How to: Recover Microsoft Outlook email account settings from a crashed Windows system
It's easy enough to move your settings between two working Windows machines running Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 or later. Microsoft has a tool for that - the "Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard." It is easily accessible from Start>Microsoft Office>Microsoft Office>Microsoft Office>Microsoft Office 2003 Save My Settings Wizard.
Unfortunately, if you are trying to move user settings from Microsoft Outlook that was running on a Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 installation that you can no longer boot directly, this wizard will not work. What you must do instead is copy the settings manually from your old user account registry hive (usually in a file C:\Users\Jake\NTUSER.DAT, where Jake is your old user name) to your new user account registry hive. Fortunately, this is a relatively easy task as far as Windows registries are concerned.
The following procedure assumes that you can still read the data on your crashed Windows system. That could be done by either attaching the drive with your user account information to your new machine, or installing another copy of the Windows operating system on another drive or in another partition of your crashed machine.
The procedure will not transfer all the passwords for your email accounts and you will have to reenter them manually later, but all the rest of your email accounts setup will be moved and that's a big time saver. It would surely be convenient to have the passwords transfer as well, but that wouldn't be very secure, as anyone with physical access to the computer would then be able to gain access to your email accounts.
WARNING: Do NOT mess with the registry without first backing up your system, or if you are not sure what you are doing. I tested this procedure with a Windows Vista installation and it should work exactly the same on Windows XP and Windows 7, but there are no guarantees express or implied that this will work for you on any system, so please be very careful! Here is what you will have do:
0. Install Windows on a drive or partition that doesn't have any of the data you are attempting to recover. Copy your old .pst file to a new location, if you like. Install Outlook on your new Windows installation, but do not create any email accounts.
1. Run regedit on your new Windows installation. (Click Start and type "regedit" in the search window that comes up.)
2. Click on HKEY_USERS and then on File>Load Hive... Navigate to the directory containing your old NTUSER.DAT registry hive and open it. (In my case C:\Users\Jake\NTUSER.DAT) Give the key a unique name (I will use LOADED-USER) and click OK. Registry will add it to the list of keys under HKEY_USERS.
3. Navigate LOADED-USER hive all the way down to HKEY_USERS\Jake\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Outlook, left click on Outlook and choose export, saving the selected branch someplace where you will be able to find it later. (I will use c:\OLD-USER.reg)
4. Left click on LOADED-USER, choose File>Unload Hive... and confirm your choice to unload by clicking "yes".
5. Locate your current loaded user hive key name under HKEY_USERS. It is the one that looks like this: S-1-5-21-XXXXXXXXXX-XXXXXXXXXX-XXXXXXXXXX-1000, where each X represents a single digit and 1000 may be incremented higher, if there are multiple registered user accounts on the Windows installation that you are using. Left click on this key and choose Copy Key Name.
6. Leave the regedit window, but do not close it. Open OLD-USER.reg in your favorite editor (Notepad will work just fine), replace all occurrences of LOADED-USER with the key name you copied in the previous step and save the file.
7. Return to regedit window. Click on File>Import..., select your exported register file (c:\OLD-USER.reg) and click Open. Exit regedit.
Now when you open Outlook for the first time after correctly following the above procedure, it will look for your pst file in it's old location. When it doesn't find it there, it will ask you where to look - go ahead and tell it.
Then, when it tries to access your email accounts on the servers, it will ask you for passwords. Just enter the passwords for each of the email accounts, as Outlook asks for them. It may not recognize them as being correct right away and error out. Enter all the passwords anyway, then close Outlook and reopen it a second time to solve this problem.
That's it - mission accomplished!