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Operating Systems

The Microsoft Outlook fix of last resort

Delete your profile to give Outlook a fresh start. The big caveat: you need to be ready to say "adios" to your outlook.pst file, which holds your Outlook e-mail and settings.

A couple of weeks ago, the IT guy at my office added my company Exchange Server e-mail account to my notebook computer's copy of Microsoft Outlook 2007. The first time I tried to open Outlook after I left the office, the program crashed because it was unable to connect to the server.

I couldn't even open Outlook long enough to delete the new account. This wasn't a big problem for me for a bunch of reasons. For one, I didn't really need to access my company e-mail account from the version of Outlook on my notebook because I automatically forward messages from the most important senders (my boss, for example) to my Gmail account, which I use as my primary repository.

I also have the mail from my personal ISP account forwarded to my Gmail account.

And last but not least, I knew it would take only a couple of minutes to delete the troublesome account and get Outlook to reopen, though downloading all my old e-mail from the server would take quite a bit longer than that .

There's one big caveat to this technique: you need to be ready to say "adios" to your outlook.pst file, which is the file that holds your Outlook e-mail and settings.

I don't mind resetting my mail profile because I have Outlook set to keep messages on my ISP's server until I choose to delete them. So after I delete my Outlook account, a new one will be created automatically the next time I open the program. Once I re-enter my ISP's server settings, my old mail is downloaded again.

To change this setting, click Tools > Account Settings, choose your account, click Change > More Settings > Advanced, and check "Leave a copy of messages on the server." Then click OK > Next > Finish > Close.

Microsoft Outlook's advanced account settings dialog box
Set Outlook to leave a copy of your incoming messages on the server via this setting. Microsoft

Of course, this won't help much, if you're unable to open Outlook at all, which was the predicament I faced. You could make a copy of your outlook.pst file and restore it after you delete the problematic account, but restoring the outlook.pst file may simply cause the glitch to resurface.

The How-To Outlook site offers step-by-step instructions for backing up and restoring your Outlook data. Once you get Outlook going again, you can automate the Outlook backup-and-restore process by using Microsoft's free Outlook Personal Folders Backup utility.

The easiest part of the process is deleting the buggy profile. In XP, open the Control Panel's Mail applet by clicking Start > Control Panel (or Start > Settings > Control Panel) and choosing User Accounts > Mail (in Category View) or double-clicking Mail (in Classic View). In Vista, press the Windows key, type mail, scroll to Mail (not Windows Mail), and press Enter.

In the Mail Setup dialog box, click Show Profiles, choose the account (it may be the only one listed), and click Remove > Yes > OK.

Microsoft Windows XP's Profiles dialog box in the Mail Control Panel applet
Delete a troublesome Outlook profile to have the program re-create one from scratch the next time you open it. Microsoft

When you restart Outlook, you'll be prompted to set up an account as if it were the first time the program ever loaded on your system. Sometimes square one is the best place to be.