How to import and export Outlook categories

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 6, 2007
Updated • Mar 16, 2014
Backup, Email

If you migrate to a new computer, you may want to take some data with you. If you are using Office and Outlook, you may have noticed that categories do not get migrated when you export Outlook data.

Instead of creating those categories again on the new system, you can use the following tutorial to save the category information on the old PC to import them on the new PC so that they become available once again.

Outlook categories are saved in the registry in the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Office. The Outlook version that you are using determines the rest of the path.

Please note that you cannot use the method if you are using newer versions of Office or Outlook. Skip the following part to the update below to find out how you can do so in newer Outlook versions.

Here is a quick summary of possibilities:

  • 8.0 \ Outlook \ Categories \ means Outlook 98
  • 9.0 \ Outlook \ Categories \ means Outlook 2000
  • 10.0 \ Outlook \ Categories \ means Outlook XP
  • 11.0 \ Outlook \ Categories \ means Office 2003

All you need to do is export the categories key and import it in the new computer. To export the key right-click categories and select export from the menu. Select a file name and click on save to end the export.

Load the created file on the new computer and double-click it to import the settings. This is of course only valid if you import the categories into the same version of Outlook. If you are using a different version of Outlook you need to edit the registry key before you import the categories.

Update: As readers have pointed out, this method only works up to and including Office 2003, but not in newer versions as Microsoft has stopped saving category information to the Registry at this point. One workaround for Office 2007 and later is to create a new note and add the categories that you want to backup and restore to it.

Export categories in Outlook 2007 or newer

  • Create a new note with Ctrl-Shift-n
  • Add text to it and close it afterwards.
  • Use CTrl-5 to get to your notes folder
  • Right-click and select Categorize > All Categories
  • Select all categories that you want to export
  • Use File > Save As to save the note to the computer

Import categories into Outlook 2007 or newer

  • Use Ctrl-5 to open the notes folder
  • Drag and drop the exported notes file into it
  • Switch to the mail interface with Ctrl-1
  • Right-click and select Properties
  • Select Upgrade to color categories

Tutorials & Tips

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  1. jasray said on February 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    What to do when recovery is necessary if drive is encrypted?

    Note: If you encrypt the drive, you may not make use of the recovery disc that you can create using EaseUs.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on February 11, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      You need to gain access to TrueCrypt to make available the contents. If you have another Windows machine, you can extract the backup, move it to a USB Flash drive, and restore the backup using this unencrypted version.

  2. Karl J. Gephart said on February 11, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    I assume EaseUS Todo Backup Free will allow me to create a VHD or ISO so that, after using my system bootup disk, will allow me to recover my files quickly and easily. Windows restore is so slow.

  3. GK said on February 12, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Use Encrypting File System and just copy the files. Backup your EFS key certificate.

  4. Maelish said on February 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I have great success with Crashplan. It has a feature that allows you to backup to another computer that could be on the same network or across the country. Best of all, that feature isn’t tied to the regular Crashplan subscription. So it’s a win-win for me.

  5. Noel said on February 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Martin, this is a great tip. I use it quite often, but lately I am looking into softwares that would offer me one click back up of certain folders on my HDD, but copy as it is, instead of XML or other format.

    I used a program in the past that backed up everything ‘nicely’ in XML format and when it was time to restore, I could not restore a single file, since then I am using Syncback to back up files ‘as is’, but clicking 10 different profiles is pain, one click would be better, any suggestion?

    FBackup offers such option but for only one time back up. For incremental back ups, you got to pay up.

  6. Norman said on February 27, 2014 at 10:02 am

    There is this other solution too. It gets things dne quicker. Just pointing it out. Its called Rollback Rx. Naturally its useful only when the underlying hardware is healthy. Say incase you were infected by a virus or were caught unaware because a file was accidently deleted. Rollback offers 256 bit AES which is really all you need unless ofcourse a fanatic terrorist is after your data. Periodic physical backup are just as necessary.

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