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What’s your plan for PST files on Windows 11?

Nov 4, 2021 by Mike Weaver

An IT admin ponders his plan for PST files and Windows 11

It’s time for another Microsoft OS upgrade cycle! Like many of you, I’ve been playing with all the new features and getting used to where things are again.  

A few weeks ago, we got our first client looking at Windows 11 upgrade projects. Just like the cyclical world of fashion, IT trends from long ago are back in demand once more. In this case, data centralization is returning as a major focus for organizations planning a Windows 11 upgrade 

For many enterprises, this means PST files will not be part of their Windows 11 strategy. As a result, remediating PST files has become a pre-requisite for Windows 11 upgrades. 

What’s changing?

It wouldn’t be accurate to state that PSTs are not compatible with Windows 11. However, as organizations roll out Windows 11, many will be all-in on ensuring these devices do not have local data outside of various caches. In the Microsoft space, we have been trying to get to all-cloud storage for some time. User files going into OneDrive for Business is the main cloud storage plan. When done correctly, data is stored safely and securely in the cloud with the workstation just having a cached copy. However, PST files do not perform well with OneDrive. These storage challenges come down to the significant issue of portability, or more simply, the major sync and backup issues these annoying database files present.  

PST files and syncing 

PST files are little (or not so little) database files. For years they gave us a location to store old emails or gave us a secret hiding place when our mailbox reached capacity. However, now they are a data nightmare. They can be a significant compliance risk, and they do not backup and sync well. Because a PST file is an entire database, one tiny change – like dragging that ultra-important chili recipe from Sam – requires an entire resync of the file. That recipe might be 20KB, but the whole 20GB file now has to resync. Most people close Outlook and shut down at the end of the day. This broken process could happen daily, with the file struggling to get backed up. That file may never fully sync! When a core part of most Windows 11 upgrade projects is likely to remove backups, this is a big blocker.  

With the lack of portability of PST files, they do not work well in cloud storage technologies. Again, PST files and data centralization just do not work. Furthermore, despite this being a common practice, PST files are not designed to be stored and accessed on network shares.     

With COVID-19, we have had a rapid shift to the majority of employees working outside the office. This situation is not going to change. Combining these realities with the data centralization plans for Windows 11, PST files will not be compatible with most organizations’ data strategy for Windows 11.  The same can be said of Windows 365.  

Removing workstation backups 

When all data is in Office 365 and other cloud systems, workstation backups are just not needed anymore. However, we have to ensure all data is syncing correctly to do this.

Workstation backups are a significant expense,  require a sizeable license investment, and in most cases, a significant hardware investment. Furthermore, it needs staff to set it up, maintain the system, and chase issues with backups. Any good backup plan needs a recovery plan. If an organization isn’t actively testing their recovery plan, they do not have a backup system.   


Another challenge with workstation backups is Virtual Private Network (VPN) system capacity. VPN connections are being tasked with Hybrid working. Workstation backups often run over VPNs, causing additional load and expense. Worse, if not deployed correctly, it can impact these critical connections and hamper VoIP traffic. When configured correctly, there needs to be enough background capacity, or the backups will not be complete. Many organizations struggle to ensure there is enough capacity during peak times. 

With split tunnel VPN being the recommended approach for connecting to Office 365, this can help reduce the capacity. The outcome can be extending the life of existing VPN systems or avoiding further costs. 

Safeguarding and upgrading your data

Mail inside PST files deserves to be protected. Protected means being protected from data loss and bad actors. Email within PST files is often critical to business operations and needs to be retained. For organizations that have been fighting this, we all knew this day would come. Kicking the can down the road just isn’t going to be an option to be complacent in the alphabet soup of regulation. Data is safest in Exchange Online with all the rest of the user’s email.   

An additional issue is that PST passwords provide no encryption at all. A password-protected PST file is password-protected because the header file says it is. The actual data is not encrypted, and there are several easy processes to bypass the password. If a PST file is lost – password-protected or not – it is exposed and should be considered breached. 

PST Flight Deck 

Quadrotech PST Flight Deck by Quest remains the industry leader in PST file migrations. With a proven enterprise track-record, PST Flight Deck is the trusted solution that ‘thought of everything’. With enhanced support for global remote working, we can help centralize local and network PSTs. We will then process them to remove passwords, clear Outlook profiles, handle network disconnects, bandwidth control, filter, de-duplicate, and fix corruption to industry standard. 

Simply put, if you have a Windows 11 project and you have PST files, it’s time to call in the PST migration experts. Together, we can help make the world a better place and eradicate PSTs from the planet! Book a Discovery Call to learn more today.