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Outlook 2010 IMAP Gmail Delete/Move Slow Performance

Posted on 2012-03-23
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Last Modified: 2012-08-14
Hello,  I have recently switched to gmail from a home exchange server.  I now sync my iphone and ipad via exchange activesync to gmail and the performance is fast.  I am using Apple Mail from my Macbook Air to access my gmail via IMAP and it deletes and moves emails very quickly, almost no noticeable delay.  

I hooked up Outlook 2010 to gmail vs IMAP and the performance is really slow.  It takes about 3 seconds to do a delete or move email to another folder. My desktop Outlook is running on a very powerful computer with a very fast internet connection, yet the performance is horrible.  When I was hooked up to Exchange Outlook was very fast. I have tried reading numerous posts to find a solution.

1. People say to only download headers, but that doesn't seem to help the process.  
2. Other people said they switched to pop, but I don't see how that would allow me to stay in sync with all my devices.
3.  Some say try to work offline - I tried the solution to work offline but then I can't move the emails and get an error message "The connection to the server is unavailable. Outlook must be online..."
4. Other people said to use Google sync, but they apparently only offer it to google apps for business owners and they don't allow one person from an organization to migrate.

I can even log in to gmail from a browser and deleting and moving emails is much faster than my desktop outlook.  Is there any solution to get Outlook fast performance with IMAP gmail?

Thanks in advance,
Shawn
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Question by:smower
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by:Vanguard_LH
Vanguard_LH earned 400 total points
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I only use POP with Gmail.  For IMAP access, I've read how using labels in Gmail results in creating folders in Outlook (so there is some equivalency) and it takes time to sync all those folders even if there's nothing in them.  Are you an avid labels user in Gmail?  If so, delete all the labels to see if the speed goes up.  

Google's concept of IMAP isn't really how IMAP is defined as they took their webmail service and tried to map it to IMAP but there are problems, just like their POP access isn't exactly POP3.  They really should be called gPOP and gIMAP for how Google tries to map those standard protocols to how they designed Gmail.

I've also read the slowdown with Gmail's IMAP is evidenced in Outlook 2007 & 2010 but there is no lag in Outlook 2003.  It may be due to how many e-mails you stored in your Gmail account.  Are you a neat freak and delete old or superfluous e-mails, or are you a hoarder and keep everything that was ever sent?  Outlook seems to halt synchronization when there isn't enough time during a mail poll so you only get a little bit each time and it can take a long time if you have a massive article count in your IMAP account.

As I said, I don't use IMAP; however, deleting items when using IMAP means the client has to do purge the delete-marked items.  This means the client would have to delete-mark the item and then decide when to send the DEL(ete) command to the e-mail server.  As I recall, or maybe my hope, there is an option of when Outlook does the sync (when it sends the Del command and then syncs up with the new state of the folder).  If you have Outlook do the sync when focus changes on the folder (i.e., you switched to another folder) then Outlook is going to spend the time to connect to Gmail, do the login to establish an e-mail session, issue the commands, check status, and terminate the mail poll.  This can cause a lag when you change focus between folders.  If, however, you tell Outlook to purge the delete-marked items on the next scheduled mail poll, you'll see the deleted items linger around with a red line through them.  Either you can issue the Purge manually (which goes through the mail poll process) or you can wait until the next scheduled mail poll.  

http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/purge-imap-items-marked-for-deletion-HP010080420.aspx

While purging all delete-marked items at once sounds wasteful to you versus other e-mail clients that do the purge each time you delete an item, remember that you are establishing an e-mail session with the server each time you do the purge.  Some accounts, especially the free ones, have a limit of how many mail sessions you can have per day.  That means if you delete N e-mails in a day and the purge is performed immediatedly after each one then you establish N mail sessions just for the individual deletes along with all your manual and scheduled mail polls.  You could consume your quote of max sessions per day as part of the e-mail providers anti-abuse/anti-spam policies.  

Other email clients may simply be hiding the deleted items for an IMAP account pretending that they are gone and then collate the purges at some later time, like in the next mail poll - but they're not gone until the client connects to the mail server to issue the commands and check status.  With Outlook, you can have it do the purge when you change focus on folders or leave the items striked out until the next mail poll.  Leaving the delete-marked items lingering around until the next mail poll looks messy but it does let you know those items are still up on the mail server rather than just hiding the pending purges from you so you really don't if your client and the server are in sync.

