Outlook rebuild results in folders named Recovered

This article is going to focus on the issue where your folders have the generic name “Recovered Folder” after rebuilding. This is a new procedure, it’s too soon to know if this will work for everyone. It’s also possible this option will work for other unsuccessful rebuild issues as well. Please leave a comment to let us know if it works for you. (See addendum at end for other options it will recover. Check back for additional updates) 

Updating article June 1, 2013. This procedure works well with all types of database issues.

See Basics for a Successful Rebuild for help rebuilding your Identity.

Recovered Folders

If you see the recovered folder issue shown in the image,  you are first grateful you got your data back,  but if you have hundreds or even thousands of folders  you are then faced with organizing and naming your folders. This can consume hours of your time. Luckily, there is a way to recover your folder names.


  • A minimum of 300-500 GB of free space on your drive
  • This process requires you to revert to Office for Mac 2011 v14.1.0
  • The original corrupted identity not one that has been rebuilt resulting in the Recovered Folder issue.
  • Lots of patience

If you don’t have the free space, patience or expertise, you can contact me for recovery. As long as you have the hardware and time, this is very doable by most users.

Free Space:

Many users will think that the amount of free space required is excessive. Like Entourage recovery, it does take enormous amounts of free space. The size of the Identity, the amount of corruption, fragmentation on drive, RAM are all factors that will determine how much space is required to rebuild. I suspect many will go ahead and try this when they don’t have the free space and if it does work, please let us know and give your details so others can determine what’s feasible for their recovery. Be sure you are working off a copy. If the rebuild fails on a drive without enough free space, it could damage your data even further.

Outlook user, Rod reported the following:

My database is 12.7GB and I had 120GB of free space on my hard drive, but that failed to recover. It even failed to rebuild a non-corrupted identity. And so I freed up some space and tried again with 200GB of free space on my hard drive, but that failed too. I freed up even more space and tried again with 310GB of free space on my hard drive, and that succeeded to build. (WIERD BUT VERY TRUE)

See Basics for a Successful Rebuild for help rebuilding your Identity and for more info on free space.

The amount of RAM does not seem to be an issue as long as the free space is available. I do recommend that you do not try to use your computer or have other applications open when doing this process. I did this on a partition with Snow Leopard and 2GB RAM. Lion/Mountain Lion would require more RAM than Snow Leopard. I suggest a minimum of 4GB for Lion or Mountain Lion.

Step 1

Determine if you are going to use your main drive (internal) or an external drive. Space considerations will be key in this selection. If you don’t have an external, now is a good time to get one. After this test you can use it to clone your drive and/or create a Time Machine backup.

Option 1) Use your computer’s drive

It’s recommended that you have a backup of your drive before proceeding. There is always a chance you will make a mistake that would damage or delete your data.

1) Rename or compress Microsoft Office 2011 in Applications. After compressing,  drag the Microsoft Office 2011 folder to the trash.
2) Install Office 2011 using a v14.0.0 or 14.1.0 installer. STOP at v14.1.0! Do NOT update further. Manually turn off “Check for updates” during this process.
3) Rename your “Microsoft User Data” folder to “Microsoft User Data OLD”. Open Outlook and it will create a new 14.1 Identity. Rename “Identity 1”.
4) Drag your corrupt Identity from “Microsoft User Data OLD” folder to the new Microsoft User Data folder > Office 2011 Identities folder.
5) You should have two Identities now: “Identity 1” and your corrupt Identity.
6) Quit Outlook

Go to Step 2

Option 2) Use an external drive

If you have an external drive with enough free space, I found this to be the easier & safer option. If you make a mistake using this option, you’ve only lost your time.

If you don’t have an external drive, I suggest the Seagate Backup Plus or Seagate GoFlex USB 3.0 drives:

If you have an older Mac, the USB 3.0 uses the same USB 2.0 ports. You do get 2.0 speed unless you have a newer Mac with a USB 3.0 port. This drive is not Mac formatted. Is a bit less expensive than the ones marked for Mac use. Just use the Disk Utility or the handy software that comes with the drive to format for the Mac. If you buy through my link, the site will get credit to help us cover expenses.

