In the Trenches: Dealing with a Grim Outlook

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Thomas Shinder

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt on top of the world? You wake up in the morning feeling great, and everything is going just as expected. Every decision is made correctly and in record time, and life just seems to be getting better without an end in site?

Have you ever had one of those days where you felt on top of the world? You wake up in the morning feeling great, and everything is going just as expected. Every decision is made correctly and in record time, and life just seems to be getting better without an end in site?

I had one of those days last week, until I got a call from a client regarding her Outlook 2000 program giving her error messages and then closing down on its own. This customer was well known to me as someone that kept a local .pst file that ranged in the 1 GB or larger ranger. She's had problems with Outlook in the past, and we've always been able to fix them in less than 30 minutes.

Rather than give her instructions over the phone, I decided to pay her a friendly visit. This always helps keep the wheels of social interaction well lubricated, and I hadn't seen her for a while anyway. It would be a nice break away from the office.

Captain Outlook to the Rescue

When I got there, she told me that all morning her Outlook would start, and then after a few minutes she would get a box telling her that something "exceptional" had happened. While Outlook is a decent program, I never thought it would announce to its users that it was "exceptional"! She would then start the program again, and the same thing would happen. She had been fighting with this all morning, and finally gave up and called me to fix it.

I planted myself in front of her computer and started up Outlook. It starting receiving her mail and everything looked fine. Then, about five minutes later, the program shut down. I had seen this sort of behavior before on her machine. To confirm my suspicions, I opened up Task Manger and saw that about three minutes later the processor pegged at 100% and the process list showed that Outlook was taking the lion's share of processor cycles.

No problem. I'll just use the scanpst.exe program to fix her corrupted .pst file, archive about 600 MB of spam that was filling up her Inbox (she swears that she'll need that stuff someday), restart the computer and we'll be ready to roll.

The Scanpst.exe Program (a.k.a., the Inbox Repair Tool)

The scanpst.exe program, better known as the Inbox Repair Tool in versions of Windows before Windows 2000, allows you to attempt a repair of a corrupted .pst file. Windows 2000 does not include the tool in the Start menu, so you're have to use the Find command in order to locate the file. When you find and open it up, you'll see this:

Not too exciting. Type in the full path to the .pst file, or use the Browse button to find the file. The opens ask if you want to overwrite any old log files generated from using the tool in the past. After you run a scan, you can look for the log file, which bears the same name as the .pst file, but with the .log extension. It'll look something like this:

After running the program I deleted the extraneously files and rebooted. Confident that all would go well, I started up Outlook and it retrieved mail like a champ. However, about 5 minutes later, the same thing happened: the program pegged the processor and shut down a little later.

The Outlook is looking Grim

We played that game for another 45 minutes, continuing to repeat the experience. It appeared my "common sense voice of experience" approach didn't work. I checked TechNet and found that a corrupt Mapi32.dll file could cause this problem. So, I shut down Outlook, renamed the file to Mapi32.old, and restarted the program. No go. How about using the big gun? That's right, reinstall Office 2000 and take advantage of the miracle of the Microsoft Installer Service.

Nope. Reinstalling only accomplished wasting another 30 minutes. Another check of TechNet revealed that the Use Profile could become corrupted, and that you should create a new profile.

No problem there. Right click on the Outlook icon on the desktop, click Properties and click Show Profiles. Since I wanted to create a new profile quickly, I used the Copy button:

Using the copy button is convenient because I didn't have to reconfigure her Internet E-mail setting, Microsoft Mail Settings, or Personal Folder settings. After making a new profile using the copy, we tried everything again.

It did not work. And continued to not work for several more hours.

When a Twin is a Copy and Not Someone New

What happened? I was on the right track, but the problem is that a copied profile is not a new profile. Whatever was corrupt in the profile got into the copy I had made. The take home message here is that when Microsoft says make something new, but sure its new, not a copy of whatever you need a new one of.

For More Information:

For More Information on Troubleshooting Exchange Clients like Outlook and the Microsoft Exchange Client, check out the reprint of Kathy Ivens book "Microsoft Exchange Server Server 5.5 Pocket Consultant" by Microsoft Press.

This article was originally published on Sep 18, 2000
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