Categories Microsoft 365

Outlook freezes or is not responding: What to do

Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular email clients in the world. According to a report by Enlyft, Outlook is the go-to email client for companies with $10 million-$50 million in revenue and about 50-200 employees, making it a popular choice for SMBs. Among individual users too, it accounts for about 10 percent of the world’s email market share. Despite this popularity, Outlook can still throw errors, just like any other tool. One of the most common problems is that Outlook freezes or doesn’t respond at all.

What do you do then? Let’s first quickly understand the possible causes.

Causes for Outlook freezes

Here are some possible causes for your Outlook to freeze.

  • You haven’t installed the latest patches and updates.
  • It is used simultaneously by another process.
  • Some program that you installed or the associated process conflicts with Outlook.
  • An add-in you installed interferes with Outlook’s processes.
  • Your computer is infected.
  • Mailboxes are too big.
  • There are problems with Office programs.
  • Your user profile has become corrupted.
  • ODF files have become corrupted.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common causes of Outlook failure.

Solutions when Outlook freezes

Here are some solutions to fix this rather annoying error.

Restart Outlook

As with any tool, the easiest first option is to restart Outlook as this can release unwanted cache and other processes that are deadlocked.

Ideally, close Outlook and open it in safe mode. You can do this in one of the following ways.

  • If you’re using Windows 10, right-click Start and type Outlook.exe/safe. Press Enter, and this should open Outlook in safe mode.
  • In Windows 7, go to Start, and type Outlook/safe. Press Enter.
  • If you’re using Windows 8, open “Apps,” select “Run,” and type Outlook/safe. Click OK.

Once your Outlook opens, close it again, open it normally the next time. This should fix Outlook freezes a good deal of the times.

Install the latest updates and patches

Another easy fix is to install the latest updates and patches as this can address many of the underlying problems of a freeze.

To install the latest updates, go to the search box in the Start Menu, and type “Updates.” When a dialog box opens, click the “Check for updates” button and choose “Install updates” on the next screen.

Wait for the updates to install and restart your PC. Once the system is up, open Outlook and check if any updates are pending for it.

To check this, Go to File and select "Account" > "Update options" > "Update now." For Office 2010, go to Help > Check for updates.

If any updates are pending, install them and restart your Outlook.

Check the system requirements

Microsoft Outlook requires certain minimum system requirements, so make sure your system has these memory and CPU requirements.

This will most likely be the issue if you’ve upgraded to a higher Office version on the same computer.

Repair Outlook

You can repair Outlook to prevent such freezes. But you can only do it for the entire Office suite.

  • Close all the Office programs.
  • Go to Control Panel and navigate to Programs and Features.
  • Navigate through the list and right-click on Microsoft Office. Choose “change.”
  • Select the “Online Repair” radio button.
  • Click the “Repair” button.

This option repairs all the Office programs. Once it’s done, open Outlook to check if it’s working fine.

Look for other processes

Some features such as AutoArchive or syncing from a mobile device reduce the performance of your Outlook simply because these processes consume a lot of resources.

To know if Outlook is being used by another process, look at the status bar at the bottom of the screen. It’ll tell you the process that’s using Outlook. Either wait for that process to complete before you start using Outlook or stop the other process.

Repair corrupted Outlook Data Files

Outlook Data Files, or ODF for short, are files that store all Outlook data such as emails, calendars, contacts, attachments, and more. The files differ depending on which version of Outlook you are using and the types of email accounts you have. They can get corrupted for many reasons and your Outlook won’t work when ODF files are corrupted. You can use the built-in repair tool to fix this problem and if it persists or if the file is corrupted, consider using third-party tools to fix this problem.

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Check your antivirus software

Sometimes, your antivirus software won’t play nicely with Outlook. The best way to check is to disable your antivirus and see if Outlook works and if it does, you know the cause of the problem.

Check if your antivirus software is outdated, and if so, update it as this will resolve Outlook connection issues. If the problem persists, reach out to the customer support team of the antivirus tool for a possible solution, provided you know for sure that it interferes with Outlook’s processes.

Address add-in conflicts

Though add-ins enhance your user experience, they can also interfere with the working of Outlook. The best way to zero-in on this problem is to disable add-ins and see if Outlook works.

To start Outlook without these add-ins, open Outlook in the safe mode. If the problem doesn’t persist in the safe mode, the add-ins are probably the cause.

For a permanent fix:

  • Go to File > Options > Add-ins.
  • Select COM Add-ins and click Go.
  • Clear all the checkboxes in the dialog box.

Finally, restart Outlook and open it in the normal mode, and it should work fine.

Repair corrupted user profiles

User profiles customize the look and feel of a computer or service for you. It has the settings that match your preferences, so you can access them when you log in each time.

However, this user profile can become corrupted due to many reasons, and this can prevent Outlook from responding. To understand if a corrupted user profile is the problem, create a new user profile and try it. If your Outlook responds well, stick to this user profile and delete the corrupted one.

To create a new user account:

  • Press Windows + R to open the run dialog box and type cmd to open the Command Prompt. Make sure you have admin privileges. Alternatively, search for Command Prompt, right-click on it, and choose “Run as Administrator.”
  • In the command prompt, type the new “usernamepassword/add.”
  • Once the user profile is created, log in with these credentials.
  • Navigate to C:\users\old_username and copy all the files except user.dat, user.dat.log, and user.ini.
  • Move all the files to C:\users\new_username.
  • Log off and log in again with the new credentials and check if your Outlooks works.

Reduce your mailbox size

When your mailbox is too large, it impacts Outlook’s performance. To resolve this issue, move some of the contents in your large folders to separate folders.

To do this:

  • Navigate to the Folder tab and click “New Folder.”
  • Give a name for the new folder.
  • Select the location for this folder and click OK.
  • Move some of the larger emails and attachments to this folder.

This folder will be a subfolder but will be in a different location.

Alternatively, use the AutoArchive option to archive older emails in a safe place.

Do a clean boot

When Windows starts normally, many processes and services start automatically and run in the background, and these can interfere with Outlook.

When you do a clean boot or a selective startup, you can turn on or off the processes and services through a checkbox in System Configuration.

Note that this option is for advanced users who understand the role of different processes in the system. If you’re unsure, don’t try this option, as turning off some critical services may cause your computer to crash.

Thus, these are some of the solutions to fix Outlook freezes. If you know the cause of the problem, you can use the related solution. Otherwise, you’ll have to cycle through each solution until your problem is fixed.

Featured image: Shutterstock / TechGenix photo illustration

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is a professional writer of tech and financial blogs. Creative thinker, out of the boxer, content builder and tenacious researcher who specializes in explaining complex ideas to different audiences.

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Lavanya Rathnam

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