How to Resolve Outlook PST File Large but Empty Error Instantly

How to Resolve Outlook PST File Large but Empty Error Instantly 1

Microsoft Outlook has earned the recognition of being the most preferred email client for businesses because of its comprehensive suite of features, like extensive customization options and seamless integration with Microsoft Office. But it is also prone to errors owing to reasons like PST file corruption, synchronization issues, or file size limitations. One of the common issues that the users have faced is the “Outlook PST file is large but empty” error.

Having a large but empty Outlook PST file refers to a situation where the PST (Personal Storage Table) file associated with Microsoft Outlook appears to be consuming a significant amount of disk space but doesn’t contain any visible data. This problem can be frustrating and alarming for users who rely on Outlook for managing their emails, contacts, calendars, and other data.

There are several possible causes for this issue, including corruption within the PST file, synchronization errors, or even accidental deletion of data. The symptoms typically include Outlook reporting a large file size for the PST file, yet when the user attempts to access the data within Outlook, they find it empty or missing.

This post revolves around understanding the Outlook PST File Large but Empty Error Instantly and methods to fix it

An Overview of the Error: Large but Empty PST File

Outlook users face a ‘PST File Large but Empty’ error when the PST (Personal Storage Table) file reaches its maximum size limit but fails to display any data within Outlook. This problem usually crops up when the PST file is consuming substantial disk space, but when the user tries to access it, the file appears empty.

There are several reasons for this error like internal structural issues within the PST file. Synchronization issues between Outlook and the mail server, like interruptions during data transfer, can also lead to this error and data loss. Many Outlook users encountered this issue when they moved PST files from one location to another, especially in cases where transfer is done from the older Outlook version to the latest one.

II. Understanding PST File Corruption

As discussed earlier, the integrity of PST (Personal Storage Table) files is of paramount importance, and any corruption of these files has far-reaching consequences. Users may experience data loss, email inaccessibility, and operational disruptions. We will discuss in this section the reasons for PST file corruption and how to fix corruption issues.

A. What are the Main Reasons for PST File Corruption?

PST files play a pivotal role in Microsoft Outlook’s functionality. However, these files are prone to damage or corruption. There are many reasons for PST file corruption, like malware attacks, hardware issues, software errors, synchronization issues, power failures, or forced shutdown of Outlook.

Corruption in PST files can also occur due to exceeding size limits imposed by varied Outlook versions and file system limitations. Some of the file size limit reasons are listed below:

  • File Format Limitations: In older versions of Outlook (Outlook 2002 and earlier), PST files created in ANSI format have a maximum size limit of 2 GB. Newer versions of Outlook (Outlook 2003 and later) support PST files in Unicode format, which have significantly larger size limits.
  • Limitations of the File System: The file system of the computer’s hard drive where the PST file is stored may also impose limitations on file size.

B. Symptoms and Signs of PST File Corruption

The consequences of PST (Personal Storage Table) file corruption are far reaching. Common symptoms of file corruption include data loss, email inaccessibility, and operational disruptions.

C. Impact on Outlook Performance and Data Accessibility

PST (Personal Storage Table) corruption hinders the smooth functioning of Outlook functionality. Any damage can lead to issues like slow performance, frequent crashes, and even complete data loss. In short, PST file corruption can disrupt productivity and result in important information being inaccessible when required.

What is the meaning of PST Repair?

Outlook PST Repair means fixing the corruption issues related to the PST (Personal Storage Table) file in Microsoft Outlook. This process aims at diagnosing the underlying causes of PST file corruption, restoring functionality to the damaged PST files, and recovering the damaged data. We can use Microsoft Scanpst.exe, the built-in inbox repair tool provided by Microsoft, to fix the corruption issues of Outlook Data files. However, the Scanpst has some limitations, and sometimes, it may not be able to solve complex corruption scenarios. We can also employ third-party software for the PST repair.

III. Step-by-Step Solutions

Resolving Outlook ‘PST File Large but Empty’ error is a crucial task and involves a bit of technical expertise. To fix this issue, we need to follow the following steps:

A. Solution 1: Check File Size Limitations:

If we are sure that there is some issue with the PST file, we need to check the file size limits. If the file exceeds the maximum storage capacity, then it will cause corruption issues. We must follow the below steps to fix the issue:

1. Understanding PST File Size Limits:

File size limits mean the maximum storage capacity that a PST file can reach before encountering corruption issues. This limit varies depending on the version of Outlook and the type of PST file (i.e., ANSI or Unicode).

-ANSI Format PST (Outlook 2002 and earlier):

—The maximum size limit for ANSI format PST files is 2 gigabytes (GB).

