Outlook freezes / locks up / crashes after opening

Last week we talked about what to do when Outlook won’t open, but what if it opens, then almost immediately locks up? If your Outlook says “not responding” when you try to open a piece of mail, it likely means you have a corrupt PST file. Luckily, Microsoft anticipated this happening, and has armed you with the tools to fix it!

Some quick background – a PST is your archive of mail – whether it’s something you archived off by choice, or it’s where your computer stores mail after it’s been downloaded from a mail server, such as Gmail, Hotmail, or a local ISP like Time Warner or Verizon. Any time you use “POP” mail with Outlook, you have a PST.

To fix a corrupt PST, you just need to locate an application that is installed along-side Microsoft Office called “ScanPST.” On a 64-bit Windows 8 computer running Microsoft Office 2010, I found the ScanPST application to be here:
C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice14

Depending on your version of office, it might be under another Office “version number” but most versions of Office, even the older ones, will include ScanPST.

When you double click the file, it generally auto-detects the file you need to scan, but you may need to browse to your data file before you click on Start. By default, Windows 7 & 8 should store the PST’s in this location:
C:UsersUSERNAMEAppDataLocalMicrosoftOutlookOutlook.pst

In Windows XP: C:Documents and SettingsUSERNAMELocal SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlookOutlook.pst

If you are in a corporate environment, the location may be different.

Once you have the proper file in place, click on “Start” in ScanPST. By default, you should allow it to make a backup, then let it run through it’s 8 phase repair process. As always, depending on the size of your PST (how much mail you have), and the speed of your computer, it can take a while. Even when it looks like it isn’t doing anything, it probably is, so just let it go for a little while. When it’s finished, you should be able to open up Outlook without any issues!

Outlook sits on "loading" screen forever!

Throughout the business world, you find Outlook to be almost ubiquitous as far as mail clients are concerned. The problem is, even though it has evolved, at it’s core, it’s the same chunk of 15 year old code that was included in Office ’97, and some might even argue the DOS versions of Outlook! You’d be hard pressed to find something different that is widely supported, but Outlook has had its growing pains. So what do you do when it’s won’t open? Here’s one tip.

SYMPTOM: Outlook sits and stays at the LOADING splash screen
(similar to what we show above, but rather than starting, it will probably say “Loading…”)

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING: It’s very likely that your “local copy” of your mailbox has become corrupt. If you use Exchange for your email, and you are in Cached Exchange Mode, it means that your computer keeps a local copy of your mail and only synchronizes the changes since it has last been opened – rather than re-downloading your entire mailbox every time you open Outlook. Somehow (we won’t go into details, suffice to say “it happens from time to time”), your local copy has become corrupted.

HOW YOU ARE GOING TO FIX IT: (this looks long, but it’s VERY simplified, I promise!)

  1. Click Start, then Control Panel (if you’re using Windows XP, click SETTINGS then Control Panel).
  2. Find or search for “Mail” and open that.
  3. Click “E-Mail Accounts” at the top.
  4. Highlight your email account and click Change, just below the row of tabs.
  5. Uncheck the box that says “Use Cached Exchange Mode.”
  6. Click Next, then Finish.
  7. Open Outlook.
  8. At this point it should open, and begin syncing mail.
  9. Close Outlook (you don’t have to wait for it to complete the sync process).
  10. Re-Enable Cached Exchange Mode by following steps 1-3 again.
  11. Click the “Data Files” tab at the top.
  12. Highlight your default mailbox (the one with the check mark to the left).
  13. Click “Open Location” below the tabs.
  14. Rename the highlighted file.
  15. Close the open folder.
  16. Click back to the Email Tab.
  17. Click the Change Button.
  18. Re-Enable Cached Exchange Mode.
  19. Click Next, then Finish.
  20. Open Outlook. Everything SHOULD be working!

This time, it should rebuild the OST from scratch – since it won’t be able to find the old OST file. Depending on how much mail you have, this process can take several hours – but it will download “Inbox” then work it’s way to other folders, and you’ll be able to send and receive new mail while it works.

Next week, we’ll talk about what to do when Outlook freezes up before you can open a single email!

Find Free Alternatives to Expensive Software!

I am a huge fan of the website AlternativeTo.net. I have been using it since they were in their infancy, I submitted several product reviews and filled in a few blanks in my time on the site. It’s a very useful site for tech geeks like myself, who might be looking for a program that is similar to something else, but might be more affordable, or have a different feature set. If you want something similar to Norton Ghost, it might suggest Clonezilla, or if you want DropBox, you might want to check out SugarSync or SkyDrive.

AlternativeTo covers all of the major platforms, from Windows, to Mac OSX, to Android, iOS, and even WebOS… you can find great suggestions if you’re looking for an app similar to another, because one doesn’t quite suit your needs. I can suggest the website enough, it’s all built up with user feedback, and I really hope it’s around for years to come.

Windows 8 & Windows Server 2012 shortcuts

Knowing your way around Windows 8 is going to be critical. Microsoft has put together a list of Common Management Tasks for Server 2012, many of which apply to Windows 8. Be careful, there are some differences – for instance, according to the article, the Start Menu in Windows Server 2012 will be located in the upper right hand corner of the screen (defying all logic). But don’t worry, classic keyboard shortcuts like pressing the Windows Key, or Control + Escape will still bring it up.

Other standards still hold true, as well, like Windows Key + E to open My Computer, and Windows Key + R will open the Run dialogue box – even if you’re at the start menu, it will drop back to classic desktop mode and open the Run prompt.

Check out the TechNet article for even more great tips.