Resolving Synchronization Errors Due to Corruption in OST files

Most Outlook users rate the offline folders feature as one of the most useful features in this application. Synchronization allows the offline folders to keep the data up-to-date with the folder located on the Exchange server. However, there are times when users have to deal with synchronization problems that arise due to corruption in the OST file. We take a quick look at resolving these problems.

Microsoft Outlook is a very useful personal management tool that allows you to store and manage email messages, appointments and meeting requests, tasks and updates, journals, contacts and many more. When used with Microsoft Exchange Server in a work environment, Outlook becomes a highly powerful collaborative and communication tool. Not only is this tool very user-friendly, but also there have been constant improvements that make the task of collaborating in a work environment very enjoyable. If there was ever a problem of suffering from network problems while working with Outlook, even that was solved with the offline folders feature. This feature enabled the user to copy all the folder data originally located on the Exchange server into a local folder called the offline folders file or OST. Users could now work on their data without having to worry about the state of the network and even recover Exchange data from the OST file. Outlook ensured that there was regular synchronization between the local folder and the server folder so that all the items were up-to-date in both the folders.

However, Outlook does suffer from occasional synchronization troubles. Particularly, when the offline storage file or OST file becomes too large, is damaged, or contains corrupt information, it is impossible for Outlook to carry out a proper synchronization of the folders. The only solution for a while was to delete the OST file and create a new OST file. While this meant that all the changes made when the user was offline were lost, at least one could still recover Exchange data as much as possible by carrying out a synchronization with the new OST file.

Microsoft did provide a solution to this problem in their Microsoft Office 2000 Service Release 1/1a (SR-1/SR-1a). The main purpose of this release was to ensure that there is better OST fidelity so that there is less likelihood of losing any offline changes. For this, the following improvements were made in Outlook.

  • Outlook now displays improved synchronization so that even if there is one corrupted message, Outlook does not stop synchronization all together. There is a facility to move the message to a Corrupted Items folder that will be ignored during synchronization.
  • The OST Integrity Check Tool was strengthened so that it can check for more errors and is more successful in resolving them when it checks a damaged or corrupt OST tool. This tool essentially checks for discrepancies between the local OST file and the server folder and tries to resolve them. It is best to first use the OST Integrity Tool to resolve synchronization issues in Outlook.

If despite these efforts, users still have to deal with a corrupt OST file and are anxious to recover Exchange data, they can install DataNumen Exchange Recovery from DataNumen on their workstation. This tool supports integration with Windows Explorer and is thus very easy to use even for a novice. One has to simply select the OST file suspected of corruption in the Windows Explorer interface and run the software. DataNumen Exchange Recovery will scan the file, recover the maximum data possible and restore the data as a PST file, accessible by Outlook.

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