Outlook Startup and Slow Performance

One of the fastest end user communications you can have will be from everybody’s least desired scenarios: slow startup performance with Outlook.

We’ve all become so accustomed to almost instantaneous response times that a five or ten percent drop in startup times can cause a major increase in complaints from end users. From small office operations to larger enterprise corporations those five to ten percent drops in startup times can sometimes be translated into lost revenue especially when the slow startup time bleeds into continuous slower performance and reduced availability and access to data.

There can be many causes for slow startup performance:

  1. Folder updates are interrupted.
  2. Interference or incompatibility with anti-virus or anti-spam software.
  3. Problems with recent add-ins.
  4. Inbox messages may be corrupted.
  5. Critical file corruption.
  6. TCP/IP communication problems.
  7. Server/Client hardware configurations
  8. User Interface customizations

If you suspect file or folder corruptions then one way to check for this is to check the size of some of your critical system files. Some very easy fixes include renaming or deleting these files and then letting Outlook recreate them as necessary. In Outlook 2007 such files that can be deleted or renamed include: outcmd.dat, extend.dat, views.dat and frmcache.dat.

You can find these files at the following locations in Windows XP and Vista respectively:

Outcmd.dat:
C:\Documents and Settings\(username)\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook

Extend.dat:
C:\Documents and Settings\(username)\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

Frmcache.dat:
C:\Documents and Settings\(username)\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\FORMS

Views.dat:
C:\Documents and Settings\(username)\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook
C:\Users\(username)\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

If you have recently upgraded your anti-virus, anti-spam software or recently added in new applications then an administrator can try disabling the new software upgrades temporarily and then reinstall them if necessary. And to reduce the number of variables the administrator can also try closing any archives.

Follow the steps below if you suspect problems are being caused by Outlook add-ins.

  1. Click Tools, then Options and then Other
  2. Select Advanced Options
  3. Click COM Add-Ins
  4. Click Add-In Manager
  5. Deselect all add-in (check boxes)

These diagnostic steps should not be combined as troubleshooting the cause or causes of a problem should be done on a step by step process so as to eliminate potential issues one by one. If you disable or close one application in one step and then the problem goes away with that one step then you’ll have most often identified the one issue which caused the original problem. Sometimes the problem is the result of a combination is two or more issues and will be harder to identify.

Another potential trouble spot when starting Outlook can occur between the communications of the client and the server. This can happen if the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) host name cannot be resolved.

TCP/IP issues can be diagnosed by starting with the user profile properties on the Exchange server. An administrator can measure the name resolution time by logging onto the Exchange server and then, using the correct server name and mailbox for an end user, click on the “Check Name” button. This will give an administrator an indication of any problems with name resolution. If the time it takes to resolve the name is more than thirty to forty seconds then further diagnostics in this area should be conducted.

One very useful utility that any Outlook administrator should be familiar with is “rpcping”. The RPC Ping Utility (“rpcping”) can be used to troubleshoot connectivity issues between Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 or Outlook 2003 and Exchange server. An administrator can use the RPC Ping Utility to confirm the Remote Program Call (RPC) connectivity between Microsoft Exchange Server systems and any Microsoft Exchange Client supported system. The rpcping utility can also be used to verify that RPC service requests are being recognized by the Exchange Server as they come in from the clients.

An administrator can implicitly run the “rpcping” test by typing in the IP address instead of the server name and then clicking on “Check Name” for the client profile properties section on the Microsoft Exchange server system. This method will test for IP address resolution instead of name resolution. If this test fails then the administrator should review the IP address for the Exchange Server. If the IP address is correct then there is a problem with the RPC communications to the server. More information on how to correct the RPC issues can be found on the Microsoft Support web site.

Written by Mike Rede

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