How to Retrieve Outlook Contacts From a Hard Drive

by Alan Sembera
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When your computer crashes or you upgrade your system, you may want to retrieve the Outlook contacts that are stored on your old hard drive. Outlook stores contacts and other saved information in PST files. As long as you can access the PST file on your old hard drive, you can restore your contacts to the new installation of Outlook. You can also retrieve contacts from backup PST files that you created manually on your current hard drive.

Copy the PST File from the Old Hard Drive

Step 1

Start the computer containing the old hard drive. If the computer won't start, remove the hard drive, and attach it to a working computer. With a standard SATA hard drive, you can simply attach it to the appropriate cables inside another desktop unit (while the computer is off), and your computer will automatically recognize it as a secondary drive. You can also purchase external hard drive enclosures that allow you to attach the drive through a USB port.

Step 2

Press "Windows-E" to launch File Explorer or Windows Explorer.

Step 3

Type or paste the following into the address bar at the top of the file browser if your old computer used Windows 8, Windows 7 or Windows Vista: C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

Step 4

Type or paste the following if your old computer used Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook

Step 5

Replace "C:" with the letter of the drive that contains your PST file, and replace "username" with your Windows username on the old computer.

Step 6

Press "Enter." Windows displays any PST files created by Outlook on the old computer. The PST file usually has the same name as the Outlook account with which it was associated, including a ".pst" extension. If you manually created a backup file, it has the name "backup.pst" unless you gave it another name.

Copy the PST file to a USB drive, network drive or cloud storage drive where you can access it from the new computer. If you attached the old drive to your new computer, you can copy the PST file to a temporary location on your main hard drive. You may have to enter an administrator password to copy the file.

Retrieve Contacts in Outlook

Step 1

Launch Outlook on the computer where you want to store the contacts.

Step 2

Click the "File" menu, select "Open & Export," and then click "Open Outlook Data File."

Step 3

Navigate to the location of the PST file. If the PST file is on a different hard drive than the one you're using, complete the steps in the previous section to copy the file; otherwise, enter "C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook" into the file window's address bar. Replace "username" with your Windows username.

Step 4

Select the PST file with the same name as your Outlook account, or select "backup.pst" if you're using a backup file.

Step 5

Click "Open." Outlook creates a new folder named "My Outlook Data File" or "Outlook Data File." This folder contains any contacts, mail or other information stored in the PST file.

Click "People" to view your contact lists. The contacts from the PST file are contained in a separate contacts folder. You can leave the new contacts as a separate list, or you can drag the new contacts into you main contacts folder.


  • Information in this article applies to Microsoft Outlook 2013. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions.


  • If your Outlook account uses an Exchange or IMAP mail server, your contacts are stored on the server and will not be saved in a PST file unless you manually archived or backed them up to your hard drive. When your contacts are saved on the server, Outlook retrieves them automatically when you connect to the account through another computer or hard drive.


Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

About the Author

Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.

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