Outlook, by far, seems the most troublesome of the Office apps and is bound to confuse and confound some users. But thanks to updates, repair tools, and workarounds (which aren't always intuitive), Outlook can still be a productive tool. This month, two readers had Outlook problems that were easy (if not quick) to fix:
- Frank's reminders are, after upgrading, no longer personal.
- James can't even launch Outlook anymore.
Frank's problem was easy to solve but required a bit of time. James had to work harder for his solution but also met with success in the end.
I'll be using Outlook 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but you can apply both concepts to most versions. There's no downloadable demonstration file.
Frank's organization upgraded to Office 2016 recently. Since then, every change to a personal reminder for a meeting is sent to everyone on the calendar. He doesn't want everyone notified; he wants the change to remain private. Normally, when you reset a reminder, Outlook prompts you to identify who should be notified, as shown in Figure A. You can update everyone... or not. Unfortunately, this feature went missing temporarily in Office 2016.
No option to limit reminder notifications.
This is a known issue and the simplest solution is to install the latest updates, to make sure you are current. Doing so fixed the problem for Frank and if you're experiencing the same problem, it should take care of it for you too. The biggest problem was timing—Frank hadn't updated in a while, so bringing his system up to date was a lengthy process. It's worth reminding you to update regularly if automatic update isn't enabled. If you're using Windows 10, it's unlikely that you'll be affected. due to that version's forced updating policy.
Fixing a broken profile
James shares an organizational email account on Exchange, and Outlook stopped working on one of his laptops. It was working on all the other systems; the problem was isolated to only one laptop. Launching Outlook on that system generated the error shown in Figure B.
Outlook's error message advised running the Inbox Repair Tool.
I suggested that James run the Inbox Repair Tool as Outlook recommended.
If you see this error but you can't find this tool, read How to repair your Outlook personal folder file (.pst). Once you find the tool and launch it, enter the location of the .pst file you want to repair, if necessary, and click Start. The location of your .pst file will vary, depending on your version of Windows:
- Outlook 2007 and earlier C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook\
- Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013, and Outlook 2016 C:\Users\%username%\Documents\Outlook Files\
The repair process can take time so be prepared to wait. After a scan, you can choose to repair. Just click the Repair button to begin the process. Again, you may have to wait a bit. If you're lucky, the repair will work and Outlook will launch.
In James' case, that didn't happen, so my next recommendation was to repair Office:
- From the Control Panel, choose Add/Remove Programs. (This varies slightly depending on your version of Windows.)
- After selecting Microsoft Office, click Change (Figure C). If another user is also logged into your system, Windows will notify you and ask to account for their settings. If you are logged into a user account and not the admin account, Windows will prompt you to enter the admin password. If you don't know this password, contact someone in IT or your administrator for more help.
- In the next window, select the appropriate Repair option and then click Continue. If you're not using Office 365 or you're working with a version earlier than 2016, you probably won't see the online option.
Click Change (you're not uninstalling, you're repairing) to continue.
This process got James closer: Outlook launched and displayed existing items, but it wouldn't update and download new mail. At this point, I suggested he create a new profile. Again, the specific instructions will differ depending on your version of Windows:
- After accessing the Control Panel, start the Mail app in earlier versions to get started. If you don't see the Mail app using a Windows 10 64-bit system, change the View By option from Category to Large Icons or Small Icons.
- After launching the Mail app, choose Show Profiles and click Add. (Remember, your route may vary slightly depending on your version of Windows.)
- Enter a new name.
- After Windows adds the new profile name, click Properties. Because James is on Exchange, the account information is already available. If you're not on Exchange, you'll be prompted to enter new email account settings or you can continue with the existing settings.
- Exchange users should click E-Mail Account and then choose the appropriate account.
- Close and return to the Control Panel.
The next time James launched Outlook, it connected and downloaded new mail. It seems like a long road, but with Outlook, any number of things can be wrong. It's possible that creating a profile at the beginning might have been quicker, but I felt obligated to follow Outlook's initial error recommendation.
If you're using an earlier version of Windows or you're not on Exchange, these steps probably won't work for you, but they're close enough that you should be able to accomplish this without more specific instructions. In both cases, the fix was time-consuming, but easy to implement.
Send me your question about Office
I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.