Software

10 tips for speeding up Outlook

Does Outlook's pokey performance have you gnashing your teeth with frustration? Try these simple fixes to give it a kick in the pants.

If you've used Microsoft Outlook for a while, you know that it can slow down... way down. In fact, when not looked after, Outlook can become nearly useless. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to make Outlook not only usable, but significantly improved. And none of these techniques requires a single configuration change to your Exchange server (IMAP or POP3).

Of course, some of these suggestions might seem to have a bit more "'duh" factor than others. But you never know what level of skills you're dealing with, so we'll cover all the bases. In the end, you should have a much faster Outlook experience.

1: Update Windows

Many people don't realize that with Windows updates, the updates for Microsoft Office are also "hidden." But it's not just the Office updates that can help speed up Outlook. Make sure you allow the updates to happen. Why? There are times when Microsoft might update Exchange. In some cases, those updates can either break or cause problems with the communication between Outlook and Exchange. Or Microsoft might issue a patch to the application to resolve a speed issue or security hole.

2: Download complete items

When you connect Outlook with either IMAP or POP3, you should have Outlook set up to download the complete message (instead of just the header). If you do this, Outlook won't have to sync with the server every time you click on a new item (as it will already be in the data file.) How you do this will depend upon which version of Outlook you're using. But basically, you're looking for the setting Download Complete Item Including Attachments.

3: Archive your Inbox

I can't tell you how many times I see clients with thousands upon thousands (and in some cases tens of thousands) of emails in their Inbox. This can cause serious issues, especially when using PST files. Instead of just letting those Inbox folders grow to outrageous proportions, set up auto archiving so that your Inbox retains only a portion of those emails. I like to tell clients to keep the current and previous months' email in the Inbox and archive everything else. When you archive, you effectively create a new data file, so Outlook doesn't have to strain against the weight of an oversize PST or OST file

4: Use Cached Exchange Mode

If you use Cached Exchange Mode in Outlook, you effectively take the data file from the server (PST) and cache it on your local machine (OST). This can go a long way toward speeding up your Outlook experience because Outlook doesn't have to read its data file across a network. Instead, all it has to do is read the locally stored data file. This option (obviously) is available only when connecting Outlook with an Exchange server.

5: Compact your PST file

When the Outlook PST file gets out of hand, a built-in tool can keep the size of that file under control. One of the issues is that even when you delete email from your Inbox, the size of the PST file may remain the same. If you're using Outlook 2010, you can go to Account Settings | Data Files and select the data file to be compacted. Once you've selected the file click Settings | Advanced | Outlook Data File Settings and click Compact Now. Depending on the size of your data file, this process can take some time.

6: Repair your PST file

Scanpst is often my go-to tool when Outlook is acting off kilter. It will scan through your data file and look for data inconsistencies and errors. Here's the thing about Scanpst -- it's not always the easiest tool to find. Do yourself a favor and search through your C drive to locate the Scanpst.exe file. Make note of its location (usually within the Office installation folder). But be forewarned: This tool can cause PST files to become unusable. Make sure you back up that data file before you start the repair tool. Fortunately, should Scanpst find errors, it will prompt you to make a backup before it attempts to fix the errors.

7: Cut down on the published and shared calendars

Yes, it's easy to publish and share your calendars with others. The problem is, the more you do it, the more drag you're putting on Outlook. The more data Outlook has to share and pull down from the Internet, the slower it will perform. Sure, it's fine to have one or two shared calendars (and even more if you have a lightning-fast data pipe). Just know that the more data you have to push and pull, the slower your connection will be.

8: Disable RSS

By default, Outlook will sync RSS feeds from Internet Explorer to the RSS reader in Outlook. If you have a lot of RSS feeds bookmarked in IE, that syncing could easily bring Outlook to a crawl. Disable this feature (if you don't use Outlook as an RSS reader) from within Outlook 2010 by going to Options | Advanced and then unchecking both options under RSS Feeds.

9: Disable add-ins

How many times have you installed some program only to find it installed something else behind your back? This can happen to Outlook as well as Internet Explorer. Sometimes those add-ins can cause major Outlook slowdowns. To find out what add-ins you have installed in Outlook 2010, go to Options | Add-ins. Select COM Add-ins from the drop-down and click the Go button. The resultant window will list all add-ins available to Outlook. Search through this list and uncheck any that might seem suspect.

