Most of the technicians that work in the corporate business will have no need for this article, as I’m sure you’re all using Exchange for email connectivity. This article is specifically meant to target people who (still) use POP/IMAP to retrieve their emails in Outlook.

                One of the worst jobs to do as an IT Consultant is to setup and configure a brand new computer, and even worse is when this computer is for a really small business where they have no server controlling emails or file access, and everything is stored on their personal computers. The users themselves are extremely picky with the way everything is setup and configured.

                As a newly hired IT Consultant for just such a company, I hadn’t yet got the chance to switch them over to full server use for email and file backup, safety and reliability. The CEO of the company had gotten a new laptop and required everything to be moved over as quickly as possible.

                Anyone familiar with Outlook and POP accounts is familiar with the dreaded export to pst, import from pst process which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending on the size of this PST. With only 2 hours until the CEO would be at my office, and an image based snapshot of the original laptop I knew that I was in for some fun.

                What I’m going to describe here is the fastest method I know of to transfer Outlook settings and emails over from one machine to the other. This includes the entire profile, customized settings, categories, email server settings. The only thing it doesn’t include is the server password which you just have the user enter in right when they get the machine. No more waiting for the mail to update from the server or for the PST to finish importing – it’s literally instantaneous. The best part – it works across Outlook platforms. I later performed a similar procedure across two machines, one using Windows 2000 Professional and Outlook 2000 and the other using Outlook 2010 on Windows 7 Home.

                First thing you’re going to want to do obviously is copy across all the users data, this includes the outlook files (making sure outlook is off when you’re copying them obviously –in my case since I was doing it from a snapshot taken while Windows was offline it’s not an issue) to the proper locations. With a fast enough network, or an Internal/USB HDD Adaptor it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes even if you’re transferring 100 GB.

                Now here comes the special part, you need to extract the profile settings from the registry. If you’re doing this from an offline disk, that’s not a big deal just mount the users NTUSER.DAT file as a registry hive, and substitute that hive for the HKCU hive that I’m going to use. If you’re on the machine with windows running, and logged into the user you want to transfer, go to:

HKCU\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem

                This Registry key, is where Outlook stores its settings. Export the key and save it somewhere accessible like a flash drive or the desktop. If you’re exporting this key while accessing it from anywhere other than HKCU (like a loaded offline NTUSER.DAT file or through another account going to HKU\UserSID) then you’re going to need to edit the exported file.

                Open the exported file in notepad (right click and choose edit) and take note of the branch listed. You want to remove everything from the beginning of [ until it says Software and instead put in the text [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ yes, that’s a lot of changes to make –but a quick Edit > Replace and 2 copy and pastes later then it’s done. Move the exported .reg file over to the new computer, and double click on it to merge it with your current Registry. If you had any Outlook settings before on this user account they will be overwritten.

                The final piece is simple, the profile is still expecting the old path, so if for some reason the location of the outlook data files ‘moved’ (your drive later changed or something like that) then when you open Outlook the first time it’ll ask you to find the missing data file. Point Outlook to the missing files, and restart outlook when it’s not busy doing anything. Outlook is now running with the same settings and all the old data and customizations.

                Please note for advanced users – the location of the Outlook profiles has changed as of Windows 8 / Office 2013 for some reason, (props to MS for keeping us on our toes) and is now under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15\Outlook\Profiles if you look closer on the earlier versions, under Windows Messaging Subsystem there is a Profiles key there too. You can export just that, make the edits necessary and import them without any issues.