Starting Outlook in Safe Mode from the Start Menu in Windows 7

Is Outlook up-to-date?

Just to make sure you are not trying to troubleshoot an issue which has already been solved, make sure that before you begin you have installed all updates for your version of Outlook. For instance, Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 have known compatibility issues with Windows 7 which can be fixed by installing their latest Service Packs

Solution:
Use Microsoft Update to install the latest updates for both Windows and Office. Make sure that you have Microsoft Update configured to also check for Office updates.

Did it ever work?

Did Outlook still work correctly the last time you used it? If so, you probably can skip this solution. If it never worked before or if you are starting Outlook for the very first time, it could very well be that you have not configured your mail account correctly. A common mistake is choosing for an Exchange account while in fact you are using a POP3, IMAP of Live Hotmail account.

Solution:
At this point, it is often easiest to recreate your mail profile via the Mail applet in Control Panel. When recreating the mail profile, make sure you’re using the correct server settings provided by your ISP or corporate email administrator. An overview of the settings from some of the largest free email account providers can be found here.

Does Outlook still work for other users on the computer?

If you share this computer with another user, you can ask this other user to logon and ask to verify if Outlook is still working for him or her. If you are the only user of this computer, then you could also add another user to Windows just for testing purposes via the User Accounts applet in Control Panel.

Solution:
If it doesn’t work for another user on the computer either, then the issue is most likely caused by a faulty add-in or a damaged Outlook/Office installation.
If it works for another user on the computer or you have no way to check this, continue to the next step in this guide.


Safe Mode

If Outlook worked correctly the last time and nothing has changed about your account configuration, then checking if things work correctly in Safe Mode is a good first step. Starting Outlook in Safe Mode will prevent some or all add-ins from being loaded, prevents several settings files from being loaded and turns off the Reading Pane.

To start Outlook in Safe Mode you’ll need to start Outlook with the “safe” switch;

  • Windows XP

Start-> Run; outlook.exe /safe

  • Windows Vista and Windows 7

Start-> type; outlook.exe /safe

When typing, please note the space between outlook.exe and /safe.
For alternative methods of starting Outlook in Safe Mode see this Quick Tip.

Starting Outlook in Safe Mode from the Start Menu in Windows 7

Solution:
If it works in Outlook Safe Mode, the issue is most likely caused by an add-in, a corrupted settings file or the first message that is being displayed when Outlook is started. See the next 3 troubleshooting steps below for further analysis of the issue. If it doesn’t work in Safe Mode either, the next 3 steps will probably not help you either to solve it and you can continue with scanning your pst-file for errors.

Reset dat-files

If you are using Outlook 2007 or previous, Outlook stores several settings in dat-files which get loaded upon startup. These files sometimes get corrupted and renaming them to .old could get you back into Outlook then. Outlook 2010 does no longer use these files so if you are using Outlook 2010, you can skip this step.

Solution:
Reset extend.dat and outcmd.dat by renaming them to .old when Outlook is closed. You can find the locations below;

extend.dat: This file keeps the settings of installed Exchange Client Extensions add-ins and their status.

  • Windows XP

C:Documents and Settings%username%Local SettingsApplication DataMicrosoftOutlook

  • Windows Vista and Windows 7

C:Users%username%AppDataLocalMicrosoftOutlook

outcmd.dat: This file contains your Toolbar customizations.

  • Windows XP

C:Documents and Settings%username%Application DataMicrosoftOutlook

  • Windows Vista and Windows 7

C:Users%username%AppDataRoamingMicrosoftOutlook

Cannot open the Outlook window

If you get the error “Cannot open the Outlook window” when trying to start Outlook, you are probably running Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2010. In this case the error usually indicates that your Navigation Pane settings holds a corruption.

Solution:
Start Outlook with the resetnavpane switch;

  • Windows XP
Start-> Run; outlook.exe /resetnavpane
  • Windows Vista and Windows 7
Start-> type; outlook.exe /resetnavpane

When typing, please note the space between outlook.exe and /resetnavpane.
If you encounter this issue more often, see this Quick Tip to find a more definitive solution.