10: Fix ShoreTel Windows 7 integration

If you use the ShoreTel Communicator, you might notice some issues when trying to open and use Outlook. The problem lies in an incompatibility issue between ShoreTel and Windows 7. The fix is simple. Open up the Task Manager and look for a process called Agent.exe. Right-click that entry and click Properties |Compatibility. Choose the Run This Program In Compatibility Mode For option and then select Windows XP (Service Pack 3).

Other tricks?

There's no reason why anyone should have to struggle with a bogged down Outlook that will have you pulling your hair out strand by strand. These tips should help you enjoy a much speedier and reliable Outlook experience.

What other methods have you found for improving Outlook performance? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

96 comments
krishlopez
krishlopez

Hello Jack Wallen.

Thank you very much for nice information about Outlook related problem and solution. I would like to refer some other useful information about Outlook PST Recovery, you can find out it from here 

http://www.pstrepairutility.com
carcher
carcher

I followed the above to no avail and then I noticed an addin which kept coming back no matter how many  times I unchecked the box. I connected as administrator and deleted it and then magically Outlook was lightning fast. The addin was the Microsoft VBA for Outlook

Phil - Cloud4 Computers
Phil - Cloud4 Computers

I'm with SKDTech above, I have had to deal with 20+ GB PST's for a number of our Hosted Exchange customers. It always appears to be senior staff like directors. I worked on a directors mailbox this week and he had never deleted a single email in over 10 years... I had to remind him all his mail is auto archived anyway and politely encourage him to shrink that PST right down..

djschmitty
djschmitty

Awesome tips, My Outlook would slow to the point of getting a NOT RESPONDING message and then just, after a few minutes, it would suddenly start working. I used the Scanpst to repair a file and then compacted the ost file. Now it works great.

SimionT
SimionT

That can be sorted out with a tool that can defrag individual files, and move the PSTs to the end of drive (or move them to a individual partition if a separate SSD isn't available)

stephensmoot
stephensmoot

then what you're really missing is WAN Optimization. See the client version or the appliance from Riverbed...(Steelhead). [FD: Riverbed employee...but astonished not to see this mentioned so far...]

Xiferdiferous
Xiferdiferous

As a general email management technique for a home user, my Inbox and folders are getting embarrassing large. I have all kinds of files stored in my email...pps, xls, doc, jpg's etc... ad nauseum. Many of these files I do retrieve for current use, but I think I'd rather have them available OFFLINE. I don't use Outlook, but rather Thunderbird. If I just back up my mailbox folder to another volume, then delete the content of my folders would that be a sufficient home remedy for out of control mailboxes ? I think this way, I can continue to use the current folder structure and the email rules I have created for the past few years. Then later, I can reconnect to my backed up email folders to retrieve anything I want. Or alternatively, for a home user, I could set up a secondary older computer with Thunderbird loaded onto it for the only purpose of standing ready to retrieve backed up mail or any other data for that matter. Would this be a good enough strategy to use (for a home user). Great Thanks

martymoose009
martymoose009

After Compacting PST and OST files, Defrag the file system containing the files. I have seen some incredible improvements by doing this, especially on older computers. Also, Compact regularly, especially OST files. I have seen many OST files that are four times larger than they need to be. By regularly compacting, you stop this happening and also avoid a Compact operation that could take hours.

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

Some things I've found that also help: When using XP especially, keep the local user temp files cleaned up from: [b]C:\Documents and Settings\[i]UserID[/i]\Local Settings\Temp[/b] Also check: [b]C:\Documents and Settings\[i]UserID[/i]\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files \Outlook and \Word[/b] folders. (Make sure applications are closed first.) Delete old mail profiles. Keep your hard drive defragged and the same for your PST/OST files.

bspittle
bspittle

We have 200 users accessing Outlook via a few Terminal Servers. This means the mail database is "one large mass" and there are no individual PST files. Works well EXCEPT when it comes to searching. Searches are painfully slow, sometimes taken 5-10 minutes or even crashing Outlook. In addition, sometimes the results come back with "no results found" when clearly there are emails with that particular keyword.

