Unable to Start Microsoft Outlook Error

The main symptom of this error is easily recognizable as you click on Outlook icon it start hanging for a while and then you start getting an error message Cannot Start Microsoft Office Outlook.

According to Microsoft major reason behind this issue is corruption in Navigation pane setting file profilename.xml, where profilename is name of Outlook profile. A good implication that file is damaged is when its size is 0KB. No one now the exact reason behind this error but it found in all version of Microsoft Outlook from 2003 to 2013.

Other apprehension may be you run Outlook in compatibility mode, or your profile is created in older Outlook version, or Outlook data file (.pst or .ost) was corrupted or deleted as the result of inaccurate Outlook uninstallation.

Anyway, whatever reason is outcome is same – you cannot open Outlook window because of the error Cannot start Microsoft Outlook, "Cannot open Outlook window, The set of folders cannot be opened."

Few variation of Error Message according to the version of Outlook

  • Outlook 2010: "Microsoft Outlook has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience."
  • Outlook 2007: "Cannot open your default e-mail folders. The information store could not be opened."
  • Outlook 2003: "Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Unable to open the Outlook window. Invalid XML, the view cannot be loaded."

Fix Cannot Start Microsoft Outlook Issue

  • Recover Navigation Pane configuration file
  • Repair Outlook data file (.pst) with Inbox Repair tool
  • Create new Outlook profile and import data from old PST file
  • Turn off Compatibility Mode
  • Open Outlook in Safe Mode
  • Fix MS Outlook hanging on loading Profile

Recover Navigation Pane Configuration File

In most cases corrupt navigation pane setting prevent Outlook from starting, so first you need to repair it. Learn how to do it on different operation system.

  • If use Windows Vista, 7 or 8, click on start button. On Windows XP click on start then Run
  • Now Type command in search field outlook.exe/resetnavpane

Note: Enter space between outlook.exe and /resetnavpane

  • Press enter or click on file in order to reset Navigation pane setting then open Outlook

If you wish to work with Run dialog on Windows 7 or 8, then follow given below steps

  • On Start menu, click All Program >> Accessories >> Run
  • Now type outlook.exe /resetnavpane command and click Ok

Delete Navigation Pane File Setting

If due to some reason you are not able to recover Navigation pane configuration file, nor automatic fix equip by Microsoft work, try to delete XML file that stores navigation pane settings.

Steps to Delete Navigation pane setting

  • Enter below command in Start >> Search field on Windows 8 and Windows 7 or Start >> Run on Windows XP and then press Enter %appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook
  • Now a folder gets open where Microsoft Outlook configuration files stored, find and delete Outlook.xml file.

Repair Outlook data file (.pst) using Inbox Repair Tool

If you have resinstalled MS Outlook and went wrong at the time of previous version uninstallation, the default pst might have been corrupted or deleted. And due to which Outlook won't open.

Let's try Inbox Repair Tool (scanpst.exe) for outlook.pst

  • Location of Scanpst.exe various according to the version of Outlook at your desktop
    • Outlook 2013
      • 32-bit Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office 15
      • 64-bit Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office 15
    • Outlook 2010
      • 32-bit Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office 14
      • 64-bit Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office 14
    • Outlook 2007
      • 32-bit Windows: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office 12
      • 64-bit Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office 12
  • Double click on Scanpst.exe or alternatively click on start and type scanpst.exe in search box.
  • Now click on browse to select default Outlook.pst file

In Outlook 2013 and 2010 PST file found in Document/Outlook files folder. If you upgrade version of Outlook to 2010 then at such instant you will find an outlook.pst file in a hidden folder in given below location.

  • On Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8 C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook
  • On Windows XP C:\Documents and Setting\user\Local Setting\Application Data\Microsoft \Outlook
  • To specify scan log, click on Options and then select the option you want
  • Now click on Start
  • If error found after the completion of scanning then start repair process to fix errors.

During Repair process a backup file is created at your machine. To change default name or location of backup file, enter new name in enter name of backup file or click on browse to look for file you want to use.

  • Click on Repair
  • Start Outlook by using profile that contain pst file that you want to repair
  • On Go menu, click on Folder list

In Folder List, you see a folder by the name of Recovered Personal Folder that contains default Outlook folders or Lost and Found folder. Usually recover folders are empty, because this is a rebuilt file. Lost and Found folder caries the items recovery by scanpst.exe, items missing from Lost and Found folder cannot be repaired.

  • You can create new pst file by dragging the items form Lost and Found folder. And after that delete them from your profile.

Turn off Outlook Compatibility mode

  • Click on Start button and type outlook.exe in search field

Alternatively find outlook.exe in default installation folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office version

  • Right click on outlook.exe and then properties
  • Switch to compatibility tab and clear Run this program in compatibility mode for check box
  • Now click and Ok button and try to start Outlook

If still cannot open Outlook window and getting the same error Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook then try to restore previous version of PST file. Of course in this situation some emails will be lost, but it seem better alternative than no Outlook. So right click on Outlook.pst file and select the Restore previous versions.

Create New Outlook Profile

Create new Outlook profile if repairing and restoring Outlook.pst file process do not worked. If it does then copy the current Outlook data file (.pst) from broken profile to the new one.

Create new Outlook profile by following the given below steps:

  • Go to the Control Panel > Mail > Data Files > Add
  • Set new profile as default one, by going through the given path Account setting >> Data file and then select new profile and click set as Default button on toolbar.
  • Try to start Outlook if it starts normally with newly created profile, copy data from old pst file as shown in next step.
    • Go to the File >> Open >> Import
    • Select Import from another program file and click on Next
    • Select Outlook DataFile (.pst) and click on Next
    • Click Browse button and select old .pst file. If you had single Outlook profile never renamed PST file, then most likely it will be Outlook.pst.
  • Click Next and after that click on Finish button to complete migration process.

If old pst file contains important data that you cannot live without, try third-party tool to recover PST file e.g Outlook PST Recovery.

Start Outlook in Safe Mode without Extensions

Staring Outlook in safe mode means that it will be run without add-ins that is installed on machine. It is the fastest technique to found out is the Outlook start up problem is caused due the add-ins.

To start Outlook in safe mode, click on its icon holding Ctrl key or click on Start and enter outlook/safe in search line and press Enter. MS Outlook will display a message about the confirmation of starting Outlook in safe mode, click Yes.

An alternative way use outlook.exe / noextensions command, which means same start Outlook without any extensions.

If Outlook start in safe mode then definitely the problem is with one of the add-ins. So try to disable add-in one at a time to detect which one is causing the issue.

Fix MS Outlook Hanging on Loading Profile

This problem most occurs in Office 2013/Office 365 but it may occur in Outlook 2010 and below versions. Main symptom is hanging Outlook on Loading Profile and main cause is clash between Original Equipment Manufacturer video driver and operating system.

To fix issue implement the following things:

  • Right click on desktop empty space and then click Screen Resolution >> Advance Setting.
  • Then go to monitor tab and change colors to 16 bit
  • After that disable acceleration of hardware graphics by going through File tab >> Options >> Advanced and select Disable Hardware Graphics Acceleration check box.

The solution addresses above are considered as a most frequent reason of MS Outlook not starting. Hope it helps you.