1) Partition (how to instructions)
2) Install OS X (10.6, 10.7 or 10.8) and update. No need to update Safari etc.
3) Install Office 2011 You will only update to 14.1.0! If recently purchased Office, your installer will most likely be  Office 14.2.0, you’ll need to find a 14.0.0 or 14.1.0 installer or contact me to do the recovery for you.

  • When you see the option to automatically update or manually update, select manually! After activating you might want to disconnect from the Internet so you get no further update announcements.


4) Drag your corrupt Identity to the Desktop on the external drive.
5) Open Outlook. This creates a new Microsoft User Data folder with a new blank Main Identity. Rename this blank identity to “Identity 1”.

6) Quit Outlook.
7) Drag your corrupt Identity into the Office 2011 Identities folder.
8) You should have two Identities now: “Identity 1” and your corrupt Identity.
9) Quit Outlook

 Step 2

Now that you have Office 2011 v14.1.0 installed on either your computer’s drive or an external drive, follow these steps.

1) Navigate to your corrupt Identity.

  1. Delete the database file.
  2. Delete the Database Headers folder

In this example the Identity is named 4.16 Main Identity.

2) Copy (move) the Database Headers folder from Identity 1 to your corrupt Identity.

By copying a clean “Database Headers” folder that has database headers in version 14.1.0 we are tricking Office 14.1.0’s  Office Database Utility to thinking that your SP2 identity conforms to its own version and will then attempt to rebuild it.

3) Launch the Database Utility and select your corrupt Identity to rebuild.


12) Hopefully, you will receive a message saying that your database was rebuilt successfully. If not, see the links below for other workarounds.

13) Quit the Database Utility.

We’re getting close but a few more steps to go….

14) Open your Identity. Follow these steps:

  1. Delete your IMAP and Exchange accounts. This deletes the cache files in Outlook. Your data is still on the server. You are left with only data that is “On My Computer”.
  2. Make sure no folder has more than 2GB of data. That’s approximately 6000-10,000 messages per folder. Usually it’s the Inbox and Sent folders that are over the 2GB limit.
  3. Under File > Export, select the default action to export all data as .olm file. Save Data File as Recovered OMC.olm on your Desktop.
    (Users that are using an external drive will need to drag this file to your internal drive for Step 3.)

  1. Do you get “Done” at the end or do you get “one or more items failed to export”?
  2. If you do not get “Done”, this indicates corruption or you have folders that are over the 2GB limit. See Export as .olm file fails to get all data.
  3. If your log file has a long list of items that failed to export, you can select to use the upgrade process rather than use the .olm file for importing into your new Identity. It’s unclear if the files are actually damaged or if Outlook just fails to export some attachments. If you used an external drive, drag your v1 Identity to your internal drive for the upgrade process.
  4. The import from .olm file is the “cleanest” option. The upgrade process can fail so be sure you have a backup prior to upgrading.
  5. Quit Outlook.

We are finished with Office v14.1.0. Now we are ready to revert to Office v14.3.x (or latest version) in Step 3.

Step 3

If you did Option 1 on your main drive…

  • Drag the Microsoft Office 2011 v14.1.0 Identity to the trash.
  • Unzip Microsoft Office 2011.
  • Verify you are running the latest version. Under Help in the Menu bar, select “Check for Updates”.
  • Verify that you did the clean up of folders in the Microsoft User Data folder after SP2 updater. How to

If you did Option 2, on an external drive…

  • Boot back into your main drive. Office should already be updated to SP2 or newer.
  • Verify you are running the latest version. Under Help in the Menu bar, select “Check for Updates”.

Let’s finish this process….

