Wintellect’s most important client, my wife, comes to me and says that her Outlook desktop application is all messed up. It hasn’t connected and downloaded emails in over five hours. She’s rebooted the computer and done basic Outlook trouble shooting that she found on the web but Outlook never connects to her Exchange server. Considering she’s on a Surface Pro, running Windows 8, with Office 2013 Professional Plus, and connecting to an Office 365 Exchange server, this is a 100% Microsoft software stack therefore, ergo, it has to be all Microsoft’s fault.
Before I go any further: what I discuss here worked for me and may not work for you. If you follow through with these steps and destroy your computer don’t blame me. Given how many people are struggling with the same issue I thought I’d document how I fixed the problem. There is zero warranty here.
After looking at her computer a while, nothing would get rid of the “Trying to connect” in the application status bar. I’d really love to know exactly where in the connection process things are failing. Is Outlook not finding the server? Has it even attempted the connection? And so on, but I realize that even though Outlook is up to version 15 there’s a complete lack of any logging or help whatsoever. All it says is “trying to connect.” My first step is to check if Office 365 is working to see if the problem is there. The Office 365 portal for my wife’s account says there’s no issues and a quick test with the Remote Connectivity Analyzer tells me Office 365 is working great and the machine is connecting. Yep, no big surprise, the problem is with the Outlook application. For the next version of Office, I don’t want any features in Outlook added except good logging, actionable diagnostics, eliminate all those idling threads and use the thread pool, and to stop doing I/O on the UI thread. I’d pay serious money for that release!
Microsoft has a Knowledge Base (KB) article that walks you through eight basic steps and two advanced steps to attempt to fix hangs and freezes. You should definitely go through the first eight basic steps because those might fix the problem, though I doubt it. However, I just love how the last advanced step is to give up and create a new Windows user profile. Yes, you read that right. The Outlook team says that if you can’t get Outlook working because of one of our bugs, just become a new user in the OS. That’s not a joke and made me die a little inside. Whoever wrote and approved that step in the KB article should be stack ranked right out of Microsoft.
When Outlook can’t connect or continually hangs at the splash screen saying “Loading profile” you’re looking at a corrupt mail profile. After deleting the mail profile, as described in the KB article, that may sometimes solve your problem when it’s recreated by Outlook the next time it starts. With my important client, deleting the profile did nothing more than make Outlook permanently hang at the Add Account dialog when attempting to add her email account back.
Obviously Outlook has corrupted something in its registry values or one of the many cache/data files Outlook uses in the Windows user account so I wanted to delete them to see if that would fix the hangs. Again, this may not work for you, but for my patron, it got Outlook working again.
In the Registry editor delete the following keys:
Note that if you gave your mail profile a different name, the above key will end in that name.
In File Explorer, delete the following directories:
My key customer was happy to have her Outlook back but after her seeing how many other people on the web have had nearly identical problems she wanted me to get the word out. She also wanted to know how normal people that don’t have a super experienced (her actual words: “ancient”) Windows developer at their beck and call.