December 02, 2010, 9:48 PM — With many business users reliant upon Outlook for all their e-mail, calendaring, and contact needs, it can be quite traumatic when Outlook's .pst file goes south. Outlook 2007 and 2010 are quite robust in this regard, but stuff happens. If hard drive sectors fail, Office's scanpst.exe may not be able to fix the file. Advanced Outlook Repair ($250, free feature-limited demo) professes to be able to recover more items from damaged .pst files than anyone--or your money back.
Vendor DataNumen claims that Advanced Outlook Repair can salvage files from any Outlook version from 97 on; in my hands-on I tried several different Outlook 2007 and 2010 .pst files. It's hard to find fault with a program for recovering files, but AOR wasn't smart enough to figure out that one of the files was perfectly fine and didn't need recovery. On the other hand, it said it had output recovered headers (the demo doesn't retrieve data) to a new .pst files from the.pst files that I deliberately damaged. Alas, I found folders but no message headers in the new .psts. Perhaps I had damaged the files too much.
Fortunately, as with many other recovery programs, you can use the free demo version see if Advanced Outlook Repair works on your problem file without risk. And if you didn't abuse your .pst files the way I did mine, it's quite likely you'll have better results. The software's very easy to use, and if it finds the messages, contacts, and appointments you lost, consider buying it. Of course, I'd try every other option, including scanpst.exe, before I purchased a $250 program. That said, if AOR works and nothing else does, then for many Outlook-centric users (especially the backup-challenged) $250 may seem like bargain.
Note: This link takes you to the Web site of PCWorld's Download partner Digital River, where you can download the latest version of the software.