Option 1:  Use the Recovered OMC.olm file

1) Open the Database Utility and create a new Identity. We will NOT be using any previous Identities.

2) Open the new Identity and import your Recovered OMC.olm file.

3) Move all data to their local folders using the instruction in How to move your data to a new Identity

4) Add accounts.

  • If you have POP account(s) you might get duplicates if you have preciously selected to “leave on server”. Log into your account in your browser and move all the older messages to a folder you create in webmail. Outlook only downloads from the Inbox.
  • Your Exchange and IMAP accounts will download all messages and folders to your new Identity.

Option 2: Use the recovered 14.1 identity as default 

1)  Open the Database Utility and select the recovered 14.1 Identity as default.

2) Open Outlook and the Identity will go through the upgrade process.

3) Add accounts.

• If you have POP account(s) you might get duplicates if you have preciously selected to “leave on server”. Log into your account in your browser and move all the older messages to a folder you create in webmail. Outlook only downloads from the Inbox.
• Your Exchange and IMAP accounts will download all messages and folders to your new Identity.


This process has not failed to rebuild an Identity that would not rebuild using an SP2 or later identity. You do need a copy of your identity that has not been rebuilt prior to reverting to 14.1 to rebuild. Using a Time Machine copy is best option.

Error 255 for Identity Rebuild – I used this method to recover an Identity that gave Error 255 when trying to rebuild in 14.2.4 SP2.  This is not the same Error 255 that you get when Outlook opens then immediately closes. Error 255 only shows in Console log for this situation. The error 255 came up when trying to rebuild an older Identity (it was unclear what version created the Identity)

Error -18000 for Identity Rebuild – This error might be solved by simply having enough free disk space, but reverting to 14.1.0 to rebuild works when having enough free spaced failed.

MIME error – If you rebuild and then try uploading an email from “On My Computer” to an IMAP folder and receive the MIME error, you can use the original Identity to rebuild in 14.1.0 as described here to rebuild without the error.

Thanks to Rob…

This process was discovered by Rob in the UK.  I had worked with Rob to recover his data. While we were able to rebuild  successfully, his Identity opened with 558 Recovered Folders. Determined to find a fix, thorough persistence and trials of different workarounds, he successfully was able to recover his folder names and has shared his steps with me so I could document and share with all users.

While creating this tutorial, I used another client’s identity with over 2,ooo Recovered folders with successful results. Another user that had a 14GB identity with 5000+ folders, followed the instructions on his external drive and was also successful.

Related links:

How to move your data to a new Identity

Troubleshoot Outlook

How to recover your data when rebuilding, restoring and upgrading fails

How to revert to Microsoft Office for Mac 14.1.4 after upgrading to SP2

Error: Your identity is older than this version of Outlook

Basics for a Successful Rebuild

Outlook crashes & hangs

Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity


Share this:
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Bookmarks
  • PDF
  • Print

40 comments to Outlook rebuild results in folders named Recovered

  • Ulrich

    Option 1 nearly worked for me, til Step 3, point 2).
    When importing my olm file Outlook crahes with:

    Microsoft Error Reporting log version: 2.0

    Error Signature:
    Exception: EXC_ARITHMETIC
    Date/Time: 2012-11-18 15:49:54 +0000
    Application Name: Microsoft Outlook
    Application Bundle ID: com.microsoft.Outlook
    Application Signature: OPIM
    Application Version:
    Crashed Module Name: OutlookCore
    Crashed Module Version:
    Crashed Module Offset: 0x0006adf6
    Blame Module Name: OutlookCore
    Blame Module Version:
    Blame Module Offset: 0x0006adf6
    Application LCID: 1033
    Extra app info: Reg=en Loc=0x0409
    Crashed thread: 0

    I am using Mountain Lion (10.8.2) with Outlook 14.2.5

    Any help very appreciated.


    • Exception: EXC_ARITHMETIC is not an error that we usually see with Outlook or previously Entourage. There are reports for Excel. Options indicate it could be a bad .plist. What I want to do is eliminate your User’s folder.

