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How to optimize and make Outlook faster

dots Why should you optimize Outlook?

As you may noticed, Microsoft Outlook tends to respond slower to your commands, as time goes by over your Outlook installation. We use to compare Microsoft Outlook with Microsoft Windows: they both needs constant tweaking and optimization, unless you are willing to reformat your disk and to reinstall Windows. But on the Outlook case, reinstalling it can bring lots of headaches and critical data may get lost during the process.

This article tries to explain you how to make Outlook faster and better, without reinstalling it. The article applies to the following Outlook symptoms:

  • It takes several minutes for Outlook to start;
  • You constantly get Outlook crashes or error messages;
  • It takes a lot of time for Outlook to switch folders or to view email content;
  • Outlook dies or it opens slowly, after it was minimized to the Windows systray;
  • Outlook doesn't respond to your commands or its responses are erratic.

    dots How to make Outlook run faster

    First of all, you need to understand that Outlook is a database driven Windows product: as more information you add to it, as more time it needs to respond to your commands. Moreover, the Outlook engine was designed during the Windows 95 days, but for compatibility reasons its database engine remained almost the same until today. On top of this system, with every new Outlook version Microsoft added several layers of features, such as Tasks, the Journal, the Business Contacts Manager and so on.

    So, the key for optimizing Outlook is: how can I take the stress out of Outlook and make it to handle less information? Remember the first day when you started Outlook? It loaded almost instantly and it was always promptly responding to your commands. Well, a lot has changed since that day: you now have multiple Outlook email accounts to handle, tons of emails spreaded in several mail folders, dozens of Outlook contacts, maybe even some cool addins or addons for Outlook.

    The easiest solution is to use an optimization add-in for Outlook, like Weight Diet. This Outlook add-in is designed to speed up Outlook by reducing your mailbox database (PST) size through a set of optimization tasks, such as: eliminating duplicate emails or obsolete messages (mail failure notifications, out-of-office emails, etc), moving file attachments to disk (outside of the PST file) or compacting the PST file.

    Starting from the above scenario and assuming you don't want to use an optimization wizard, here is a to-do list for making Outlook to load and run faster:

  • Always archive your incoming emails: there is no need to keep thousands of emails in your active mail box. You can just setup Outlook so it automatically move older emails to an archive folder. This way, when starting Outlook or when switching folders, the program doesn't have to load a huge list of emails. To archive a folder, simply right click on it, select its Properties, then go to the AutoArchive tab to configure your archiving settings.

  • Make sure the default folder that is displayed when Outlook starts is not too crowded with emails. Try to move emails away from the default starting folder to archive folders or to other sub-folders. For example, if you receive many emails from a contact, you can define a rule so all those emails are automatically moved into a specific folder. As less items Outlook has to display at startup, as faster it shall load.

  • Pay a lot of attention to 3rd party addins or addons. While they can bring benefits for your workflow, they surely add to the Outlook lag. Keep only the addins that you know you are using on regular basis: although you may not use an installed addin, it still consumes Outlook resources simply by "being there". You can see a list of your currently installed addins by the Tools menu -> Options -> Other -> Advanced Options -> Add-in Manager. You may also want to try our free Outlook Add-in Utility which is delivered with Bells & Whistles for Outlook.

  • If you use Outlook with a slow Internet connection to connect to a mailbox on a Microsoft Exchange server, you can improve response time by minimizing how much information Outlook transfers over the connection and how often these transfers occur. The best way to accomplish this is by working offline instead of online. As an alternative, you can configure Outlook to download only the email headers of incoming emails.

  • On a busy environment, Outlook needs to handle large mailbox files (PST files). You may want to defragment the disk partition on which your PST file is located. Since new information (emails or else) is continuously added by Outlook to your personal folders file, the PST file tends to become fragmented very quickly. As a result, it is a good idea to schedule, at least weekly, a disk defragmentation for the partition where the PST file is stored. If your defrag tool allows it, you should move the PST file at the beginning disk sectors of your disk partition: this way will hardware will require less time to access & read the PST file.

  • Unless it deals with critical errors, Outlook doesn't always report less important errors. By running the "Detect and Repair" function (from the Outlook Help menu) on regular basis, you rest assured that nothing bad is happening in the background.

  • Avoid switching tasks (ALT + TAB) while the main Outlook window is maximized. If you need to switch to a different application, make sure you firstly minimize Outlook, then go to the other program. Otherwise, it may end up using so much memory that it stops responding.

  • The default Outlook settings makes it work with the Windows Instant Messenger as often as possible. As a result, switching between emails or folders can be very slow, as the Windows Messenger needs to load its information, too. You can disable the use of Windows Messenger for Outlook from the Tools menu, under Options -> Other -> Person Names (unmark the related checkboxes).

  • Microsoft Office is delivered with speech and handwriting recognition features. Outlook also loads them and they increase the memory usage of Outlook. Here is a Microsoft article explaining how to turn off these features.

  • If you use to work on the same Windows session for days and if you need to keep Outlook up and running all the time, try closing & restarting Outlook at least daily. Especially due to 3rd party addins, Outlook can require more and more memory resources if you keep it open for a longer period of time.

    If all the above tips didn't make any difference and your Outlook is still running slow, maybe the only option is to backup your Outlook personal files, say a prayer and reinstall everything.

  • To repair the Outlook PST file, click here.

  • To learn how to backup Outlook folders and Contacts, click here.

  • Learn more about solutions to speed up Outlook.

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