M.R.
M.R.

I'm not sure I agree with your description of the server being a PST but it's not worth redescribing here. What I would note though is that the OST isn't all that different from a PST and when getting large could cause the same issue. Multiple PSTs - yes but as mentioned, only if older ones are closed. I think it's unrealistic to expect end users to remain concious of these things though. Backing up PSTs is an interesting concept but I can't see it being manageable in a larger environment. Why no mention of Exchange 2010 and its archive DBs? There are also 3rd party archive DB solutions.

danwat1234
danwat1234

With ultra fast computers these days and SSDs, the size of the active .pst file will become less and less important, since computing power increases exponentially. It'll just power through the complexity.

harkiron
harkiron

How do I speed up my OUTLOOK on my MAC ?

smiller
smiller

I checked Task Manager when I saw that tip, but Agent.exe wasn't running. I did a search, found the file in the C:\Program Files (x86)\Shoreline Communications\ShoreWare Client folder, and updated the compatibility setting there, but still no luck. Any thoughts, anyone?

JJFitz
JJFitz

Large PST's and numerous PST's can surely slow down Outlook. I create a monthly archive PST in which I manually store my important read and sent emails and I delete the unimportant emails as soon as I can. At the end of the month, I disconnect the monthly archive and start a new one. I use X1, a powerful search tool to search my closed archives. X1 allows for more granular searches and does a much faster job at it than Outlook does. This method keeps Outlook's open ost and pst's to a minimum and helps Outlook open up pretty quickly. Of course, if you have an email journaling tool on the network, there should be little need for user based email archiving. Users can simply delete everything they read every month and use the journaling search tool Outlook plug in to find old emails.

Trentski
Trentski

Not sure why no one ever mentions this, but this is the easiest way to speed up outlook, its the first thing I try and a lot of the time it works

brhend
brhend

Instant outlook speed demon

fortyfive
fortyfive

Enabling Outlook Preview and/or a Reading Plane can also drastically slow down Outlook and cause hang-ups. Best perhaps to skim read the email subject and click on the ones you want to read. Another useful tip for most users is to cut down the clutter on the Inbox header Bar using RH Click, Customize current view, Fields and display only the ones you need, in the order you want.

jetchan
jetchan

Hi Jack, Very nice Information but i read in this topic about large pst size and want to share my self experience about facing a problem related to large pst . Due to large pst i mostly lost my mail of outlook 2007 few days ago and not understand how to split my important pst file then i search it in Google and find out about a tool which is useful for me and split my large pst file in this way i secure my important mail and my outlook also take a good speed after use of tool,you can get more information from this blog http://exchangerecovery.hubpages.com/hub/Split-PST-File-in-an-Easiest-Way

hirussellsmith
hirussellsmith

Hi, If you are facing performance issues then it may be resultant of overlarge PST file. To avoid corruption & boost in speed, You must review your PST file size on time to time. If your PST file becomes overlarge then split it in to small manageable files. I have used a splitter tool to split large PST file in manageable files. To download demo of this software, Click at : http://download.stellaroutlooktools.com/StellarPhoenixPSTFileSplitter-Soho.exe Regards Russell Smith

doublevdesign
doublevdesign

The cached Exchange mode can lead to large ost files. These can be compacted in the same way as above. Check your total folder size against the size of the OST file (which I usually find using %temp%\..\Microsoft\Outlook to reduce time to browse to it). If the OST is more than a few 100MB larger than the folder size, it can be quicker to close outlook, delete the OST and then reopen Outlook to reload the data from the server (depending on speed of network) as niko88 mentioned. I had one client with a 19GB OST file when his server data was only 2.5GB and taking 10 minutes to open Outlook. Dropped to less than 20 secs after deleting and reloading OST. Hope this helps.

boucaria
boucaria

Especially with the Outlook 2007; I have not seen an outrageously large PST file in Outlook 2007 Setups for independent clients. I am one of those that had too many emails under Outlook 2003, and the Programme had a fit, and wanted to cut the size of the PST arbitrarily, however, I used a outlook repair tool ( which has saved me too many times). Cost me about 40 dollars. And then I went to Outlook 2007. About all I am concerned with in Archiving my 2007 local client material is the availability of the emails. So, whilst the emails collected for reasons beyond my control over several years ( truly) if I archive my emails, and then slowly whittle them down as I save the content to indexed content ( I know the Archive from an Exchange server is different, but sometimes the problems with it is too much to believe). Anyway, thanks for great tips again Jack.

