Importing your PST files to Apple Mail

Now, one of the things I always struggled with was, after I left a project is that I would be stuck with a DVD or memory with a big Microsoft Outlook PST file on it. It usually held some useful emails, how-to’s or documentation I produced during the project, so it could be useful after a while.

Now there are a few tools on the market, however they all assume you have full access on the PC at your workplace. As my main customers have a very ‘security aware’ desktop environment, none of these tools really appealed to me. Nonetheless, tools like Littlemachines’ O2M are very useful. They convert your Outlook Inbox (and other folders) to the Apple mbox format.

In my case, all I could do was export the mail to a file, in my case PST. Let me get to the point. In order to import these emails into Apple Mail, I found an open source project that releases regular updates on a utility called libpst. The libpst utility has some functionality to convert, list and diff mailbox formats. The thing I was after was obviously the converter.

Now what do you need to do to get this working?

1. Start the Terminal application (

You can find it under Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal.

2. Check your C compiler.

In order to use libpst, we will need gcc (or any other c compiler that can do the job).

From the Terminal you just started at step 1, type the following command:

macbook $ which gcc

It should return /usr/bin/gcc or another path where gcc is installed. If so, proceed with step 3.

If there is no response, that means gcc needs to be installed. Insert the Snow Leopard CD.

Enter the “Optional Installs” folder. Run Xcode.mpkg. This should install gcc. Once the install is complete check again by running the command “which gcc” at the command prompt.

If you do not have the Snow Leopard CD at this point, you can download the Xcode suite from Apple’s website.

3. Get the software

Now that we are ready, you will need to download the source package from the 510 Software Group website. The packages can be downloaded from:

I downloaded libpst-0.6.45.tar.gz which was the latest version. Once downloaded, it should automatically unzip in the folder you downloaded it into. Remember this directory path for later.

4. Some additional steps

Depending on how active you are on compiling software, you may be able to skip the following. If not, please proceed below.

In order to install libpst you also need to install “boost”. You can download boost from:

In the Terminal that was opened up under step 1, type the following.

macbook $ sudo su –

You will be prompted for a password. Provide the login password, that you enter when you access your Mac. You will need a root account setup. If you encounter problems at this stage, either contact me, or google for the steps to activate the root account. Now let’s continue:

root # cd /usr/local/

Unpack the boost package. The ‘<xxx>’ in the example below represents the version number for boost, in my case this was ‘1_41_0’.

root # tar –bzip2 -xf /your/download/directory/boost_<xxx>.tar.bz2

Once that is complete you will see a directory now under /usr/local/ called boost_<xxx>.

root # cd /usr/local/boost_<xxx>

Run the following command. This will take a few mins to run.

root # ./ –prefix=/usr/local/

Once that is done at the command prompt type

root # ./bjam install

This will take a while to run – 15 to 30 mins. Get a cup of coffee.

5. Compile the software

First we need to go back to the directory to which we downloaded (and unzipped) our libpst.

root # cd /path/to/download/directory/libpst-0.6.45

Run the following commands (some of them will create some funky output, make sure everything run without any errors):

root # ./configure

root # make

root # make install

6. Great you did it! Start the conversion

You should find libpst, readpst and pst2ldif under the /usr/local/bin directory.

To use the utility, run the command at the command prompt in the directory you want the mbox file created (for example /Users/<yourname>/Mail):

root # cd /Users/<yourname>/Mail

root # readpst -r /path/to/the/pst/file/<your>.pst

7. Using the new mailbox file

From Apple Mail, you can use the Import Mailboxes function from the File Menu. When prompted for the file format to import from, choose “Files in mbox format” and click next.

You will then be able to user your mbox file created under step 6. This will result in a new folder in the left menu pane in Apple Mail, which usually is labeled IMPORT.

In case of any question, put a comment below or contact me directly! Credits to akaran at HOWTOGEEK, who posted most of this info there.


Filed under English, Mac

45 responses to “Importing your PST files to Apple Mail

  1. Dominique Trine

    if you have access on the PC that has access to the pst files, there is an easier way to do. Assuming you use Outlook as the mail client, you download and install “messagesave” from You select “export to apple mail” of your PST files as well as your mailboxes, and this generates accurate mbox format that you can easily import on your mac.

    This works in the same manner for both calendar and contacts.

    I did this last week-end for my personal mailbox (15.000 messages) and the whole process was done in less than an hour.

    With kind regards,

    • Davy

      Dominique. Appreciate your post. I think my main reason for posting this, is that I have access to my PC to export outlook pst files, but nothing more than that. There are a number of tools on the market to export the pst files to the apple mbox format, but they all assume that you have ‘admin permissions’ on your local desktop. So I cannot install any additional software on my work PC. So the messagesave tool is great, but is an executable that I will need to put somewhere on my desktop PC, which puts me back to where I started from :-).

  2. Joachim Eilers

    Thanks a lot for this guide on importing pst. It worked perfectly! Someone said that there was a problem with attachments not coming over. This has obviously been fixed in version 0.6.49 of libpst, because now everything looks fine.
    Thanks again:-)
    Kind regards

  3. Symphony

    Great post, thanks! It worked 100% first time!

