Fix: Cannot start Microsoft Outlook Error [2023]

Fix Cannot start Microsoft Outlook Error [2023]


If you’ve ever encountered the dreaded “Cannot start Microsoft Outlook, cannot open the Outlook window, the set of folders cannot be opened” error, you know how frustrating it can be when trying to access important emails or manage your daily schedule.

We had the same issue for one of our clients – Tim last week and followed the exact steps below to make sure he was back in business at the end of the day! We shall reveal the exact fix that sorted his problem below.

This common issue prevents users from opening their Outlook software, causing significant inconvenience and disruption.

We will discuss the various causes of this error and provide detailed steps on how to resolve it so that you can regain control of your email client.

Key Takeaways

  • “Cannot start Microsoft Outlook” error can occur due to various reasons such as file corruption, running Outlook in Compatibility mode, or using a profile file from an older version that has been deleted or damaged.
  • Troubleshooting methods for fixing the error include restarting your computer, repairing or reinstalling Microsoft Office, recovering the navigation pane configuration, and creating a new Outlook profile.
  • Other solutions include reducing the size of the Outlook data file.
  • Backing up data files is also highly recommended to prevent possible loss of valuable information stored within emails managed by MS Outlook.

Causes Of The Error

One common reason behind the “Cannot start Microsoft Outlook” error is corruption in the user’s profile file, specifically the .xml file associated with their name. File corruption can occur without any malicious attacks and might be a result of power failures, sudden system shutdowns, or software glitches.

Another contributing factor to this error could be utilizing a profile file (.pst or .ost) from an older version that has been deleted or damaged.

This often occurs when upgrading to a newer version of Microsoft Outlook but neglecting to update some settings accordingly.

Additionally, it is important to consider other causes such as issues with Microsoft Exchange logons and navigation pane configuration files that might lead to instances of not being able to start your Microsoft Outlook program.


1. Restart Your PC / Laptop

First and foremost, we restarted his PC!

One of the simplest yet surprisingly effective methods for fixing the “Cannot Start Microsoft Outlook” error is restarting your PC or laptop. It’s quite common for users to overlook this basic computer troubleshooting step, but in many cases, rebooting your device can resolve various software errors and technical glitches.

For instance ( a few years back ), when dealing with a recent file corruption issue related to my administrative permissions on my work PC, I tried everything from add-ins management to software updates.

Nothing seemed to work until I finally gave restarting my computer a shot – lo and behold, it did the trick! So next time you encounter an issue like the above, before diving deep into more complex and time-consuming solutions, give a simple restart a try.

2. Repair Microsoft Office From Control Panel

You probably guessed it – we tried this for Tim – nope, didn’t work but worth a try!

One of the common methods for fixing the “Cannot start Microsoft Outlook” error is by repairing Microsoft Office from the Control Panel.

Follow these steps to perform this solution:

  1. Close all Microsoft Office applications, ensuring that Outlook is completely shut down.
  2. Open the Control Panel on your PC or laptop.
  3. Choose “Programs and Features” or “Uninstall a Program.”
  4. Find your Microsoft Office installation in the list of installed programs.
  5. Right-click on it and select “Change.”
  6. In the pop-up window, choose “Repair” and follow the on-screen instructions to repair any potential issues.
  7. Restart your computer after the repair process has been completed.

Note that administrative permissions may be required to perform these troubleshooting steps, so ensure you have proper access rights before attempting this method.

Remember that keeping your Outlook software up to date can help prevent future errors and ensure optimal performance, as well as regularly backing up Outlook data files in case of file corruption or other issues.

3. Reinstall Microsoft Office If Repair Fails (Outlook 2016, Outlook 2013 )

If repairing Microsoft Office from the Control Panel fails to fix the error, the next step is to completely uninstall and then reinstall Microsoft Office.

Now this didn’t work for Tim, but a few months back – we did reinstall Office for another client of ours – which fixed her Outlook issue!

This can be done by following these steps:

  1. Go to the Control Panel on your computer.
  2. Click on Programs and Features.
  3. Find Microsoft Office in the list of programs and click Uninstall.
  4. Follow the prompts to uninstall Microsoft Office completely from your system.
  5. Restart your computer once the uninstallation process is complete.
  6. Reinstall Microsoft Office using either a CD ( if you have older versions ) or a downloaded installation file ( Office 2016 and later ).