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

If you run in an environment with a lot of integrated applications (Document Management System, etc.) keeping the [b]C:\Documents and Settings\[i]userID[/i]\Local Settings\temp[/b] folder cleaned out when using Exchange really helps as well. Not to mention the cached files under [b]Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files[/b] (Content.IE5, Content.Word, Content.Outlook). Outlook and Word both write files out there and if it's not kept clean, can seriously impact the speed of the OS (XP).

peteystock
peteystock

Other things that I would think of.... 1. Empty the trash (I've seen users with many thousands of items in the Deleted folder). 2. After you run the updates, also defrag the hard drive, maybe that will help. 3. Assuming a multi-cored proc you could also try setting processor affinity to the executable. In these days of 6-core procs I would bet that would be a huge help. I've seen this mentioned on Jerry Pournelle's blog some time ago, and this helped his e-mail profoundly from what he's said. 4. I've heard also that indexing is a bit time-suck, wonder if disabling this somehow would help?

svenglezz
svenglezz

If people are concerned about privacy then zip your files with a password, then google etc. can see your information. But if companies still want to be in the stone ages with Outlook and have IT guy's fixing it constantly, not to mention viruses that love Outlook' And you can always download your contacts from the popular email programs to have a backup'. And how many times has Yahoo and/or Gmail gone down in the last 2 years?

niko88
niko88

In our exchange environment when MO slows down, we rename the exisitng OST so outlook will rebuild a new one.

herbman
herbman

This is likely off topic but the first time I have seen a group of 'Outlook experts' in discussion. What is the recommended manner for searching archived e-mail files and can the archives be saved outside of the .pst file and still allow for e-mail retrieval, permitting a reduction in the size of the .pst? Thanks Bruce

sys-eng
sys-eng

I noticed many comments here about using Google and other free alternatives to Outlook. i have yet to see any of these alternatives with the same features as Outlook. And just so everyone has not forgotten, Google and all the other "free" providers scan the content of your files and record your usage habits which is not a very good idea for business use.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Ever seen an Outlook installation that's slow to close because of huge open .PST files? Those cases where you close Outlook but the tray icon turns gray and remains there for up to 20 minutes while the Outlook process continues writing bytes, or those annoying 'Outlook process' messages when you close Outlook just before shutting down? I've found these registry entries fix the problem in all of the dozens of times I've used them. Be logged on as the user, and wait for the Outlook process to completely finished first. Obviously, as with all registry changes, back it up first. For Outlook 2007: Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\12.0\Outlook\PST] "PSTNullFreeOnClose"=dword:00000000 For Outlook 2010: Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\14.0\Outlook\pst] "pstnullfreeonclose"=dword:00000000

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

20GB pst not good. split email in years. is better.he will enjoy very good performance, less corruption, etc.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

we have riverbed equipments but I don't know if riverbed helps opening a pst file trough the wan... specially if the pst is big (15GB+) ??

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

You will need to implement EAS from Zantaz or another archive solution for exchange. Exchange is not designed to be a big storage for email, is just for mailflow.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

PST backups are always a nightmare. If you have a 10GB pst and a user add a single email, you need to backup the entire PST. But there is solutions now for this: http://www.datamills.com/products/edgesafe-pst-backup Benefits: 1-) backup pst even if outlook is open 2-) backup pst from local store to central server or location (centralize all your psts backups in one single location) 3-) incremental backups for psts (only backups changes of the psts). And I read lately Carbonite and Dropbox allow you to backup pst in incrementals. I need to test it in a lab but if this works, you can have your PST in a dropbox and backup is done in an snap

clcoronios
clcoronios

What 'is' the normal email template - what does it do? And, perhaps more importantly based on your suggestion, what difference does it make to the appearance of your incoming/outgoing when it is deleted?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

that's not particularly helpful. Almost everything will run faster on an SSD.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

In my office regular OST file size is 10+ GB.... is similar to the exchange user mailbox size. SOmetimes we need to defrag / compress the OST

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Both of these are good ideas, but they aren't specific to Outlook. You'll see across the board improvements with these, but if either result in major improvements they you likely had more problems than just slow e-mail. If you have the OS and apps on one drive and data on another, there's no reason to index the OS drive. If you never search the data drive by content, there's no reason to index it either.