  4. Tracy Creek

    You describe my situation exactly. I have a PST with my entire 9-year career in it… very large, probably dumb to let that happen, but I am unable to obtain admin rights to use an easier tool. Your instructions above are entirely Greek to me, I may be emailing you for guidance in the next few days!

    • Davy

      Tracy, I am able to help you if you have access to for instance TeamViewer. Then I can take over your computer via the web. Have a look at it first and then decide. I can then take you through some of the steps I have described above.

      As long as you are able to create the PST files you should be fine :-)

  5. Christine

    This is the best article and how to, ever. Wow! I just completed it and I now have access to years worth of emails I thought I’d never see again. THANK YOU!!!

  6. happy boy

    Excellent article, works flawlessly. One note is that all imported messages now have one attachment added that is a text file of the message body. Not sure if this is to be expected but is not really an issue.
    Many thanks
    happy boy

  7. Omar Castellanos

    Very useful article. If your case is like mine, importing a smaller size or structured Inbox file, u can try another way and also worked. Downloaded Mail Monkey (0.99 usd) export de .pst file to a folder on you Mac.
    U can access the inbox and open the mails by this time. Its more comfortable though importing this folder from the Mail App, it would create a folder named “imported” under “on my mac” section, then just transfer the mails to the desire folder.

  8. Matt McCarty

    Looks like my computer us unpacking boost and lipst files by itself, how does this change the code, it must!

  9. Et all,
    A very nice tool, thank you. A heads up to Windows “point & click” types, it does require some command prompt skills. I successfully used this procedure to transfer my wife’s large (300K) Outlook 2010 pst file to her new MAC OSx 10.6.8 machine. My feedback on this procedure is.
    1) for MAC OSx 10.6.8 you have do step 4. “some additional steps”
    2) I could not sudo logon as root, so I had to logon directly as root then execute the commands.

    I did try Dominique’s suggestion of “messagesave” from It also works to dump all eth pst stored msg’s as individual .msg files and associated folders. But note its free trail version only allows you to transfer up to 50 msgs.

    Thank you to all in figuring this out and sharing it. From my long experience in migrating corporate Microsoft Exchange/Outlook users, Microsoft makes it very hard to interconnect with non-Microsoft mail apps and/or migrate from MS mail products.

    Final note – don’t forget to disable the root account after you are done, since having an enabled root account is a VERY BIG security risk.

    • Clay

      I tried this some time ago and wasn’t able to complete it. Now I possibly have a root account open which is a large security risk?? Not so Great : (


  10. great tutorial, if having multiple pst files, may do script below:
    LIST=`ls *.pst`
    for i in $LIST
    readpst -r $i;

    save it as and chmod 777…

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  12. wrpblog

    Thanks very much for your post. It appears to have worked pretty well for me. When it ran, it reported some items skipped. Out of over 12,000 emails, there were less than 100. I also noticed several converted emails in Kanji or the Chinese character set. They’re all from my cousin, who lives in Germany. He sent them in English, but his computer language may be set to German.

    On Step 4, it took some real close scrutiny to realize it was tar –bzip2 was two dashes and not one. You might mention that in the instructions. Of course anyone willing to try this would be able to figure it out.

  13. Excellent post! :-)
    I use homebrew so managed to install reaspst with as simpleas “brew install readpst” command.
    But readpst installed was at version 0.6.49 which was throwing “Segmentation fault: 11”. May be because my .pst file was around 700Mb.
    After going through this – I managed to install (build) recent version of readpst (0.6.54 as of now) which got the job done! ;-)

    In my case, I have access to my colleagues Windows Laptop, whose .pst file I am importing. But I hate windows so much that I spent an hour “geeking” around on Mac rather than touching “Windows”! :D

  14. Samrat

    Thanks. Great Post.

    For some of the pst files, after successfully converting these to mbox files and importing the same in Mail – UNABLE to see the messages. Blank screen appears when a message is opened.

    Help appreciated

  15. Thanks for these instructions – they worked perfectly for me.

  16. Jana Seibt

    Absolutely fantastic guide, so no need to dig out the old PC and re-start everything on there. Such a timesaver really! Now I might even be able to import my old, private .pst too …

  17. Pingback: Z Microsoft Windows na Apple MacBook | Stanislav Valášek

  18. Jay

    This is the best How To I have read in a very very very long time. Great Job!

    I am faced with an issue, unrelated to the steps… I don’t see a local directory under use in the root. Have a MacBk Pro (2012 ed)

  19. John

    Thanks… worked great but I didn’t like having an ‘mbox’ file within each folder. I ran the following command prior to import to restructure and rename the dedicated mbox files to the lower directory’s name w/mbox extension. This keeps the folder structure the same as outlook:

    find /path/to/mbox/top/level/directory/ -name mbox -type f | xargs -I{} echo ‘”{}” “{}”‘ | sed -e ‘s/\/mbox”$/\.mbox”/’ | xargs -L 1 mv

  20. Timo Verbrugghe

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!! You’re really being a life saver here ;)

  21. hello

    thanks so much!

  22. Thank very much. One Tip, if you do not want to compile the mentioned packages by hand, use homebrew it will download and install all needed packages: $ brew install libpst

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