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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Cut down on the published and
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
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.
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.
Fix ShoreTel Windows 7
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).
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