Outlook – is your email program misbehaving ?

If you choose to use Outlook for your email program you may well see poor or unreliable behaviour. This is generally down to one of two things.

Microsoft Outlook Logo

Add-in conflict

Outlook add-ins are “enhancements” ( and I use the word loosely ) to the main program from various other applications that are installed on your PC. There may be scheduling tools, antispam tools, CRM tools … the list is endless.

As you can imagine it is nigh on impossible for all the potential combinations to be tested and add-ins can malfunction or misbehave with other add-ins causing operational difficulties.

Investigate with Safe Mode

Luckily, Outlook has a safe mode that enables it to start with all the add-ins temporarily disabled. Add-ins can then be turned on and off at will to allow some fault finding to take place.

Getting into this safe mode is simple. There is a choice – hold down the windows key and press r to pop open the Run box. Type outlook /safe then OK and you are all set. Alternatively, you can hold down the CTRL key while clicking or double clicking your Outlook icon, and a message will pop up informing you of the option of safe mode startup.

More information on add-ins is available at Microsoft.

Corrupted Outlook Data Files

A consistency check will be performed on each of the data files it has to load whenever it starts. If these files are corrupted the program may well freeze completely or appear to get stuck for an extended period. Luckily Microsoft has very thoughtfully supplied a tool called SCANPST which allows a manual check of the validity of these files and perform offline repairs.

The use of this tool is described here but this process is best undertaken with the guidance of your trusted IT professional who can also assist with add-in diagnostics and any other obstacles Outlook may be placing in the way of smooth email management.


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Windows 10 Creator’s Update Has Started Rolling Out


The roll-out for the Windows 10 so-called “Creators Update” ( otherwise known as Redstone 2 or 1703 ) is now well underway and early reports are generally positive. This process is expected to take place over a period of several months, starting with newer machines.

Do I need to do anything? No – the upgrade will be delivered by the automatic Windows Update process. It is possible to download the installation file to force the update but even Microsoft recommend against this.

What will I see? This is a large upgrade that will look like a re-install of Windows and may well take 1-2 hours to complete, depending on the speed of your machine. Apart from a new privacy screen where you have just five elements to consider, the process will look the same as previous upgrades.

What’s in it for me? Although called a “Feature Update” there is very little in the new feature list that is of interest to the average small business user. The ability to get slightly more control over the update/restart process and a hotkey combo for the snipping tool are useful but not really game changers.

If you would like more information on the changes this Reddit post has a very good ( lengthy but not too detailed ) unofficial change log.


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Importing contacts from Windows Live Mail into Office 365 Outlook online

I recently had a customer who wanted to get their contacts out of Windows Live Mail (WLM) and into their btconnect.com email account which was being accessed via Office 365 Outlook online.

There were instructions on extracting the contacts from WLM and importing them, but sadly they are not quite right giving broken contact records with missing data.

Exporting in CSV format from the WLM address book is the correct approach but the “column headers” in the CSV file do not match what the Outlook online import expects. Mine was a simple CSV with just first name, last name and email address included.

Save the CSV and then open it with Notepad. On the first line ( the “column headers” ) change the word Surname to read Last Name, and change Email Address to read Email. Be sure to leave the commas in place. Save this CSV and then import it normally into Outlook online.

Your contacts will now be fully populated. This process may also come in handy if you are importing contacts into Outlook.com from a Hotmail account that has only been used from WLM.

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Selected Poorly PC tips from May 2015

If you follow me on Twitter you will have seen my daily tech tips with the hashtag #PoorlyPCTip. This blog post is a mini collection of my favourite tips from the month of May.

  • Running two anti-virus programs does not give you twice as much protection, it will give you twice as many problems #PoorlyPCTip
  • Dropbox Pro users are STRONGLY advised to invest in Extended Version History if no other cloud backup system is in use #PoorlyPCTip
  • A backup isn’t a backup until it has been used to fully restore the machine / data. Don’t put off this test until it’s too late #PoorlyPCTip
  • If your PC is using more than 85-90% of its memory, performance will take a huge hit as Windows tries to manage the situation #PoorlyPCTip
  • Office 365 Home is NOT licensed for business use. For work stuff you need a Small Business subscription https://products.office.com/en-gb/business/compare-office-365-for-business-plans … #PoorlyPCTip
  • Using a personal email address from your ISP ? Extra hassle if you want to change provider. Switch to a gmail account instead #PoorlyPCTip

These are written with a view to get the thought processes working … “could this be relevant for me ?”, “this sounds technical, but I want to know more” or even “crikey, I need to sort this out RIGHT NOW”. The ideas come from real support calls I have taken that day, so they are both timely and relevant for small businesses.

If any of these topics covered above hit a nerve and you would like to discuss further, I’m only a phone call away on 07947 989395

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