Why PST File Gets Emptied After Using ScanPST.exe

The article speaks of ScanPst.exe, also known as Inbox Repair tool and explains the reason why the PST files sometimes appear empty when they are repaired using ScanPST.exe.

While working with MS Outlook 2010, the PST file suddenly stops working and displays the error code 0X80040116 with ‘Outlook.pst file cannot be accessed’ error message. I tried repairing the file using the Inbox Repair tool. Next, when I attempted to access the file after running ScanPST.exe, there were no items found as the PST was empty. All the emails, contacts, appointments, calendar events, rules, journals and other components were lost. I could not restore data back as there is no backup available. This is what I encountered recently, and thereafter, I decided to write this post.

Microsoft Outlook users are well familiar with the PST and ScanPST utility integrated into the application. All the mailbox data including emails, contacts, calendars, notes, tasks, journals, etc. are stored in PST files. If a PST file data turns inaccessible or becomes corrupt due to any known or unknown reasons, ScanPST.exe can be used to repair Outlook PST file.
ScanPST.exe, also known as the Inbox Repair tool, is meant to diagnose and repair inconsistencies existing in the file. Even though ScanPST.exe efficiently resolves issues within the PST files, but, at times, fails to recover the entire data from the Outlook file. This is especially so when the PST is severely corrupted or encounters malware intrusion. Other than this, the tool is not capable enough to recover mailbox items deleted accidently.

How ScanPST Works?

While working with Outlook, if the PST files stops working suddenly, the ScanPST will prompt through a message and ask for permission to fix the damaged PST file. If you ever observed that the PST file is not working normally, or denies access when you attempt to open it, you can manually start the Inbox Repair tool.

When you run ScanPST and select the inaccessible PST, the tool checks the file directory structure along with file header for corruption and then starts repairing the incorporated data. Since file header is considered a low-level object, the tool is capable of repairing it in case the header is found damaged.

If the tool fails to automatically locate the path of the faulty PST file, you can provide it manually under “Enter the name of the file you want to scan”. Once the file is selected, click on the Repair button to initiate the repairing procedure.

This was the overall processing of the tool – straightforward and simple. But, how does the tool operate internally while handling a damaged PST? To define the entire process in short, it can be calculated that in case if the inconsistencies are found in the PST file, the tool either:

  • Resets the file structure; or
  • Rebuilds the damaged header

How to Access Recovered Items in Outlook?

If you are thinking of where to find the items after initiating ScanPST.exe, then here’s the solution. After the repair procedure is completed, you have to create a New PST in Outlook. The recovered items can be found in the Lost and Found folder and needs to be transferred to a New PST following drag and drop procedure.

Now let’s look at the limitations of the Inbox Repair Tool.

When does the PST File Get Emptied after ScanPST.exe Check?

Inconsistencies in the upper-level PST objects such as messages along with attachments, notes, sub- folders, calendar items, etc. cannot be repaired using the Inbox Repair tool. This is probably due to the reason that the low-level objects do not incorporate information about the upper-level objects and hence the tool fails to repair such issues.
Since ScanPST.exe is unable to read the folder structure, there are possibilities that the tool fails to repair data stored in that particular folder and deletes all the items including the subfolders.
Even though the built-in tool is a reliable resource to repair damaged PST data, it can only be utilized in an instance of lower level corruption. You may notice ScanPST not fixing errors in case if higher level corruption issues exist within the file. Also, it sometimes makes the situation more complicated.

Important Notes!

  • Before initiating the repair procedure, the Inbox Repair tool creates a backup of the selected file. In case a backup is already available, you can select to uncheck the option.
  • Both orphan, as well as configured Outlook PST files, can be repaired using the tool. However, while handling a configured PST file, it is mandatory to close Outlook and other associated applications.
  • Large volume PST files, when repaired using the built-in tool might hinder the performance and can result in sudden termination of the process.
  • Password protected PST files cannot be repaired using the tool

Alternative Solution:

The ScanPST utility does not ensure complete repair for the damaged PST files. Thus, it all depends on the level of corruption and the volume of the specific PST mailbox. If the repair process terminates in between, it may cause further issues with the PST file. Therefore, to overcome the corruption issues and other inconsistencies with large volume Outlook files, only a third-party application like Stellar Phoenix Outlook PST Repair Software can help. The professional application integrates higher level scan algorithms that repair PST files from all types of corruption to retrieve data.

MS Outlook users can download a free demo of the software from: www.stellarinfo.com


I started this tech blog back in 2011 as a place to write down processes I took to fix my client systems and network. Now I write some tips and tricks to help others with the tech issues that one might encounter.

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