Delete Outlook "Ghost" PSTs by Editing the Registry

The following scenario is a very common problem. It's often caused by upgrading Outlook and not making a new profile. It generally means the profile is corrupt and although it's usually best to create a new profile (especially if you upgraded), you can try to rescue the old profile. While it's easy to screw up the profile, which will force you to make a new one, if the ghost PST has a unique name (as opposed to being a duplicate of your personal folders), the chances of success are greatly increased.

I have an archive pst that I'd like to right-click/close in Outlook. I get "the operation failed. An object could not be found" error message. I also get the error clicking on the properties/advanced button. I also had this error in OL2002, and I upgraded to OL2003, hoping it might get resolved. Any ideas on how to close it?

For starters, upgrading rarely fixes profile problems and this is definitely a profile problem. Uninstalling and reinstalling or using Detect and Repair rarely help either as they don't touch the profile or user files that often cause problems.

If creating a new profile is not a desired option try Remove Ghost PSTs: Michal's Method. If this fails, you can try to remove the ghost entry from the registry. Note that unless you have a number of email accounts to recreate, it's better to create a new profile because this usually indicates other problems with your profile.

See below for addins that may be able to remove the ghosts from your profile.

Keep in mind that editing the profile in the registry is at your own risk. Fortunately, provided you touch only keys within the profile key, the worst you'll do is screw up the profile and need to make a new one. You won't render Windows inoperable.

Open the Registry editor (Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, type regedit)

Find your profile.

If you use Outlook 2013, the profile key is at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Outlook\Profiles.

If you use Outlook 2010 or older, it's under Windows Messaging Subsystem.
In Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Windows 7 or 8, this is at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles.

In Windows 9x/ME, look for it at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles

Your screen will look something like this after you expand the profile key. If you have more than one profile, each one will be listed. Choose the correct one and expand it.
Edit the registry to remove ghosts

Each PST has two registry keys. Ghost psts only have one. You need to find and delete that key to remove it from the profile. As I said earlier, if the pst has a unique name, you can easily locate the one key, but when it's a ghost of your default pst, you have to guess and if you guess wrong, you'll need a new profile.

Press F3 and search for the display name of the ghost – this is the name you see in your folder tree. In Outlook 2003 and 2007, the PST name is stored in binary format so you'll need to search for 001e3001 and double click on the value to look for the PST name. If the ghost is not a duplicate of another folder, you can delete the key (on the left side) when you find the name. Otherwise, identify all of the keys that are associated with the PST before deciding which one to delete.

In this example, I would delete 26ecffdbb60a9245b939a5d5d05c144e from the left side if the ghost pst was unique and not a duplicate.

ghosts5.jpg

Identify Duplicate Ghosts

If the ghost folder is a duplicate, you need to locate all of the keys for that folder name and determine which one belongs to the ghost..

The valid pst will have two keys, with entries similar to the following screenshots, where the value in 001e3001 is the PST name. In Outlook 2007, the PST name is stored in binary format so you'll need to search for 001e3001 and double click on the value to look for the PST name. The file path is stored in binary format in 01020fff.

The ghost will have just one key. After you find all three keys, delete the one that is duplicated. Usually, the "good" keys are close to each other, with the values shown in the first screen shot listed before the ones in the second screen shot. Take a guess at which duplicated key belongs to the ghost. If you're wrong, the worst that will happen is you'll need to make a new profile.

Archive PSTs in Outlook 2003

If your ghost is the archive pst in Outlook 2003, it may be harder to remove, although I haven't yet seen a duplicate archive pst so I don't know which keys the duplicate uses.

I do know valid archive pst's are not added in the same manner as other psts – the display name is hidden in the value 001f3001 on the right side of the screen for the first key. The second key is a subkey under the key near the middle or bottom with the + sign beside it. Click the + to expand the keys and look at the Account Name values under each subkey for the name of the archive pst name.

Next page >> Remove Ghost PSTs: Michal's Method.

Available add-ins

The following add-ins are available to clean the ghost psts from your profile.

Public Fix Profile for Outlook
CodeTwo PST Ghostbuster

Last reviewed on July 28, 2014.

  • Don

    Thanks - worked perfectly ro remove a "ghost" pst that had been deleted a year earlier.

