Outlook, and the rest of Microsoft’s Office Suite, plays an integral role in many of our business lives. Even this blog was created with the help of Office! Presentations built with PowerPoint, documents and reports created in Word, data management and analysis performed in Excel, team communications over Teams; the list of ways Office helps us work goes on and on. 

Unfortunately, Office (and especially Outlook) have a propensity to frequently ‘break’ for what appears to be no reason at all! When these tools play such a critical role in our lives, having them crash or become unusable can make it impossible to do our best work. If you’re in dire need of fixing your Outlook, here are five great steps to try:

Five Steps to Fix Your Outlook for Office 365

1. Restart Outlook

The classic IT response to any issue? Restart it! Chances are you’ve tried this basic step already, but there’s a little-known interaction between Outlook and Teams we need to highlight before moving on.

Microsoft and Teams are so closely related that neither can be closed without closing the other if both are open on your computer. “But wait,” I can hear you saying, “I already did close Outlook, and I didn’t have to close Teams!” You make an excellent point! It looks like you can close and have Teams be unaffected. Here’s what’s happening:

There is a hidden link between Teams and Outlook. So long as Teams is open, Outlook can’t fully close and refresh when you open it. This is due to very helpful integration between the pair of applications which allows you to add Teams calls to your Outlook meetings seamlessly.

So, do we need to close Outlook and Teams to restart Outlook? Alright, well, we just need to hit the close button in Teams, right? Not so fast! Even when it appears to be closed, Teams will leave a little marker of its presence in your task manager’s icon tray. You’ll need to right-click on this icon and select “Quit” to, finally, close out of both Outlook and Teams.

Here’s what that icon and menu look like:

Closing Teams Icon Menu

2. Restart Your Computer

If running through the proper closing process for Outlook hasn’t resolved your troubles, it’s time to lean on the IT Handyman’s best friend: A pure computer restart. This simple troubleshooting step can resolve an incredible number of technical issues. This is true for all things technology, not just Outlook!

A quick note on this: you’ll want to perform an actual “Restart” action on your computer. Contrary to what would appear to be common sense, the “Power Off” action does not fully shut down your machine. Modern computers use a few strategies to make your computer startup as fast as possible, and this is one of them! To get the computer to actually shut down, you’ll just need to hit restart:

Restart Windows

3. Run the SaRA Repair Tool

Most issues in Outlook can be solved by steps 1 & 2. If you’re still experiencing trouble, however, there are three more options for us to pursue. The first of these is Microsoft’s Support and Recovery Assistant, or SaRA for short. SaRA is a dedicated troubleshooting tool designed to test and fix any problems you have with your Office installation. It even has a dedicated section just for Outlook issues! If it can’t fix the issue you’re having, SaRA will recommend an action plan and help you contact Microsoft support.

You can find the SaRA install package here.

4. Create a New Outlook Profile

If SaRA can’t solve your problem, there’s one thing left to try before taking the nuclear option. Outlook runs off of a profile-based system that has several file types associated with it. Many problems originate with these files, and there’s a quick way to fix them: Make a new profile!

This method is a bit technical, so be sure to follow along closely:

1. Open up the computer’s Control Panel

You can find this by using your Task Bar’s search function:

Task Bar Search

When you first open your control panel, it should look like this:

Control Panel Option 1

Or this:

Control Panel Option 2

2. Use the search bar at the top right of this window to look up “Mail (Outlook).” Open the resulting option:

Outlook Search

3. In the resulting Mail Setup window, select “Show Profiles.”

Show Profiles

4. From here, we’ll select “Add….”

Add Profile

Here is the most challenging part, you’ll need to sign in and create a new profile. The menus which follow after selecting “Add…” should guide you through the process. Once you’ve created a new profile, you should see it in the “Mail” window from step 4. The last step is to ensure your new profile is set as the default under “Always use this profile.”

You’ll be able to tell if this step worked the next time you open Outlook. If you’re able to open the program, it will begin building your new profile. This means a longer than usual loading time for Outlook and then a period of 30-45 minutes where it will start to sync your emails. If you think you’re missing an email during this sync process, you can always check your full 365 email mailbox in the online Office portal.

5. Uninstall & Reinstall Office

If all else fails, there’s one sure-fire solution to ensuring your Outlook is clean and clear of problems: a fresh install! This process can take some significant time, depending on the speed of your computer and your download speed for the new copy.

I recommend having SaRA perform both of these processes for you since you downloaded it earlier. One bonus for this method is SaRA will scrape all the hidden nooks and crannies in your computer to really scrub all Office data out. We frequently experience SaRA finding and removing items that a standard uninstall didn’t catch. If you’d prefer not to use SaRA, you can find the Office suite installation package in the online Office portal.

If you’ve followed all of these steps and still haven’t resolved your issue, I would recommend looking into getting some outside assistance. Chances are, there is a severe issue with a non-Office component of your system.

Why is My Outlook Misbehaving?

Now that we’ve resolved your issue, let’s unpack a few common causes of Outlook and Office issues:

1. Instability in Outlook Storage Files

One of the biggest causes of Outlook issues and errors is a broken .ost or .pst file. These files are renowned for how unstable they are. Simply looking at one of these guys seems like enough to break them sometimes! These instability problems grow exponentially more severe as they grow in volume. A comfortable size for one of these files is around 5GB. At 10GB and above, you can expect regular issues and occasional critical failures from your Outlook.

2. Windows Updates

Pending Windows updates can cause issues for pretty much any program on your computer, but Office is especially susceptible as Microsoft owns both Windows & Office. Often Windows updates will have significant effects on Office and visa-versa. This is part of the reason rebooting your Outlook and computer is often so effective. It allows both sides to run or finalize updates.

3. Microsoft ‘Hidden’ Updates

Finally, here’s a secret little trick from Microsoft. They have the ability to flag updates as either “Reboot Needed” or “Safe for Immediate Install.” In the latter case, the entire update will run and install silently in the background of your computer. Sometimes, however, Microsoft flags updates as Safe for Immediate Install, which actually needs, or should have, a computer restart to finalize. This can cause significant damage to your running applications and programs.

Looking for Office Support?

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