Auto-Complete (Suggested Contacts) in Outlook 2010

Michael MachieIT Manager
Extensive experience with hands-on IT experience in On- and Off-Premise environments ranging from Residential to Enterprise level customers.
By Michael Machie

   Many questions have been posted on hundreds of Forums about how the Auto-Complete List in Outlook 2010 actually works. Many people state that it only works part of the time or not at all. This Article is intended to explain, in detail, how to verify the proper settings are enabled to use the Auto-Complete and Suggested Contacts list as designed by Microsoft. This Article will also explain the changes made and a couple of reasons why Microsoft made these changes, as well as provide screenshots on proper use.
   Many people used their Auto-complete (.NK2 file) list as a way to keep track of and maintain contact information for customers and other people. This was very convenient for Users because they would not need to ever manually create a Contact and would never really need to remember email addresses. That was not the original purpose of this feature and although it worked fairly well, when the computer burned out, was stolen, was damaged beyond repair and/or got a Virus, the Auto-complete list was lost completely without any chance of retrieval since the list was held on the local Disk Drive. Also, Microsoft surveys identified that many participants wanted to have the recipients in the Auto-Complete list expire so as not to remain in the list or require Users to constantly scroll through a, very frequently, long list. When the Auto-Complete (.NK2 file) was lost for any reason, Users were left in a predicament that IT could do nothing about, which caused unnecessary problems for Users who faced this challenge. To address this moving forward, Microsoft completely modified the Auto-complete feature in Outlook 2010 and replaced it with a ‘Suggested Contacts’ list and a new method to access frequent recipients. The .NK2 file is a thing of the past!  
                                                  How It All Works Now

   When drafting a new email message, Outlook 2010 uses a different method to auto-populate email and contact info than was previously used in Outlook 2007. Due to popular demand, in Outlook 2010, Microsoft has modified the Auto-complete feature that we are all accustomed to using within Outlook 2007 and also added the 'Suggested Contacts' feature.

The four main points to understand and use the new method properly are:
1) Verify that Outlook 2010 automatically creates contacts
2) Verify settings so that Outlook 2010 automatically populates a recipient name during the same logon session
3) Use the 'Check Names' button to quickly populate recipients
4) Outlook 2010 saves address lists to the Server and a copy is held locally on the HDD

   After these settings are enabled, Outlook 2010 will automatically create a Contact Card for every recipient an email was successfully sent to and place it within the 'Suggested Contacts' list. The 'Suggested Contacts' list will be used to populate email recipients and screenshots below will walk you through how to utilize it. Keep in mind that if a Contact Card does not exist for a recipient, the 'Suggested Contacts' list will not work as designed.    
                                              Verify Settings Are Correct
  __________________________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ ________
To either Enable, or verify that the ‘Automatically Create Outlook Contacts’ setting is enabled, follow these steps:

1) Open Outlook 2010
2) Click ‘File’ at the top left.
3) Next, select ‘Options from the list.
Select Options Screenshot
3) Select the option to “Auto create Outlook contacts..” or verify that it is selected.
Create Outlook 2010 Contacts Option Screenshot
4) Select ‘OK’ at the bottom and close any open sub-menus.
  __________________________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ ________
To either enable the ‘Use Auto-Complete List’, or verify that it is enabled:

1) Open Outlook
2) Click ‘File’ at the top left.
3) Click the ‘Options’ button.
Select Options Screenshot
4) Select ‘Mail’ from the Options list.
5) Select the option to ‘Use Auto-Complete to suggest names….’
Verify Use Auto-Complete Option Screenshot
6) Select ‘OK’ at the bottom and close any open sub-menus.
  __________________________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ ________

            To use the ‘Suggested Contacts’ address list to populate addresses:

1) Open a new email
Open New Email Screenshot
2) Type in the first few letters of the name you have previously sent an email to. In this case I want to send an email to ‘’
Check Names Screenshot
3) When you click ‘Check Names’, the name should populate
Auto Poulate Screenshot
4) During the same Outlook ‘Login’ session, if you send an email to the same recipient one was previously sent to, the name should appear in a drop down list when typing in the first few letters of their name.
Auto Complete In Same Logon Session Screenshot  __________________________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ __________ ________

   One final important piece to know, which directly answers the question: Why does  Auto-Complete work sometimes and not other times? The answer is because when you exit Outlook 2010 the Auto-Complete 'memory' is flushed, which empties the Auto-Complete drop down list. This is directly related to Users' requests to have the Auto-Complete list reset itself so that old recipients do not stay in the 'memory'. No more deleting them manually or scrolling past! So, after launching Outlook 2010, you will need to type the first few letters of the recipient name, then select ‘Check Names’, for the name to appear. Once this is done, the name should automatically appear as shown in the above picture when sending additional emails to that recipient – if during the same logon session.

   That is it! You are now armed with the knowledge to properly use the 'Suggested Contacts' and 'Auto-Complete' features within Outlook 2010 and can properly educate Users as well. Thanks for reading and let us know if this was helpful.
Michael MachieIT Manager
Extensive experience with hands-on IT experience in On- and Off-Premise environments ranging from Residential to Enterprise level customers.

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