      Drag the .olm file to the Shared folder. Your Hard Drive/Users/Shared

      Create a new User in System Preferences (see below for how to)

      After you log into the new test User, drag from Shared (it actually copies) your .olm and place it on the Desktop.

      Open Outlook. It won’t be in the Dock in the new User. Go to Applications to open.

      Import the .olm file into the new Identity.

      If it works we know the problem is in your User’s folder.
      If it fails, this indicates an issue with the .olm file. Do you remember if you got “Done” at the end? Did you get “one or more items failed to export”?

      BTW, if you have the entire crash log, can you send that to me? I’ll send you a reply so you can contact me directly.


      Go to System Preferences > Create a New User in Accounts (Users & Groups). Switch to the New User by logging out under the Apple in the Menu bar or use Fast User Switching.

      If yes, then the problem is with your base files.
      If no, then the problem is in your User’s folder.

  • Dietrich

    I tried following all the steps..but I am not the most savy IT person I am not able to rebuild my data. My outlook crashed and I took the data from the previous date through my Time Machine and it says it cannot rebuild…no idea what is going on…

    • After restoring from Time Machine did you try rebuilding in the current Office for Mac? If yes, you need to use one of the options to revert to 14.1.0 to rebuild. If this is too technical for you I do this for clients.

  • “Recovered Folders

    If you see the recovered folder issue shown in the image, you are first grateful you got your data back, but if you have hundreds or even thousands of folders you are then faced with organizing and naming your folders. This can consume hours of your time. Luckily, there is a way to recover your folder names.”

    How do you recover the folder names? I read this whole page and didn’t see it. Sorry if I missed it…

    THANK YOU!!!

    • Rebuilding using 14.1.0 can recover without getting recovered folder as name. There is no specific step to restore the name of folders, it’s the process that works.

  • I spent about a day on repairing my identity. It is largely due to your competent help that I finally succeeded. I tried the procedure several times (maybe 10 times or so) with different selections of subdirectories of copied into virgin identity of the elder outlook version. And I also had several backups that I tried. The behaviour was not always the same. Once the identity was rebuilt with success, but Outlook would’nt open. No message. Finally i rebuilt the identity successfully with another backup set and outlook said it could’t open the identity with the current version (the old Outlook version). ( It was the backupset from Crashplan and not from TimeMachine that I managed to restore and don’t know if this is a significant fact). I copied back the updated outlook version, and it opened succesfully. I have no real explanation, but I am grateful and wanted to share with whoever needs it.

  • My experience (for a client) in trying to restore from a Time Machine backup of an Identity of about 2GB was that even with 302GB of free space (the max I could scrounge) I was getting the -18000 error. I was unable to easily get to a machine with both Outlook installed & 500GB of free space.

    The step that did allow me to at least recover the messages, though not the folder hierarchy, was to copy the items in the Data Records folder to a new identity EXCEPT the “Folders” folder. This got us the messages back – though it left us with the “Recovered Folder” mess – though not too bad as there are only about 40 folders.

  • Brian

    Great instructions. The process worked for me w/ about 20 GB of storage free.

  • Jeff Mclellan

    I have had the same problem as others with identity rebuild failures. I followed all the suggestions but eventually had to get a Mac dealer to partly recover my Outlook.

    If Apple Mac and Microsoft cant get together to fix the problem where Time Machine can successfully backup and restore Outlook, then Apple should bring out a Mail Client with similar features as Outlook, that can be successfully be backup and restored by Time Machine and then we can forget about Outlook..

    • This behavior is by design from Microsoft. Nothing to do with Apple.

      The inherent nature of databases, which Microsoft Outlook uses to track messages, is that they are files in use by their applications and open databases can’t be copied properly. This applies to any backup application not just Time Machine. And it applies to most any simple database such as the one Outlook uses.