The "Cannot open the Outlook window" error can be fixed quite easily.

Disable add-ins

If Outlook works in Outlook Safe Mode but resetting your dat-files did not help, then the issue is most likely caused by an add-in. Often, but not always, this is accompanied by an error similar to:
The add-in <reference to add-in> could not be installed or loaded. This problem may be resolved by using Detect and Repair on the Help menu. Unable to load <reference to add-in dll>.

The instructions given in the error will seldom actually fix this issue as the issue is more likely to be caused by the add-in itself, rather then by an Outlook installation issue.

Solution:
Start Outlook in Safe Mode again and disable all your add-ins. After this, you can start Outlook normally again and see if it works now. If so, you can enable them one by one until Outlook fails to load again. The add-in you last enabled is most likely the cause of your issue. Uninstall or reinstall this add-in or check with the vendor for updates or contact them for further troubleshooting their add-in.

You can enable/disable Outlook add-ins in the following locations;

  • Outlook 2003 and previous
Tools-> Options-> tab Other-> button Advanced E-mail Options…-> button Add-In Manager…/COM Add-ins…
  • Outlook 2007
Tools-> Trust Center…-> section Add-Ins
  • Outlook 2010
File-> Options-> section Add-Ins

For more detailed instruction on how to enable or disable add-ins see this Quick Tip.
If you you get an error that you cannot disable the add-in see this Quick Tip instead.

Use scanpst.exe to fix Outlook Data File errors

When you use a pst-file, it could be that an issue with that pst-file is preventing Outlook from starting correctly. Often this issue is accompanied by the message;
Errors have been detected in the file <path to pst-file>. Quit all mail-enabled applications, and then use the Inbox Repair Tool.

Solution:
Use scanpst.exe to scan the mentioned pst-file for errors. The location of scanpst.exe depends on your version and language of Outlook.

  • Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010
32-bit Windows; C:Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12 
64-bit Windows; C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft OfficeOffice12
  • Outlook 2003 
32-bit Windows; C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMSMAPI<locale ID>scanpst.exe 
64-bit Windows; C:Program Files (x86)Common FilesSystemMSMAPI<locale ID>scanpst.exe
  • Outlook 2002/XP 
C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMAPI<locale ID>scanpst.exe
Outlook 2000 
C:Program FilesCommon FilesSystemMAPI<locale ID>NTscanpst.exe
  • Outlook 97 and Outlook 98 
C:Program FilesCommon FilesWindows Messagingscanpst.exe

When the scan is done and errors have been fixed, run scanpst.exe again until no errors are found anymore. If after scanning the file more than 3 or 4 times errors are still found, you might want to copy over your data in a new pst-file.

Use the Inbox Repair Tool (scanpst.exe) to scan your pst-file for errors.

Run a Repair, Office Diagnostics or reinstall Office/Outlook

When reaching this point of the guide, the issue most likely also occurs for other users on the computer. This means that the issue is not caused by a configuration setting but by an installation error.

Solution:
By running a Repair, Office Diagnostics or by reinstalling Office/Outlook you can probably resolve this issue. Note that during this process no files or settings of Outlook or other applications will be removed but it will never hurt of course making a backup of your Outlook data before you continue.

Depending on your version of Office/Outlook and/or Windows, you’ll have several of the following options available to you to start one of the above processes;

  • Help-> Detect and Repair…
  • Help-> Office Diagnostics…
  • Control Panel-> Add/Remove Programs…
  • Control Panel-> Uninstall a Program
  • Insert the Office CD/DVD-> run Setup.exe-> choose Repair or uninstall Office completely and then install it again.

Check the Event Viewer and post in the Outlook newsgroup for further help

If, after trying all of the above solutions, Outlook still doesn’t start, it seems that common troubleshooting steps do not apply to your system and more information about your configuration and issue is needed.

Solution:
Open the Event Viewer and look at the Application Log for any error events that are registered by Outlook or happened at the time that you tried to open Outlook. Copy this error message and post it together with a short description of your system (think about; Outlook version, Windows version, type of e-mail account and add-ins you are using) in one of the Outlook newsgroups.