanks.

    Reply

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