Repairing Outlook PST Files

This is a sad story with a happy ending. Mostly anyway.

My laptop has a problem with its graphic drivers (Lenovo T400) and does a hard crash a couple of times a day. Yesterday it corrupted Outlook. While I had numerous other things backed up, I did not have the Outlook pst backed up, at least not recently enough to matter. Imagine losing your email history, calendar and contacts. The calendar was entirely disastrous.

UPDATE: I neglected to mention until someone mentioned it in comments that at this point I ran scanpst.exe from the Outlook directory (find a KB on it here). This tool failed with a message to the effect the file was corrupted and it could not complete. If you have a similar problem, you should definitely try this tool.

I have good friends so I spent the afternoon crying Julie’s shoulder via IM and brainstorming ideas. She found two commercial products: Stellar’s at and Advanced Outlook Repair at Both have demos, and both returned headers and calendar. The demos don’t get your actual messages. Stellar took hours so I decided to buy the most expensive Advanced Outlook Repair. The day was so bad that I got a call at 5:30 asking me why I wasn’t at the Northern Colorado Architects meeting only to say “wait, I was getting ready for the dojo” which I do on Thursday. That’s in spite of the fact I had had three Wednesday appointments and clearly knew it was Wednesday earlier in the day. I’d had it, bagged it, went to the meeting and dinner afterwards, returning to practice my violin (remember, I’m really, really terrible on the violin) trying to get ready for my first ever “Beginner’s Jam” on Friday night.

This morning Bill McCarthy said hello because of an entirely separate conversation we’ve been having over the last few days. I told him I was positively grumpy from having to spend $250 on a PST recovery tool. For any of you that don’t know Bill, he’s brilliant and amazing (but please don’t tell him I said that). I said “so if you don’t have a better idea, I’m about to go spend $250 on this tool, then $650 on an interim laptop so I can get my Lenovo fixed.”

“Aren’t you on Vista” was his reply.

“Yes, and…”

“Right click on the .pst file and select Restore Previous Versions,” he said.

I don’t recall doing anything to this so anticipate running on defaults. I am not feeling optimistic and it takes considerable time to finish…

But I find a pst file from Tuesday. Apparently it’s been backing up my pst file every day at 8:45AM. I can lose one day of email – although it does mean I may have missed your email if you sent it to me late Tuesday or Wednesday.

Bill’s already a hero because he tucked this conversation in amongst fighting Australia’s bushfires. And he’s helped me dozens of times over the years. I feel very thick that my computer has been quietly covering my butt on this and I didn’t realize it, at least not sufficiently for it to rise to my consciousness when I needed it (I do recall now seeing it demo’d).

There are different problems you may have if you run a busy pst file for a long period of time. Julie’s blogged about that here and I had a similar experience a few months ago where the pst stopped allowing me to empty the deleted folder and other ugly things. My solution to that problem, like Julie’s, was to create a new pst file and eventually allow everything to be archived together or via partitioned archives.

Bill didn’t solve the problem that I simply can’t turn loose of my Lenovo to get it fixed (and yes it’s patched with drivers). That one I still have to figure out. At least adequate computers are relatively cheap at the local Office Depot.

Private Conferences


I just got back from a private conference in Saskatchewan. I think it’s a good format for many organizations. You won’t get the breadth of cutting edge information that you get at a major conference like DevConnections or DevTeach. But, the conference can be focused on tools and techniques that matter to your organization. Depending on the facilities the cost may be very reasonable. How many speakers you bring in will also affect your cost, and most speakers will have a minimum fee. But as you balance the cost of taking people away from their jobs, it’s worth investing in some quality speakers. Your staff will rarely get the opportunity for such a great “student teacher ratio”. I think this approach is synergistic with sending people to major conferences. Major conferences keep you abreast of the general trends in the industry, but there’s no deep dive relative to your organizations actual challenges.

But while all this is true and private conferences are a great value and investment in your team staying relevant in light of the rapid technology change, I think there’s a more important reason to have a private conference. A private conference is a retreat and a team building exercise. New and experienced staff is in the same room getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The independent speaker can help challenge status quo worth challenging, and reinforce good things in the organization.

I enjoy doing private conferences because it’s about people not just technology.

Private conferences are all about strengthening your organization. So as you look at your budget for the coming year, consider whether an internal conference is a good addition.

“Visual Basic Compiler has stopped working” Visual Studio Crash

I just spent days tracking this one down, so let me try to save someone else the grief.

Symptoms: My Silverlight application suddenly started doing a full compiler crashes and brings down Visual Studio crash every time I tried to compile. Cleaning the solution didn’t help. Manually cleaning solution and user files didn’t help.

The Visual Studio solution has about fifteen projects. It’s a Silverlight app with the client and server pieces in one solution. I am using mobile objects, meaning I have Silverlight libraries that contain files that were added using “Add As Link” so the same code appears in both the Silverlight and .NET assemblies. Other than these complexities, it’s not a terribly complex app.

Problem: I ultimately determined that the problem was that I moved files in the .NET project breaking the links within the Silverlight project (the .NET project holds the actual code). I replaced the links with new links to the correct files, but the old links remained. Once I drilled down to the correct directory, it was very easy to see that these files were marked as invalid. And yes, there were error messages that I didn’t see buried in the mess of other errors.

Fix: Remove the bad links.

Obviously I did a dumb thing, and obviously Visual Studio should never crash this badly no matter how badly I screw up.

I have submitted this to Microsoft, but thought I’d also get it up on the web in hopes of saving someone else some time.