Note that you will need your license key or subscription information to reinstall Microsoft Office successfully.

Reinstalling Microsoft Office can fix any corrupted files or settings that may have been causing the error message, allowing you to access your emails and other information once again.

4. Update Your Outlook Software

To ensure optimal performance and prevent issues, it’s important to keep your Outlook software up to date.

Here are some tips for updating your Outlook software:

  1. Check for updates regularly: Go to the “File” tab in Outlook and click on “Office Account.” From there, click “Update Options” and select “Update Now.”
  2. Use Automatic Updates: You can also set up automatic updates on your computer. Go to the Control Panel and select “Windows Update” or “Microsoft Update,” depending on your version of Windows.
  3. Install Service Packs: Microsoft periodically releases service packs that contain bug fixes, security updates, and other improvements for Office programs.
  4. Upgrade to the latest version of Microsoft Office: Upgrading to the latest version of Office can help prevent compatibility issues and improve performance.

Remember to check for updates regularly, install service packs, and consider upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft Office as needed.

5. Recover The Navigation Pane Configuration File

You can recover the Navigation Pane configuration file by following these steps:

  1. Close Outlook if it is open.
  2. Open File Explorer and navigate to this folder: %appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook
  3. Find the file named “outlook.xml” and rename it to something else, like “outlook. old”.
  4. Start Outlook again and a new navigation pane configuration file will be created automatically.

This should help resolve errors caused by corrupted Navigation Pane settings, allowing you to access your emails, calendar, and other data in Outlook. 

6. Repair Outlook Files Using Inbox Repair Tool

This step did the trick for Tim. Now remember, every user is different, so try the steps below if it doesn’t work out for you!

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Close Outlook and go to the Control Panel.
  2. Open the Mail app and click on “Data Files.”
  3. Select the file you want to repair and click on “Open File Location.”
  4. Note down the location of the data file and close all open windows.
  5. Open the Inbox Repair Tool by searching for “scanpst.exe” in your computer’s search bar.
  6. Click on “Browse” and navigate to the location where you noted down your data file’s path (outlook pst file).
  7. Click on “Start” to scan for any errors or issues with your data file.
  8. If any issues are found, select “Repair” to fix and repair Outlook data.
  9. Once completed, restart your computer and open Outlook again.

By repairing your Outlook files using the Inbox Repair Tool, you can restore important data files (.pst or .ost) that may have become corrupted during uninstallation or reinstallation of Outlook, helping you get back to using your email, calendar, notes, and other essential features without encountering errors.

7. Create A New Outlook Profile And Import Data From Old PST File

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Close Outlook and go to Control Panel.
  2. Click on Mail and then select Show Profiles.
  3. Click Add and set up a new profile, giving it a name different from your old one.
  4. Enter your email address, password, and other necessary details when prompted.
  5. Select your new profile and click Set as Default Profile.
  6. Open Outlook again using the newly created profile.
  7. In Outlook, go to File > Open & Export > Import/Export.
  8. Choose the “Import from another program or file” option, then click Next.
  9. Choose “Outlook Data File (.pst)”, then click Next.
  10. Browse for your old PST file location and select it, then choose options for how you want to import it (i.e., replace duplicates with items imported).
  11. Click Finish

By doing this, you will have a fresh start with your email program without losing any of your data. Your emails will still be stored in the original .pst or .ost file but accessed through the new profile.

Creating a new Outlook profile can also help if there are issues with file corruption or compatibility mode that cannot be easily resolved by other troubleshooting methods mentioned earlier.

It is important to note that before creating a new profile, it is highly recommended to back up essential Outlook files ( PST ) to prevent data loss.

8. Turn Off Compatibility Mode In Outlook

Here are the steps to turn off Compatibility mode:

  1. Right-click on the Outlook icon on your desktop.
  2. Select Properties from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click on the Compatibility tab.
  4. Uncheck the box next to “Run this program in compatibility mode.”
  5. Click Apply and then OK.