Cynyster
Cynyster

Having an ISP going down is a much more likely scenario. Racking up bandwidth and cause traffic bottlenecks are yet other problems with housing your data off-site. As far as zipping up with passwords.. how many users know how to do that? How many recipients are going to tolerate having to unzip messages? Seriously, most users have a hard time even grasping the concept. Different is not always better.

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

Yes, we do that too. If you rename the OST, when you launch MO you will see how the OST is rebuild from Exchage. A good practice is to have a SSD for OST or have an email mailbox because OST rebuild can take a couple of hours if the user have 15 - 20GB of email.

Cynyster
Cynyster

It is a manner of archive organization. You can for instance, Create another data file (pst), Move all of 2010 correspondence, calendar, etc to that folder within outlook and then simply "dismount" the pst file and place that file somewhere in storage (file server, DVD, whatever) If you need to go back that far for some odd reason you can retrieve the file and put it back on the system and mount it in outlook to have access to it once again. This allows you to store old e-mail but get it out of your outlook. The key here is not to have outlook regularly accessing the old "archive storage" pst files.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Archives are .PST files, so you can't save an archive outside of one. You can save individual messages as separate files (.MSG files) and they re-open as e-mail messages. Another way to reduce the size of a .PST is to save attachments as individual files and then delete the e-mail that originally delivered them. Again, it's rarely the number of e-mails that causes size problems as much as the size of the attachments. Do you know how to see the size of each message?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

good for searching all your Outlook too not just archived stuff.

Gisabun
Gisabun

You can't include Gmail as it is an individual version. you need to subscribe [i.e. pay] to use the version that you can manage. Ya. I am against Anything that looks at my Email. Google's privacy is horrible over the last little while. [PS - Hope you aren't using IE8. Google ditches support for IE in mid-November.]

Cynyster
Cynyster

My trouble with Google is the simple fact that "your" stuff lives on "their" servers. I have no trouble with the security of the transactions between your system and Google. I have a two fold problem with MY information being on systems not under MY control. Some companies may feel secure that Google wont simply just leech any info it finds there. They can't steal what they never had. Its not the process I distrust... its the one holding my data. The other problem I have with it. Why does their e-mail NOT support secure email (S/MIME)?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

They from the same class of people who post 'Use Linux' in any Windows discussion, and are convinced that moving everything to 'The Cloud' will fix all problems. Off-topic and unhelpful. Vote them down with a clear conscience.

svenglezz
svenglezz

ISP going down? If my memory serves me correct, I recall maybe 1 time last few years not being able to get to yahoo and/or gmail, I'm sure that's a better record then most office networks. On the zip item, I zip all my files to people, not to protect it but to have all files in one zip file (never had a complaint for zipping files into 1), and I'm sure it's a lot easier to add a password to a zip file then having an onsite IT guy/girl in the office :o), and if they can't grasp creating a zip file then maybe they should get educated with it esp. if they are working on the computer. Racking up bandwidth? like every person in an office is sending emails full of "HUGE" attachments at one time.

Gisabun
Gisabun

And what happens if their servers go down? Businesses can't function without Email. Look at the wankers who complain every time RIM had outages?

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

RIM outages are not common at all. We have blackberry devices for about a decade now and we only had issues last year when they had issues. BTW, for that IT using exchange, remember you can setup Disaster recovery pretty easy with Message One from Dell. No exchange? No problem, enable Message One and your blackberry is working again with your email even when your network infrastructure is down!. Systems going up? disable message one and you will see transparent email sync and services restore to normal operation. Users can work without issues, try to do that if you use google as your main email provider. Perhaps Message ONe is available for google mail?

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