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For many users, Outlook can be a single point of contact between their computer and the Internet. As a massive communications and time management tool, Outlook is perfectly positioned to act as a contacts management and scheduling tool as well as an email and RSS client.
That’s quite a lot of data.
Now, people get quite frustrated when Outlook doesn’t run as intended, but when there are emails flying into a typical inbox from all around the planet, from different computer systems and different email creation methods (desktop clients, mobile phones, tablets, webmail) and via thousands of different server configurations, it should come as no surprise to find that occasionally some data does get a little bit mixed up.
One common way in which this can be reflected in the performance of Outlook is when you find your cannot start the client, or that the Outlook windows will not open even though the application is listed as running in Task Manager.
So how do we resolve these issues?
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Why Won’t the Outlook Window Open?
There are several reasons why the Outlook window will not open, depending on the fault. The problem typically occurs when some corrupt data finds its way into your email inbox or when add-in software (perhaps a third-party spam filter) fails to load correctly when you launch Outlook.
What usually happens is that you will double-click the Outlook icon from your Windows desktop or launch from the Start menu or taskbar; after a few moments you might notice the Outlook icon in the system tray or you might even see the Outlook splash screen to confirm that the software is loading…
…and then nothing else happens.
You can check whether or not the email client has loaded or whether you’ve got a suspect mouse by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+Esc to open the Windows Task Manager; on the Applications and Processes tabs you should find mention of Outlook.
With the software running but no interface on the desktop, you will need to close Outlook before attempting any of the following troubleshooting tasks. You can do this by highlighting the entry for Outlook and selecting End Process.
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Resetting the Navigation Pane
The most common reason for Outlook launching but no window appearing is that the toolbars have been corrupted in some way, most typically thanks to an unresponsive add-in.
There are various add-ins available for Outlook; these are usually spam filters but they might also be online print managers, advanced spell checking tools or related to an instant messaging client. Failure of one of these additional pieces of software to launch when Outlook does can cause problems loading the navigation pane on the left-hand side of the Outlook window. It is interesting to note that this can happen in Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010.
To fix problems opening the Outlook window, you should first try and launch the email client with a reset navigation pane. This can be done in Windows 7 and Vista via the Start > Search box, or in Windows XP via WINDOWS+R to open the Run box.
(Notice the space between .exe and the forward slash.) This will prevent the add-in from loading, thereby restoring Outlook to normal working order!
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Forcing Safe Mode
Another way in which you can force Outlook to launch correctly is to run it in Safe Mode. This doesn’t mean launching Windows in Safe Mode and using the email client without network drivers (which would be pointless as you wouldn’t be able to send or receive any messages!) but instead refers to a function in Outlook that allows you to start the application without the various add-ons and user settings such as remembering the last screen you were viewing.
Like the navigation pane reset, entering Safe Mode features a switch that you can use in the Start > Search box in Windows 7 or the Run box in Windows XP. The statement is:
Again, notice that there is a space between the .exe and the forward slash. You can also force Outlook to open in Safe Mode by holding CTRL when you click the Outlook icon to launch.
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Alternatively, Try a PST Repair Tool
These two methods of resolving launching issues with Outlook will not be complete without reference to a third. If the issue is data related then you might consider using the ScanPST tool that ships with Outlook to resolve the problem. More on the use of this utility can be found in our Guide to PST Repair.
Don’t forget that uninstalling any suspect add-ins is also recommended (via Start > Control Panel > Uninstall a Program), while as a last resort you should consider reinstalling Outlook if possible.
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Author's own experience.
Screenshots provided by author.