Once you have turned off Compatibility mode, try restarting Outlook to see if it has resolved the issue.

9. Start Outlook In Safe Mode

This allows users to isolate problematic add-ins and identify potential issues with Outlook’s settings. Here are the steps to start Outlook in Safe Mode:

  1. Close Outlook if it’s open.
  2. Press and hold the CTRL key on your keyboard as you click on the Outlook icon to launch it.
  3. You’ll see a prompt asking if you want to start Outlook in Safe Mode. Click “Yes”.
  4. If Outlook opens without any issues, then there may be problematic add-ins causing the error. Disable add-ins one at a time until the issue is resolved.
  5. If starting Outlook in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the problem, try other methods described in this article such as repairing or reinstalling Microsoft Office, creating a new profile, or reducing the size of data files.

10. Reduce The Size Of The Outlook Data File

Outlook data files can become too large, leading to unwanted errors.

Here are some ways to reduce Outlook data file size:

  1. Manually split the data file into smaller sections.
  2. Empty the Deleted Items folder regularly to rid yourself of unneeded emails and attachments.
  3. Archive old emails that you no longer need in your inbox.
  4. Compress data files using a compression tool for quick access while keeping the same amount of data.

Reducing your Outlook data file size can improve performance, prevent errors, and make it easier to manage your emails.

11. Remove XML Files To Fix Outlook Error

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Close Outlook and open Windows File Explorer.
  2. Navigate to your user profile folder (usually found in C: \Users\username).
  3. Locate and delete the Outlook.xml file.
  4. Restart Outlook and check if the error is fixed.

Note that deleting the Outlook.xml file will reset some of your preferences, so you may need to reconfigure settings like your signature or email account settings.

However, it’s a simple solution that can solve the error quickly without risking data loss.

12. Try Outlook PWA

If none of the above works, you can still access Outlook PWA, until a technician comes to visit and fix the issue for you!

Additional Troubleshooting Steps When All Else Fails

If none of the above methods work to fix the issue, don’t worry. 

There are still additional troubleshooting steps you can take to resolve the issue and get your Outlook program back up and running:

  1. Run a virus scan: A computer virus could cause issues with Outlook starting up properly. Running a thorough virus scan may help identify and remove any potential threats.
  2. Check your firewall settings: Your firewall settings may be blocking Outlook from starting up correctly. Check your firewall settings to ensure that they are not causing any conflicts with Outlook.
  3. Contact support: If all else fails, reach out to our computer geeks!


In conclusion, encountering the “Cannot start Microsoft Outlook” error can be frustrating for any Outlook user.

However, with the help of this guide, you now have several troubleshooting tips at your disposal to resolve the issue and get back to using this crucial email client.

See Also: How to Fix Error Code 80090016 in Microsoft Outlook and Teams?

Q: What should I do if I am unable to start Microsoft Office Outlook?

A: If you are unable to start Microsoft Office Outlook, you can try a few methods to fix this error. One common way is to create a new Outlook profile and try to open the Outlook application after that. You can also reset the Navigation Pane settings or run Outlook in compatibility mode to fix this error. You can also try to launch Outlook in safe mode by holding the Ctrl key while opening Outlook.

Q: How can I fix the “Cannot start Microsoft Outlook” error in Outlook 2010?

A: If you are using Outlook 2010 you can try to run Outlook in compatibility mode by right-clicking on the Outlook icon and selecting Properties. You can also create a new Outlook profile or reset the Navigation Pane settings.

Q: How can I prevent Outlook from getting damaged or corrupted?

A: To prevent Outlook from getting damaged or corrupted, you can regularly back up your Outlook data by exporting it to a PST file. You can also avoid using outdated versions of Outlook and keep your Outlook application up to date with the latest updates.

Q: How do I know which version of Outlook I am using?

A: To know which version of Outlook you are using, you can open the Outlook application and click on the File menu.

From there, select the Account Information option, and your Outlook version will be displayed at the top of the page.

Q: What is the Microsoft Outlook Inbox Repair tool?

A: The Microsoft Outlook Inbox Repair Tool (SCANPST.EXE) is a tool provided by Microsoft that helps in repairing damaged Outlook data files (PST files). It can be used to fix Outlook errors.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...