      Knowing that, Microsoft expects Outlook to have to rebuild its index (database) when an Outlook identity is restored from a backup. The database is expendable. It doesn’t contain user data. It only contains an index to the messages.

  • D

    Pretty much works if you follow the instructions to the letter. Microsoft should take flak for the very poor Outlook client (and support). The Exchange/Outlook group does not get how hard it is to deal with corruption problems. Just when will you guys give in and go to SQL Server??

  • D

    Would not work with 70GB of free disk space. Did the free disk space somehow get coded by the Microsoft folks as 10X or 100X of what is needed? It is completely ridiculous to require a 750GB disk to recover 3Gb of data.

  • Gillian Evans

    Hi Diane,

    Thank you for running this forum, it’s very much appreciated. I have a few problems with my Mac that have come to a head and I’m really stuck ! I’m generally can fix most things through trial/error/patience/forums etc, but I’ve been spending long days and nights & I’m not making much progress. I’ll try and keep it to the bare bones with enough flesh to get the picture.

    [Edited by Diane] This post was very long and involved many other issues than using the steps in this article to recover Identity. Users with complicated issues should ask on the Microsoft forums (free) or contact me for personal support.

    Answers -Office for Mac

    Getting Started: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mac/forum/macstart
    Word: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mac/forum/macword
    Excel: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mac/forum/macexcel
    PPT: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mac/forum/macpowerpoint
    Outlook: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/mac/forum/macoutlook

  • Seth Crosby

    I rebuilt, removing the Folders folder and this worked…with 340 folders in Outlook titled “Recovered Folder” as described here. When I added the most recent working Folders from TimeMachine and rebuilt, I got the -18000 error. When I simply replaced Folders with the new rebuilt one and rebuilt again, I was back in business again…with my 340 “Recovered Folders”.

    At the risk of sounding utterly stupid (I’m used to it), is there no way to manually heal the Folders folder, which seems to be the source of the -18000? I note in this folder that 6 of the 23 sub-folders in the most recent working Folders were modified on May 27. My Outlook crashed Friday the 31st after a day spent going from one airport wifi to the next.

    • Did you rebuild using 14.1.0? How much free disk space?

      Note: if the Time Machine Identity already has the recovered folders issue you’ll have to go further back in time before this happened to fix.

    • Seth Crosby

      The time machine version of Folders was pre-fix.

      I am running 14.3.4 (I believe…I find this in Word>Help>About Word, yes?). I did not see this article until after I had attempted the re-build.

      I have 226Gb free.

      My main problem is that I have very little time. I have calculated it would take me 3 hours to manually rename and organize the 340 folders. Perhaps that is the most efficient way to go?

      • If you have Time Machine, you can revert to the copy the day before you did the rebuild that had the folder names. Other than manually entering them there is no shortcut. Be glad you only have 340. Some have many more.

        • Seth Crosby

          Dear Diane,

          Please forgive me and to be clear, I can, with my 14.3.4 and my 226Gb of space, simply revert to and rebuild the Main Identity that is backed-up on the Time Machine? I am happy to pay for a phone consult if I have over-simplified the situation.

  • czak22

    In second step of the instuction, during rebuilding identity I have only 3 steps (Scaning, Veryfying ang copying records to new database)instead 4. What’s with the last step ?
    Rebuilding ended successfully but when im clicking outlook’s icon it doesn’t start. 🙁

    • The screen shot under 12 shows the rebuild window with steps.

      I suspect Outlook is trying to open the wrong Identity.

      Delete these com.microsoft.plist files in your User’s Library/Preferences folder. In Mac OS 10.7 & 10.8.0, the Library folder is hidden. To access the Library folder:

      How to enable the User’s Library folder in Lion & Mountain Lion:


      In System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items, delete the Microsoft Database daemon.

