Outlook 2010 Not Responding

Posted: July 14, 2010 in Exchange 2007, Office 2010, Outlook 2010, Windows 7

Yes, I know.  This is not really a SBS issue, but since I have run into this problem myself, I discovered that an awful lot of users are having similar symptoms.  And because I solved it, I thought it was worth a share with my readers.

Background on the Issue

First, here are the symptoms.  You have installed Outlook 2010.  Everything seems OK, but then all of a sudden, clicking on a folder or message, or during a send/receive, the little blue circle of death starts and never stops.  You try and end Outlook with Task Manager, but it hangs around for five minutes or more. You just live with it, but soon even Task Manager can’t kill the beast.  If you start Outlook again and look in Task Manager, you will see two copies of Outlook running.  The newer one will have a small memory allocation, and the splash screen will continue to read Loading Profile.

In my case, it got even worse.  Trying to end Outlook eventually produced a message box that said, essentially, cannot end task access denied. What’s worse. re-starting the OS proved to be a problem as well.  It simply refused to get past logging off.

Let me start the discussion about fixing this with a bit about the ecosystem in which I was running.

  • SBS 2008, Exchange 2007 but SP2 applied
  • Client Machine Windows 7 Ultimate
  • Office 2010 Pro Plus installed

I kissed a lot of frogs on the way to finding the prince that fixed this, but I caution you that some of the things that didn’t work for me may in fact be the culprit for your system.  I’ll review those for you at the end of this post.

What Didn’t Work

The standard things to do include the following:

  • Your profile may be corrupted.  Try deleting the profile and creating one that is brand new.  Control Panel -> Mail will let you manage the profiles.
  • Run Outlook in Safe Mode. (Hold the Ctrl key down when you click on Outlook from the Start menu).  If it works fine in safe mode, the culprit is likely an add-in.
  • Completely remove Office (including traces of previous versions) by using the utility at Microsoft Assistance and choosing the Office version you have.  Re-install Office.
  • It might be another program you have installed.  Good luck with that…

What Did Work

You can correctly assume that I hacked at those methods and more, and did so multiple times.  I was just facing up to preparing my system for a farewell, wiping the drives and re-installing when I tried a new approach.  In order to understand what I did, you need to know a little more about my Outlook profile.

I had two mail accounts set up.  One was my Exchange email account, and the second was an IMAP account pointing to the Exchange email account but with a different email address.  I do this because I want to be able to send email from two different accounts, but all goes into the same place (wish this were directly supported by MSFT, but I understand the possible security issues).  Additionally, I have several other Exchange email accounts for other users open, and lastly a few .pst files of archived data and miscellaneous information.

I seemed to be having security and permissions problems about the same time as the not responding problem surfaced, but I had only a vague sense of this, nothing hard core I could spot.  For example, I would get some weird certificate errors but I know that my server certificates were just great because I re-keyed and re-installed them.  As well, no other users were having that issue.  I would also randomly get a message that my .pst folders were not reachable, although I could easily browse to them.

After exhausting the uninstall/re-install scenario a few times, here is what I did:

  1. With Outlook not running, I used Control Panel->Mail to delete my profile and created a new one.
  2. The only thing I put in the profile was the Exchange account.  I started Outlook and all was well.  Left it that way for several hours with no problem (not responding had started to happen within 5 minutes).
  3. Then I changed the properties of the Exchange account to open other emails, one at a time.  Still, no problems.
  4. I added the IMAP account.  No problems whatsoever.  That included all of the certificate errors.
  5. I added one of the .pst data files.  And sure enough, about ten minutes later, Outlook stopped responding.
  6. I rebooted, then removed the data file from my profile.  I then copied the two .pst files I use from a shared network location to local storage.
  7. I opened Outlook again, then opened one of the .pst files from the FILE tab.  I right-clicked on the data folder in the left hand navigation tree, chose data file properties and then clicked on the advanced button. When the next box opened I clicked on Compact Now and waited for a bit while it did its thing.
  8. Then I waited.  No problems arose.  I then did step 7 for the second .pst file.

I can report that not only has the not responding problem gone away, but so have the security-like issues.   What’s more, Outlook “seems” to run much smoother and faster.  It has become great to use again pulling me back from absolute dread at clicking on something and seeing it not work.

