Microsoft Outlook – what to do when it won’t open

Outlook logoMicrosoft Outlook is probably the most used, most reliable, and best featured Windows based email program available. However, it does occasionally have problems opening. It will either open the “splash screen” (the blue screen that identifies it while it is opening the rest of the program) and get no further, or it won’t even show the splash screen. Note that we are talking about the desktop program called Outlook: not the web-based “”.

Quite often, such problems are a one-off. Once resolved, they don’t recur. More annoyingly, they might recur but it’s so long since the last time it went wrong that you can’t remember how to resolve the problem.

The first suggestion below just looks to see if Outlook has “got stuck”. In this case, Outlook won’t open now because it didn’t close properly the last time you had it open. So, we just force it to close and then it will probably open again normally the next time and thereafter.

If that doesn’t work, we then go on to “repairing” the program using one of two inbuilt methods. This is quite straightforward and doesn’t involve any loss of data or re-entering of account information. Remembering where to look for the instructions to carry out the repair can be a bit trickier (so just remember where you found this post!). There are two “levels” of repair. From a user point of view, they are each as easy as the other to carry out, but the second is more thorough, takes longer, and requires an internet connection throughout. So, we start by seeing if the quicker method works and only go on to the slower method if we need to.

Forcing a previous instance to close

  • Depress Control, Shift, and Escape. This will open Task Manager.
  • In the window that opens, if it says “More Details” in the bottom left corner, then click on that text.
  • On the tabs at the top of the window, ensure that “Processes” is selected.
  • Ensure that the table is sorted alphabetically by name by clicking on the word “name” at the top of the column of process names.
  • Highlight any item that includes the word “Outlook” and then click on “end task” at the bottom right of the window.
  • Go right through the list of processes in case there are several that mention Outlook. Make sure to end them all.
  • Close the Task Manager window.
  • Try to start Outlook in the normal way.
TaskManager - Outlook
In Task Manager, ensure that the “Processes” tab is selected, that the items are in “Name” order, then click on “Microsoft Outlook” and then click on “End task” at the bottom right of the window.

If that doesn’t do the trick, or if the problem keeps recurring, then “repair” Outlook as follows:

  • Open the control panel. From the Windows “Start” menu, just start typing “control panel” until it is offered as an “app” to open.
  • If the top righthand corner of the Control Panel indicates “View by: Category”, then click on the “Programs” option in the main part of the window.
  • Click on “Programs and Features”.
  • If you are using Office 365, look for the item called “Microsoft 365 – en-us” and left-click on it. If you are using Outlook as a standalone program or as part of a purchased Office suite of programs (eg Office 2013), then look for either the suite name or “Outlook” and left-click on it.
  • Above the list of programs, click on “Change”.
  • Confirm that you wish to change or uninstall an application.
  • Select the “Quick Repair” option and click on “Repair”.
  • Follow the screen prompts.
Change Program
With Office 365, repairing Outlook involves highlighting “Microsoft 365 – en-us” and clicking on “Change”

If that doesn’t work, repeat the instructions for “repairing”, but this time take the “online repair” option.

At a guess, the above three suggestions probably resolve about 95% of issues opening Outlook, but if they all fail then some serious troubleshooting is called for. You know where I am…