The Outlook Shut Down Mystery

Do you see the message displayed in this graphic when you shut down and reopen Microsoft Outlook 2007?

Outlook_2007_data_file_goofiness

James Kendrick says he’s seeing it on all his machines. I see it more frequently than I would care to as well. In fact, I’ve begrudgingly learned to live with it, sad to say. A number of the commenters on jk’s post say they’ve never seen the issue while some have. The problem occurs when the Outlook data store, either a .pst or an .ost file, does not shut down properly when exiting Outlook. OK, fair enough, but why does that happen?

From what I can gather there are several issues that can cause an improper shutdown and several fixes/workarounds that I’ve seen. If ever there was case for the well worn cliche, Your Mileage May Vary, (YMMV)this is it.

Microsoft’s solution

Microsoft suggests in this Knowledge Base article that the problem can occur if:

  • Antivirus software is scanning the file (I assume that means the .pst or .ost)
  • There is a forced Microsoft Windows shutdown before the Outlook.exe process shuts down completely.
  • Outlook add-ins are present.

As a recommendation, the KB article suggests the following:

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If you see this issue frequently, and you have to exit Outlook shortly before you shut down your computer, it may be better to shut down Windows while Outlook is still running. We recommend that you do this instead of of exiting Outlook and then shutting down Windows shortly after that.

Outlook add-ins

It seems from my research that just about any Outlook add-in can cause a problem, including (and there are a number of reports of this,) Microsoft’s OneCare. You’d think they would have figured that one out by now in Redmond. To find out if this is what might be causing your problem open Outlook in Safe mode (/safe) and this will disable all add-ins. Then comes the trial and error part of adding them back in one by one until you find the culprit. You can find out which add-ins are disabled and re-enable them by going to Help/Disabled Items. A number of users report that this solves their problems, once they’ve identified the offending add-in, but note that your mileage may vary. One of the guilty culprits in my usage has been MindJet’s MindManager and I keep that turned off. Fortunately, when it has caused a problem, I get a report that says that the add-in was the culprit. In many of the cases I’m seeing in my research, it is a mystery to tell which add-in causes the problem. I’m also testing Xobni, and I think that might be why I have been seeing this occur more frequently of late.

Outlook_2007disableAutomatic send/receive

One suggestion I’ve discovered is to make sure Outlook isn’t polling for a send/receive when it is offline. You can do this by going to Tools/Options/Mail Setup and hit the Send/Receive button. Uncheck the box under ‘When Outlook is offline’ that says ‘Schedule and automatic/send receive every….’ Again, some report that this solves their problems. Others do not.

A not so appealing workaround

A number of sources have suggested turning off the Outlook services in Task Manager before shutting down Outlook. Talk about a silly workaround.

No easy conclusions

For whatever reason, this can, at the least, be an annoyance and at the worst perhaps cause data loss. You would think that Microsoft would have more to offer here about this, and I’m sure there are probably other causes and workarounds out there. But from what I’ve found there are too many variables out there to offer something definitively at the moment.

Here are a couple of other tech forum threads that I’ve found with discussions of the issue.

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