My Analysis

The most important take-away from all of this is that a step-by-step, elimination method yields the best results.  Along the way, I actually tried this by using Safe Mode, or starting Windows with start-up processes disable and by killing other tasks to see if they would allow Outlook to end.  None gave me any results, so I then shifted to the uninstall and reinstall scenarios.

When that didn’t work, I was down to two basic choices: something with the setup (read profile) for Outlook, or some other system setting (think registry or .dll for example) caused by another program being installed, not in the right order, etc.  For most of us the latter problems would be best addressed with reinstalling the OS and exercising care about what programs to add back in.

Hating the idea of the latter, I decided to attack the profile in the serial fashion I described to you.  And it worked.  I suspect that something in the .pst files was causing an issue, although it could be something about their characteristics change when I copied them.  To verify this, I am going to return them to their former network share location and see if everything still works OK.  I will post and let you know.

Could it be that the whole issue was just the .pst files?  I am going to vote yes on that for one reason:  the symptoms became progressively worse.  The first few times it happened, it was over a period of several days, and no other pop-up warnings.  It progressed to happen within 5 minutes or so.  During that time, the .pst files were changed by moving more email into them.

I went back to the forums where I found many users reporting this problem.  It hit me like a ton of bits: every single one I reviewed were using .pst files.  Maybe there is more, but this seems a good place to start.

If you are having similar symptoms, I suggest you start with compacting your .pst files.  If that alone doesn’t work, just for grins, copy them to a new location.  I assume that will do nothing, so the next step would be to delete your profile and create a brand new one.  Only then would I do the uninstall/reinstall.  And also for grins, at each one of these steps, do the .pst file compacting.

And let me know:  “How’s that not responding thing workin’ out for ya?”

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Comments
  1. Digby says:

    First of all, thank you for the well thought out document. I think you’ve help lead me to the correct solution for myself.

    I’ve been experiencing similar problems with Win7 Ultimate x64, Office Pro Plus x64 and SBS 2008.

    Same symptoms: Outlook working fine, but after a bit I get the blue circle of death, eventually resulting in Outlook crashing, BUT it stays in the task process list and I am unable to terminate the process (“Access denied”). Furthermore, after this happens I am unable to restart the computer normally; I have to hard reset. If I attempt at some point to re-open Outlook, all I get is “Loading profile” indefinately. Left it overnight at one point to see if time was a factor, but no.

    What I _think_ it is at this point is me opening up PST files from a server share. I keep each years’ worth of Outlook in separate PST files, and often have to look to the past for some email/calendar item. If I open the PST, get the info AND CLOSE the PST, all seems fine. However if I leave it open for any length of time this problem begins. At first it may be an hour or more before it crashes, but thereafter eventually I might not even be able to open a single mail message from my inbox before it crashes.

    Several weeks ago out of frustration I completely wiped my system, started with a fresh install, fresh Office install, and basic utilities/applications. Sure enough the problem started happening again. Ugh.

    All I can say at this point is, restarting, going into the Control Panel => Mail applet and removing the PST file/files from the profile will allow me to go back into Outlook and remain there as normal.

    Next step is to:
    a) see if disabling offline caching on that server share makes any difference
    b) try copying one or more of the PSTs locally, then opening them and leave them open
    c) disable the Indexing service on those archive folders

    I will try and remember to post my results after I fiddle with the above a little bit.

  2. You may just need to repair your .pst file. It could be corrupted. Hopefully, those all will help.

    Keep us posted.

  3. Z says:

    Moving pst files from network to a local drive resolves the problem.

  4. lalachen says:

    Thanks for your sharing and welcome to check:here
    @_@

  5. tom says:

    As a footnote I have had users that experience the same issues as you described. I have successfully solved the issue in all cases by doing the following:

    1. Force the PC/Laptop to shutdown.
    2. Resolve all Sync issues with the PC/Laptop and SBS – in each case there were .tmp files assosiated with Outlook – delete in all locations.
    3. Close any archive.pst or other .psts that are stored in the users document location on SBS
    4. Start Outlook

  6. Thanks for the additional information, Tom. As all of us are painfully aware, nailing each and every causal event is often not an easy task. Knowing how to dig deeper, and harder, is a good thing for us all. Cheers.

  7. Keith W says:

    Interestingly, I had exactly the same problems after starting to use AutoArchiving. Unfortunately in my case I also installed plug-ins like Xobni, Ring2 Conferencing, SameTime integration and the like and suspected one of the add-ins. I had resorted to running in Safe Mode.