  • joe zink

    Hey, I tried everything on this and several other pages. The solution for me was/is OLFix. You can find it here:
    http://www.olfolders.de/Lang/English/Kontakt.htm
    Much MUCH better than recreating the profile.

    http://www.olfolders.de/Lang/English/OLfix/download.htm

  • JRK

    Outlook 2003 was causing so many problems due to constantly search for a ghost PST file. It was slow, constantly freezing and not giving me access to my backup PST fime on an external drive. I had moved to Windows from XP2.

    I had another problem with Photoshop Elements at the same time and asked advice on a forum. The program seemed to load OK but when I went to use it, it wanted to download again everytime I tried to access it.

    I was told that it was probably caused by a corrupt user account. Following simple instructions in W7 I created a new User Account and deleted the old one. HEY PRESTO all my problems disappeared and the system is running perfectly including OUTLOOK 2003 which had actually started giving me problems in Win XP.

    It may work for others - worth a try!

  • Diane Poremsky

    What fixed the problem with Outlook was the new profile you created in the new Windows account. Creating a new windows account to fix ghost pst files is a lot of overkill - you pretty much need to set *everything* up again and may need to reinstall programs. It's definitely not a 'let's try this first' step for any problem.

  • Ricky

    Actually, the regedit solution worked well. I renamed the working "Personal Folders" by adding my initials like this "XXX Personal Folders". I then searched in Regedit for "001e3001" as suggested and deleted the one entry that didn't have the initials. Behold, the ghost disappeared without having to recreate my accounts or import all of the stored emails and contacts. Good suggestion!!!

    P.S. I was using Win7 and there were, I think, three valid entries after I renamed, not two.

  • Gabriel

    The Solution for me was to use the two posted Add-Ons:

    First I used "CodeTwo PST Ghostbuster"
    But this resulted in Ghost PST files that had no name, and that showed: when right clicking as their name
    Next I tried: "Public Fix Profile for Outlook"
    There were no red entries
    I deleted first everything, folders and entries, under a section called 'Unrelated Sections'... This did not do the trick
    Next I deleted the 'unnamed' entries under Store Provider... Deleting the unnamed did the trick:

    Suggest following 2 steps:
    1- Run the tool by CodeTwo
    2- Delete Unnamed Entries under Store Provider
    if 2 fails, try: 3- Delete everything under 'Unrelated Sections'

  • Gabriel

    On my previous post... turned out not a permanent solution,
    For a few hours, outlook did not work, then the ghost files just re-immerged after restarting the PC and outlook...
    outlook working fine again, but still with the ghost files...

  • icaruscoil

    2003 Outlook on XP here.

    This was the fix for me thanks! I haven't been able to remove an old archive from Outlook for months. Goodbye imaginary archive.

    One note is that it inserts a 00 between each "character" of the filename in hex. So 2010 Archive would be 323031302041726368697665 but a search didn't find that. I looked through and found it by eye and it looked like this:
    32,00,30,00,31,00,30,00,20,00,41,00,72,00,63,00,68,00,69,00,76,00,65
    in the data values on the right panel.

  • Bret Williamson

    I did what Gabriel on Jan 17, 2012 said to do and it worked like a charm. Code Two PST Ghostbuster got rid of the PSTs, but left "blank" ones still appearing in Outlook 2003. Then used the Public Fix Profile for Outlook and looked for unnamed entries in Store Provider. Deleted those and ghost PSTs are now completely gone. Thanks a bunch!

  • S. Wilson

    Thank you so much!!! I know this is a really old article, but it helped me get rid of some ghost PST's that dropped into my Outlook 03 after I archived some old emails to folders. Really did not want to have to redo my profile :-D

  • Diane Poremsky

    Yeah, a new profile will work, and is often quicker, but people have many reasons for wanting to try and save a profile.

  • Yup

    I've seen this solution all over the internet and find when I go follow the file path, I do not have "Windows Messaging Subsystem". Why is that?

  • http://www.slipstick.com/ D Poremsky

    Which version of Outlook do you use? Beginning with Outlook 2013, the profile path moved to the OfficeOutlook path - HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice15.0OutlookProfiles

    (Looks like i need to update the page. )