-Unicode Format PST (Outlook 2003 and later):

—Outlook 2003 and 2007 have a default size limit of 20 GB

—Outlook 2010 and later versions have a default size limit of 50 GB

—Additionally, Outlook 2013 and later versions support PST files up to 1 terabyte (TB) in size2. Checking PST File Size:

Sometimes, when we delete mailbox file, its size doesn’t decrease and we need to compact the file. It may lead to ‘Outlook PST file empty’ error. We can fix this error using a compact file option. We need to follow below steps to fix this issue:

  • Launch the Outlook,Go to the account settings
  • Right-click on the “Data File” option that appears on the right-hand side of your screen
  • Select “Data File Properties” from the pop up menu
  • ‘Outlook Today’ wizard pops up
  • Click on “General” tab
  • Click “Advanced” button
  • Lastly, click on the “Compact Now” button

B. Solution 2: Repair Outlook PST File:

In case PST files become corrupted despite the best preventative measures, we must repair the damaged files using the built-in Inbox Repair Tool (ScanPST) and third-party PST repair tools. In this section, we will discuss in detail how to use ScanPST and third-party PST repair tools:

1. Repair Using Inbox Repair Tool (SCANPST.EXE):

The Inbox Repair tool (Scanpst.Exe) is the inbuilt utility provided by Microsoft. This free tool is widely used by the IT administrators to diagnose and repair errors in your Outlook data file. It checks the Outlook data files on your computer to see if they’re in good shape. Following are the main steps to repair corrupt PST files using Scanpst:

1. Exit Outlook and browse to one of the following file locations:

  • Outlook 2019: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16
  • Outlook 2016: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16
  • Outlook 2013: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15
  • Outlook 2010: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14
  • Outlook 2007: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12


3. Select Browse to select the Outlook Data File (.pst) you want to scan

4. Choose Start to begin the scan

5. If the scan finds errors, choose Repair to start the process to fix them

Shows results of scanned Outlook .pst data file using the Microsoft Inbox Repair tool, SCANPST.EXE

Note: The scan creates a backup file during the repair process. If you want to give this copy a different name or save it in a different place, type the new name in the box or click “Browse” to find the spot where you want to save it.

6. After the repair finishes, open Outlook using the profile linked to the Outlook Data File you just fixed.

Limitations of the Inbox Repair Tool:

Although the Scanpst.Exe is a free inbuilt utility provided by Microsoft, it has certain limitations. Firstly, it is unable to repair large data files. The Inbox Repair Tool is also unable to repair PST files with complex corruption issues. Main limitations of the Inbox Repair Tool are listed below:

  • Limited Repair Scope: Scanpst.exe is capable of correcting and repairing minor PST file corruption issues. It may fail to resolve issues involving severe or complex file corruption.
  • Risk of Data Loss: There can be a risk of data loss as the Inbox Repair Tool may not be able to repair large-sized, severely corrupted, or networked and encrypted PST files.
  • Lack of Advanced Features: Customization options, user-friendly interface and other advanced features are not available with the Scanpst.
  • Manual Operation: The Inbox Repair Tool requires manual operation, meaning users need to locate and run the tool themselves.

2. PST Repair Using Third-Party Tools:

We can use advanced third-party tools to repair severely corrupted Outlook PST files. Stellar Repair for Outlook is one such tool. Microsoft MVPs have recommended this software as a PST repair solution. This software can repair and restore PST data in the following three steps:

1. Select – Select Outlook PST File by using ‘Browse’ or ‘Find’ option

click Repair - icon

2. Scan and Repair – After selecting PST file click on ‘Repair’. The software will start the scanning process.

Repair PST - icon

3. Save repaired PST: Once the corrupt PST file is successfully scanned, preview the recoverable mailbox components and save it into a new PST File using the ‘Save Repaired PST’ button.

Find Message - icon

IV. Best Practices for Preventing Recurrence:

As discussed earlier, the impact of PST (Personal Storage Table) file damage on Outlook performance can be significant. But we can reduce the reappearance of such issue by taking some preventive measures. Some of the best practices are listed below:

A. Regular Maintenance of Outlook PST Files: We must do some routine tasks to keep PST files optimized, organized, and free from corruption. Maintenance includes activities archiving old emails, creating regular backups of PST files, and optimizing storage by compacting PST files regularly.

B. Monitoring File Sizes and Performance: We must regularly monitor the PST file sizes and make sure that it must not exceed the default size limit.

C. Backing Up Outlook Data Regularly: We must take the backup of the Outlook Data on a regular basis to make sure that the latest copy of the data file is available in case of corruption or data loss.


From the above discussion, we can say that the integrity of Outlook PST files is crucial for the smooth functioning of Microsoft Outlook. Any damage to the PST file can lead to the permanent loss of crucial data. By following proactive measures and practices, we can not only protect our crucial data from loss but also ensure the uninterrupted functioning of our Outlook application.

If we face any corruption issue in the PST file, we can fix it using Outlook’s indispensable tool named ‘Scanpst.exe’ (also known as the Inbox Repair tool). But, like every tool, Scanpst has some limitations, as it does not guarantee successful repair of all PST file issues.

Time is the most crucial factor in business, and if we lose time fixing errors following the manual method, we may lose productive hours. Therefore, timely resolution of the error is crucial. Secondly, when we select Scanpst to fix this issue, there is always the possibility of data loss. Hence, it is always better to use PST repair software like Stellar Repair for Outlook, which repairs and restores mailbox items with 100% integrity and precision.