    Now, after reading this, seeing the PST on the network being an issue, I’ve moved it off my ‘home directory’ (where it was being backed up) to my local PC. Guess I’ll need to back it up locally! Cheers!

  8. Glad to have helped. I have heard of other potential fixes, but I have not verified them, and this one is so easy.

  9. linra says:

    Removing a rogue pst file that was in my docs, redirected to a network drive worked for me. Was able to copy it to local drive and reconnect to outlook and working fine. Thanks for pointing in the right direction.

  10. Deb lambourn says:

    Thank you. I upgraded several users this weekend and had this issue with a few users (plus our network location to their archive turned flakey).

    This appears to have done the trick.

    Thank you.

  11. Eoin says:

    TOP MAN! I had copied my PST file from my old installation and then installed SBS2008 with outlook 2010. I noted the similar issues to the one you are having but I don’t have exchange emails set up (yet), although it is installed on SBS2008. I’m using my old pop3 emails at the moment.

    Anyway, my first thought was this has got to be a problem with reading a PST from a server. Having googled it and found this I am going to absolutely try moving the pst to a new place on my local HDD.

    Further to replies above, I have tried repairing the PST. That allowed Outlook to open the PST so that was an improvement. It is however, still not able to send/receive. Hence useless. I have no addons installed at present.

  12. Jeffrey, Upstate NY says:

    I want to add one quirk to the analysis:

    I have two systems (one Windows 7 x32,one Windows 7 x64) that I use for accessing my PST file(stored on the network) with Outlook 2010.

    The x64 machine works perfectly; no issues (although I have only used Outlook a few times). The x32 machine causes all of the aforementioned problems.

    The folder I store the pst in is set up as DFS share. If I copy the PST to a local drive, Outlook 2010 on the x32 system is fine. If I copy the PST to a different shared folder on the network (no DFS replication), it also seems to work fine.

    I noticed in procmon when Outlook hangs, it continually creates and exits empty threads, with no other activity, other than monopolizing the processor.

    Since the x32 system is an notebook computer with less memory (2GB vs 3GB) and a less powerful processor (1.73GHz mobile Pentium 4 vs 3GHz dual core desktop processor) than the desktop x64 system, I wonder if that has something to do with it as well.

    I also wonder if Outlook 2010 is more sensitive to path length as well, since the path to the working folder with the x32 system is shorter.

    My next test will be to create a new pst file and import all of my messages to that new file.

  13. Jeffry

    Nice insights in your comments. It appears to be a complex scenario why .pst files not on the local drive are an issue in the first place. Thanks for your efforts,and please keep us posted.

  14. Jeffrey, Upstate NY says:

    It appears to be definitely linked to offline files. The PST file in the original folder was configured for offline file caching (so I could take my PST file with me when I travel). I never had a problem with Outlook 2003 in that scenario (except the first authentication with the mail server always failed, so I had to click send/receive to receive any new mail immediately)

    I moved my pst file to a different share on my server (where I had not enabled the file for offline use), and it worked perfectly. I shutdown Outlook and enabled the file for offline use, and it locked up.

    I turned off the file for offline use, but the folder was still cached on the local system (when I examined the offline file store), and it still did not work.

    I completely turned off Offline files on the system, rebooted, and used the original PST file in the original folder on the network this morning, and again, it is working fine.

    So here is my summary of the issue:

    It is not affected byuse of DFS.

    It will not work with a redirected My Documents folder if offline files is enabled on the PC (because a redirected My Documents folder is automatically cached for offline use if offline folders is enabled, and it cannot be disabled, from what I have found).

    It will not work if the PST file is cached for offline use OR if the file was ever cached for offline use (unless the cache of the folder itself is cleared by disabling offline file use entirely).

    I will re-enable offline file caching on my computer, but not caching the PST file or folder. That should allow me to cache most of the files, and I will have to manually copy my PST file when I travel. Note that I did not test Outlook 2010 when using the local cache copy of the PST file. There is a way to configure a system to always use the cached copies of files (even when online), but that did not see to be a good solution for me). If I run into any issues with Outlook 2010 after re-enabling offline files, I will let you know.

    Thank you for having this blog entry here; it helped me focus on what the likely cause of the issue is.

  15. this is excellent detective work. It sorta makes sense that Outlook might gag on a cached file, doesn’t it? No? Well, I was trying to let Microsoft off the hook. Thanks for contributing.

