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Cannot start Outlook 2003 after reboot

Last Modified: 2011-08-18
I have recently installed Microsoft Office 2003 on my XP Pro client.  I do not use Microsofte Exchange Server.  Since upgrading from XP Office Pro I find that whenever I restart the client I lose access to my Outlook 2003 files.  After restarting and attempting to open Outlook I get the following error messge:

"Cannot start Microsof Office Outlook.  Unable to open the Outlook window.  The set of folders coult not be opened.  The server is not available.  contact your administrator if this condition persists."

This is no help of course because I am the administrator.  I find that I cannot even use a backup of the .pst file because the existing Outlook.pst file is locked and and cannot be renamed, deleted or accessed in any way.  If I attempt to use the scanpst utility it says that the file is in use and cannot be opened.  In order to correct the problem I need to:
1.  Restart in safe mode
2.  Run scanpst.exe on the Outlook.pst file and fix errors (errors are always found)
3.  Rename the file.  If I do not rename it the file will still be locked when I restart and Outlook will still not open.
4.  Restart XP in normal mode
5.  Rename the file to Outlook.pst
6.  Open Outlook and all is well.

The problem is consistent but I cannot find what process is locking the .pst file.  Can anyone help.  I cannot find any reference to this problem at MSDN.
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Top Expert 2004
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Top Expert 2004

Brian MulderFreelance
Top Expert 2006

you could try to use the following command line option from the Office11 folder

outlook /importprf .\.prf

which will reset your profile, so all settings need to entered again but you can import the mail from the old pst

It sounds like you are not closing Outlook properly.  Play around with the command line switches - http://www.outlook-tips.net/howto/commandlines.htm



I agree that it appears that Outlook.pst is not getting closed properly on exit but the question is why and how can I fix it so that it does close properly.  I have tried all of the previously mentioned solutions including re-installing Outlook but still have the same problem.  I have tried closing it gracefully and also closing it using the X icon in the window but still have the same result.  I have broadband and typically leave my machine running so it isn't a problem until I have to restart due to an update of some sort.  But it is a pain and I would like to fix it.

I remember in the old days there were utilities that showed which executable had a lock on a particular data file.  Are you aware of any current utilities that might do this.  I think that would help narrow the problem.

Brian MulderFreelance
Top Expert 2006

have you tried to create a new pst by renaming the old one and importing all mail in the new one, so to start with a new pst and your original mail?

Have you done a scan for viruses and spyware?

Is your PST file located on a network drive and it is not connected when you start it?


No!  It is located in the default location ...local settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook.


I have solved the problem but it was very strange and i'm still not really sure what was happening.  I re-installed Outlook but that did not help.  I then logged off and logged in under my local machine account and found that the outlook.pst file was still locked.  I then restarted and logged in under my local machine account and found that I could then change the .pst filename for my network admin account.  I renamed the file and created a new profile and created a new data file.  Then I restarted and logged in under the network admin account and was able to open  changed the data file for the network admin account to use the newly created datafile (outlook2.pst).  I then imported my data from a backup .pst file and deleted the outlook.pst file.

I believe that it may have been related to the default profile and that creating a new profile that does not use the default outlook.pst file was the solution.  I am going to test this by creating a new profile that does use the default outlook.pst file and see if the problem returns.  I will post the results here.  I am awarding the points to sunray_2003 because the problem appeared to have multiple causes and his was the most comprehensive response.


I created a new profile using the default outlook.pst file and so far I cannot repeat the failure.  I think it must have been somehow related to the profile but I cannot reproduce the conditions at this point.  Reinstalling Outlook did not work because I was assigning the old profile to the new installation.  I have re-installed PGP and Norton Anti-Virus and have restarted twice.  So far no problems.

The bottom line is that creating a new profile and data file and importing the data from a backup was the solution.  Thank you all for your suggestions.


i have a very similar problem, only i get "Cannot start Microsof Office Outlook.  Unable to open the Outlook window.  The set of folders coult not be opened". In my case i also have Office 2003 on XP machine connecting to Exchange 2000.

i am a power user stuck in admin's shoes. please help.
solution seems pretty straight and forward but very confusing at the same time.
how do i create a "default profile" ? is it a user (local or Exchange) or some king of Outlook profile? what do you mean by sayng that the file is "locked"?

P.S. loosing any emails is not an option.



It's been a while but as i recall from looking at the history that the problem was with the sequence of installation.  I haven't used Exchange in ages but as I recall you have a choice between storing your outlook file locally or on the exchange server and profiles are maintained by the exchange server.  So your problem may be entirely different.  The profile I am referring to is the Outlook or local email profile.  

You can backup your pst file by simply copying it to a new location.  By default it would be found in C:\documents and settings\(user)\local settings\application data\Microsoft\outlook\ directory.  Since you can't get into Outlook you can simply copy the Outlook.pst file and any other .pst or extend.dat files you find in this directory to a new location.

Then  uninstall Outlook and make sure everything is clean (i.e. no files in your local directory path  as noted above).

Check your mail account profiles by going to Control Panel | Mail | Show Profiles.  Delete any profiles found.

When you re-install outlook it will prompt you to create a new profile.  Do that and re-install normally.

Once you have re-installed you can import your data from the outlook files you previously copied from the new location.

This is all from memory and may not help since your on Exchange Server but it's all I can tell you about my experience.

Hope it helps.


I had the same issue today.  It turns out that MS Exchange was not fully running.  The information store service was not running after a reboot of the server.  Also after the install of MS updates to the server.  Hence the the reboot.  Hope that helps as another solution.
This worked for me. Before starting make note of your email settings and passwords in your old profile.
Once you create the new profile, add the old PST file to it. Find the "new" PST file, delete it. You should then be back in business.

Please create a new profile to see if the problem is caused by the corrupt profile

1. Close Outlook.
2. Click Start, and click Control Panel. Click Mail icon.
3. Click Show Profiles.
4. In the "When starting Microsoft Office Outlook, use this profile:" area, please select "Prompt for a profile to be used"
5. Click Add and type the new profile name as you like in the Profile name box.
Note: Please don't choose the same name of your original profile.
6. Choose "Add a new e-mail account" and click Next.
7. Choose your email type and type the necessary information. (You can gain information of the email account from the ISP)
8. Click Next and click Finish.
9. Reopen Outlook. Choose the new profile in the profile list and click OK.

Ive tried, repairing Outlook Office 2007, Rebooting the SBS2003 server  (only 1 server with exchange etc), creating new mail/outlook profiles. Nothing has worked.

I can ping the server. Do a \\server and I get all the shares on it. Going to server\exchange in the browser brings up OWA without any problem.

However whenever I try to "check name" when setting up outlook for exchange (in anyway.. in outllook or in control panel/mail. I get:

Outlook cannot log on. Verify you are connected to the network and are using the proper server and mailbox name. The connection to Mircosoft Exchange is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete this action.