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Hate Microsoft Outlook? Top 10 annoyances and how to fix them

By Preston Gralla
January 13, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Run Outlook in safe mode by going to a command prompt, navigating to the directory that contains Outlook.exe (most likely C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\) and typing this command:

Outlook.exe /safe

That runs Outlook without any add-ins. If it doesn't crash, then add-ins are your problem.

Here's how to find exactly which program is the problem. Start by discovering which add-ins you have installed. Select Tools --> Trust Center and click the Add-ins button. You'll see a screen like the one pictured below.

You'll see add-ins organized into three categories: those that are currently active, those that are installed but aren't currently active, and those that are installed but have been disabled by Outlook because they cause the system to crash. (Yes, Outlook does try to fix itself when possible -- it just doesn't always succeed.) To see a description of each add-in, highlight it, and you'll see the description at the bottom of the screen.

Microsoft Outlook Trust Center add-ins
Use Trust Center to see a list of add-ins.
Click to view larger image

Now it's time to find out which add-in or add-ins are causing the crashes. There's no logical way to do this; you'll have to use the process of elimination. At the bottom of the screen, make sure that the COM Add-ins drop-down is selected, then click Go. You'll see a screen like the one pictured below.

Those add-ins that are active have check marks next to them; those without check marks are inactive. Uncheck the box of the add-in that you think might be causing the problem, click OK, and then close and restart Outlook. Outlook will now run, but the add-in will be inactive. If Outlook works properly, you've discovered the cause of your problem.

Microsoft Outlook disabling add-ins
Disable potentially unstable add-ins and restart Outlook to minimize crashes.
Click to view larger image

You can keep running Outlook with the add-in inactive or instead remove it from your system. Some add-ins can be removed using Windows' normal Uninstall routine. Others, though, won't be visible there. To remove those, get back to the screen you used for disabling add-ins. Highlight the add-in you want to remove and click Remove. Be careful before you do this, because you won't get a dialog box asking if you really want to remove it, as you do when you use Windows Uninstall. Click it, and it goes away immediately.

If it's an add-in that you would prefer to keep using, check with the publisher to see if there's a workaround or fix before deleting it.

Annoyance No. 6

My .pst file is corrupt. If you've used Outlook long enough, at some point, your .pst file may get corrupted and no longer load. What can you do?

How to fix it: First off, prevention is better than recovery. When .pst files get up to 2GB, they can easily become corrupt, so make sure that your .pst file does not get to be 2GB or larger in size. (See Annoyance No. 3 for details on how to find the location of your .pst file. Then simply open Windows Explorer, navigate to the correct location and click on the file icon to check its size.)

In addition, it's always a good idea to back up .pst files so you can revert to them if any gets corrupt. Now that you know where Outlook 2007 files reside, take advantage of that knowledge by making sure to back up those files regularly.

Now on to fixing the corrupt file. There's a free Microsoft utility called the Inbox Repair Tool that's designed to fix corrupt .pst files.

Microsoft Inbox Repair Tool
Fix corrupt files with the Inbox Repair Tool.
Click to view larger image

The file name is Scanpst.exe, and its location seems to vary from machine to machine, but a good place to look is in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12. Before running the program, back up your damaged .pst file. Then run the program (as you can see at right), choose your .pst file location and tell the program to do its work.

The program should fix the corrupt file. If not, try using it three or four times; sometimes it takes several passes in order to fix the file.



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