  16. Jeffrey, Upstate NY says:

    No, it makes no sense to me either! I did re-enable offline files, and it is still working. I did not (and probably will not, because I would have to rebuild the file cache again) make the file available offline.

    Given that many businesses use Outlook, POP Mail and redirected My Document folders, and given that Microsoft puts new Outlook message stores in the My Documents folder by default, I am surprised first that Microsoft has not yet supported PST files on network drives, and second, that they allowed Outlook 2010 to behave so badly when the folder itself (but not the PST file) is cached on the system.

    Judging by all the postings I have reviewed in the last few days on offline files, Microsoft has in some ways improved offline files since XP, but in other ways (i.e., no way to clear specific folders stored in the cache) still has much work to do on improving offline files.

    I hope Microsoft does something better with Windows 8, given its emphasis on mobility and “on the go” applications.

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  18. I am glad to have been of help to you. And thank you for the compliments. I am constantly frustrated to read the forums at MSFT, for example, when people post with obscure descriptions of what to do. I try to remember tjhat my readers actully might need a thorough set of step by step instructions. My guide has always beeen, “Would I be able to do this the first time reading what I wrote?” Even then, I might want to add more explanation.

    I hope you will continue to follow and that I won’t disappoint.

  19. Jim Leslie says:

    I’ve run across another possibility that causes MS Outlook 2010 to exhibit the same “circle of death” issues. I was thinking that I had a corrupt .pst file so I ran scanpst.exe. It turned out that my .pst files were in good shape so that wasn’t the problem. My Outlook 2010 program files weren’t corrupt either. In my case, the Outlook issues were caused by my .pst files simply being too large. Once Outlook 2010 was enabled to import larger files with a two line registry fix all my Outlook file problems went away. Here’s the link: http://www.msoutlook.info/question/99

    This fix applies ONLY to UNICODE pst files! I hope this post will save some users a lot of frustration. Good luck!

    Jim

  20. Very happy you posted some additional information. Good facts are most useful.

    Interestingly, I stumbled across this very scenario last week. Only it was a user who suddenly got a warnign that his Outlook mailbox was full and he could no longer send or receive email. It was a bit strange because his Exchange mailbox was 8GB (no Exchange limit set) and the local computer file was .ost, not .pst. He scrapped by because he was able to clean out deleted files.

    It has been on my list to fully investigate, but more urgent crisises have kept me from doing so. I’ll follow up and post what I find.

  21. pst recovery says:

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I
    stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always interesting to read through articles from other authors and use a little something from their websites.

  22. glad you stumbled upon mine and thanks for the kind words.

  23. Jim Kahle says:

    Outstanding Larry!! So simple…yet so effective! Compacted the PST and viola! No more problems… My wife was beginning to lose faith in my IT abilities. Thanks for helping me save face!

    You are DA MAN!!!

  24. Kyle says:

    Thank you so much for your detailed post Larry!
    I was running into this issue on a couple systems that are joined to an SBS 2008 domain and using Outlook 2010 with Win 7 Pro X64… sure enough, auto-archiving was enabled, and saving to an archive file in the user’s My Documents folder (who’s bright idea was it to have files stored there instead of in the appdata\ folders)?

    anyway, I moved the archive .pst to their local C drive, and shazam! outlook is great again!

    Offline files are enabled on these laptops…

    thanks!

  25. Always happy to hear of my blog being of practical use. Thanks for the kind words.

  26. Zoosk says:

    Cumpli 37 años y mi nombre es Isabell Brownell. Vivo en Bargrennan (Great Britain).

  27. Isabell thanks for the comment. Hope I understood it well enough.

  28. andrew says:

    Thanks for the info. This seems to be a well-known issue now reaching back many years, and yet there still is no fix from Microsoft? It’s unbelievable that this wasn’t spotted and corrected before it was shipped
    Unfortunately the fix is at best a work-around, but does nothing to address users in a company with roaming profiles. If I start moving PST files to local machines, peoples archives and other PST folders will be all over the place spread amongst many different computers, undoubtedly resulting in lost data. There has to be a better way (or a fix that I haven’t come across yet?). Maybe it’s my fault for buying retail and OEM licenses instead of Open Licenses which allow network installation points and perhaps resolves this issue with MST settings files. Has anyone been able to test that?

  29. I have not tested this with Outlook 2013 as I no longer use .pst files, but it is food for thought and I will make note of it.

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