      Log out under the Apple in the Menu bar.
      Open Outlook by holding down the Option key to launch the Database Utility. Do you see your new Identity? Select as default.
      Open Outlook.
      [Edited to include the path to User’s Library]

      • Chad Meyer

        Maybe I have the same problem – not sure. But I went through all the steps above, including reverting to Office 14.1.0 and was then able to successfully rebuild the database. Where I am having problems, though, is with Step 14. I can’t get Outlook to open and have the rebuilt database available to export. It seems like it can’t find it. I’ve verified that the name of the default identity in the utility is the same. But I can’t verify that it is opening the correct identity. Is there any way to tell which identity outlook has opened on once its opened? And if it is opening the correct identity, any idea why it wouldn’t be able to find the database? Thanks!

        • The Database Utility shows default as bold. Using the name of the default Identity, in the Finder, check the Date Modified on the database file.

          Normally, after rebuilding when you open Outlook it opens in the default Identity unless you failed to set it as default in the Database Utility.

          • Chad Meyer

            I’m just not quite getting this. Can you give me a little more detail on Step 14? When you say, “Open Your Identity” – what does that mean exactly? Does that mean setting your corrupt identity as the default in the Database Utility and then launching Outlook? And then where am I doing steps 1) and 2) exactly – in Outlook or back in Documents under my corrupt identity? Thanks for your help, I know I’m very close to getting this fixed!

          • Chad Meyer

            OK, I’ve run through the whole process twice again and I might be close to putting my finger on the issue, so maybe you can tell me what I’m doing wrong. I noticed that when I rebuild running the Database Utility, it is making a backup copy of the identity, but it is putting all the data into the backup identity. Then it makes the first identity the default. But that first identity no longer has any data, so nothing happens when I open outlook. If I then set the backup identity as the default, since it has all the data, then Outlook tells me I need to rebuild that database. I did it again and the same thing happened. I’m very confused – thanks for your help!!

          • Chad Meyer

            Diane, I’d be happy to pay for personal consulting if that is what’s more efficient at this point. Thanks.

  • czak22

    Unfortunately there are no such files “com.microsoft.outlook….” on external system disk. 🙁

  • Lukasz Mierzynski


    I´m suffering from the same problem, after crashing Mac because of third program my Outlook stopped to work.

    I tried to find the corrupted segment of database and I think that I found it in “Folders”, but didn´t find the proper one under it.
    I could not restore functionality of Outlook in full – from the database I could only restore most of my emails, first until may of 2011 and then I managed to get until your 2012. All sent messages were ok, so they didn’t miss.

    Then I tried to get database last 100% working version from Time Machine and that was a mistake. My identity (named Corrupted) was almost fully erased and this main identity that I restored is empty also.

    Now I just hope, that I manage to restore all messages form Time Capsule backup which I made few days ago.
    Still I´m not so confident to do this restoring process by my own, how could I get done with you Diane. Please contact me on my personal email (removed for privacy) because my company mail isn´t working at all!

    If you could contact me ASAP, we have high season in company and I´m the main person in it and now without any emails!

  • Jeff Mitchell


    I too have a 11GB database that cannot rebuild. I switched from Entourage to Outlook in January 2013. Version purchased was 14.2.5. I’d like to your fix but do not have version 14.1. Any ideas?

  • Brian Roberts

    Thanks so much for this… only helpful post I can find on this extremely vexing issue. I’ve got OSX set up and running off an external HD with a 500GB partition (1TB Harddrive). My challenge now is getting back to 14.1.1. Any ideas? My old discs Product Keys aren’t working for some reason and — of course — Microsoft is zero help. Thanks! –Brian

    • Brian Roberts

      I should also add that I only have 250G on my macbook pro (retina) and not enough memory to try the rebuild natively. I also have Time Machine backups and considered just booting from an old time machine image, but then I’d gobble up a good chunk of the disc space I just created on the external HD.

    • Hi Brian, look for my email reply.


    Hi Diane, have sent you a seperate email to understand your one- on one consultancy rates on your contact form.
    in addition just posting a comment here, to make sure you receive it!!