Legends of The .pst file: The Reckoning

So let's sort some shit out. Which ever monster decided it was alright to allow users the ability to create .pst files in outlook needs shot. For the uninitiated a .pst file is a type of Outlook Data File. Specifically one that stores a local copy of emails on the users computer. In theory I'm sure it's a splendid idea but that theory can suck my dick.

You may of noticed by now that I'm very opinionated about this "feature" and you'd be correct. Then again I have users storing emails going back to the early 2000's. We're talking gigabytes of emails that users don't really need but they're so far attached to their methods (we pay for Salesforce for a reason people) that unfortunately they've become a part of daily life.


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Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash

So let's begin with the story of my latest garbage file arising from that dreaded file. Imagine a picturesque Friday afternoon, you can feel the late summer sun on your face. The entrancing bird songs come sneakily in through an open window. It's been a quiet day overall, nothing to be worried about. My helpdesk chimes in with a new open ticket with the category of "email". Thinking it's just the typical "can't access my mail" kind of ticket that happens around password changing season I open it up.

Instead of a nice easy "hey dickhead change your password" I'm welcomed with "Outlook froze, relaunched and now folders are missing". Well that's strange to say the least. I waltz over to the user desk since they happen to be the department over to get to the bottom of this. She promptly let's me know that all of her folders under her inbox have decided to fuck off into the sunset. A grim realization begins to form... at this point I think we have an issue with the exchange server as typically this user knows enough to be helpful.

I alert the team and we start digging in to it. We even decide to get our friendly neighborhood MSP involved as they handling monitoring and backups for our systems. Once we start digging around we realize something. This user has what can only be described as the smallest user inbox in the entire company. We're talking just shy of 15 MB. Assuming something went wrong we begin a recovery procedure via our MSP for the user. It'll take a few minutes and we'll be home free. Nope, even with multiple recoveries the user still has barely anything in her inbox. After talking to the user again we make the realization by folders in her inbox what she really meant was folders in her "Sales Inbox" .pst file. At this point I'm the dickhead who relayed the wrong information and led us astray.

Okay so we're moving in the right direction now at least. It's discovered the .pst in question happens to be corrupted. Oh and it's damn near 60 GB in size. Now that the user is near tears we begin the process to safe this bitch of a file from itself. Easy we have a VM with the required software to handle this kind of thing. Everything is set up and we leave it to chug for the weekend. I won't lie I slept god damn soundly now that I didn't have to think about it anymore. Saturday afternoon rolls around and I get an email from my supervisor who was monitoring the VM. We're at a whooping 15% over about 16 hours. Okay we'll just have to buckle up for the ride and cross our fingers. Over the course of the next few days the VM crashes multiple times. I'm starting to get worried now. Every time I walk by the user's desk she seems more and more dead inside as the relevant information of everything she's ever sold moves closer to the void.

By now the .pst has made a fine bitch of our VM and it's time to try drastic options. We throw a fresh image on a old laptop and install our recovery software. From that point it's just feeding the Goliath and hoping something good comes of this. From there the story get's a bit dry as somehow this six year old grandpa of a machine manages to whip that bad bitch into shape. A little over two weeks has passed since the initial incident and by then no one wants to look our poor broken user in the eyes. She's seen some shit and the trauma of what happened to her begins to take shape. If anything there is a moral to this story. If you forsake the CRM gods they will find you and they will fuck you like a cheap whore after the Mardi Gras celebration has left town with all your hopes and dreams.

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