With Gmail, and when using their webmail interface, you can send a maximum of 500 e-mails per day.  However, when using a local e-mail client that connects to Gmail via POP or IMAP, that cap is reduced to 100 e-mails per day.  I don't know if that cap is related to how many mail sessions you may have per day.  Many users set their mail poll interval at 5 minutes (anything shorter can cause problems in that a prior mail poll may not have completed by the time you do the next mail poll, plus it is considered abusive to the e-mail provider since if you're getting tons of e-mails then you can't read that many in 5 minutes).  That means around 288 mail sessions per day just to monitor your e-mail account, then add in the mail sessions for when you happen to send e-mails or when you decide to initiate a manual poll.  If your e-mail client issued a purge after every item you deleted (i.e., granularity for synchronization was at the single item level instead of aggregating the purges together) and with another mail session to do every purge, you could end up with a huge number of mail sessions per day.

With Gmail, you can send up to 500 e-mails per day using their webmail interface and up to 100 if you use POP or IMAP.  The max recipients per e-mail is 500 with their webmail interface, 100 when using POP or IMAP.  You can send messages up to 2000 recipients per day; e.g., you could send 4 e-mails listing 500 recipients each or 200 e-mails listing 10 recipients each using their webmail interface (I don't know the max per day recipient count for POP and IMAP access).  If you send e-mails that generate too many non-delivery reports (your e-mails are not deliverable because no such domain exists or the username doesn't exist), you're Gmail account will get locked out for 24 hours.  I don't know how many NDRs (non-delivery reports) are too many but recall it's rather small (for someone that sends to lots of recipients), like maybe a dozen (yet I've seen some users claim their Gmail account got locked when they generated 4 NDRs) so make sure you use valid email addresses.  So while you were used to unlimited sending by e-mail count, by recipient count per e-mail, or total recipient count per day without worry about NDRs locking up your account when you were using Exchange, Gmail is designed for personal-use only and has quotas to thwart abuse and spam.

Personally, I've never considered Outlook a good IMAP client.  Microsoft doesn't really like IMAP.  When they decided to restore the RFC standard POP access to Hotmail, they said they would look into IMAP but it never showed up.  Instead they went with Deltasync, their proprietary e-mail protocol for IMAP-like access to Hotmail.  Their claim is that IMAP is difficult to get right and their solution was better for users (when, in fact, it was good for their service).  Windows Live Mail includes Deltasync support.  Outlook never has had Deltasync support so you have to install the Outlook Connector to add it to Outlook.  With Outlook not the best IMAP client and with Gmail not really support RFC-compliant IMAP but instead supporting just enough for the most common client setup should work, it's a flaky setup.

On setting Outlook to download "headers only", you only need to do that for the Trash and Spam folders.  Press Ctrl+Alt+S (to open the Send and Receive Groups dialog), select the Gmail account, and select a folder (Trash and Spam) and change its sync option to "headers only".  Personally I would also either download headers only for the Starred folder (the starred label in Gmail for "important" messages) or untick it to not bother synchronizing to it at all.  Decide if you really want to use labels in Gmail as those create more folders for Outlook to sync with.  

Make sure the mail poll interval is 5 minutes or longer.  Shorter intervals can result in mail polls stepping atop of each other with the result that a previous mail poll gets aborted to start the next one and the process continues.  You could have a huge e-mail that someone sent with 25MB, and maybe lots of e-mails or they are big, and it takes time to download them.  E-mail servers typically throttle their bandwidth so their server remains responsive to a high count of users.  How long is the mail poll depends on how quick you want to see the newest received message.  E-mail is not a chat/prattle client and shouldn't be used as such.  If you get more e-mails in 5 minutes than you can read then you should lengthen your e-mail polling interval as shorter intervals are abusive to the provider.  You end up doing even more mail sessions that consume resources from the provider but don't have anything to actually retrieve.  You end up doing a lot of worthless mail polls.

When you move items between e-mail folders, Outlook is going to try to sync that change to the server.  That's why when you put Outlook to "work offline" that you see a prompt to go back online so Outlook can sync that change.  If you were using POP then there would be no such requirement to make a connection with the server but then you only get to see the Inbox folder up in your account and won't be able to see any other folders up there on the server.  If you configured Outlook to do its sync when you change focus on folders, and because an item move means deleting it from one folder and creating it in a different folder (up on the server), you need to sync with the server.  However, if you configured Outlook to *NOT* "Purge items when switching folders while online" then Outlook doesn't have to connect to sync when you move items between folders.
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smower earned 0 total points
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Thank you so much for your detailed explanation and response.  It is helpful to get a better understanding of what is going on.  It appears that the best solution may be to not use outlook with gmail and try to recreate Outlook functionality in gmail with bookmarklets or hotkey programs or something.  My mail poll in the send and receive groups shows 30 minutes, but it seems like that only applies to pop accounts and not necessarily imap since changing that setting doesn't seem to make a noticeable difference with the imap account speed.  I assume apple mail must move things and delete things at a later interval as to prevent slow down on the computer or something.  Thank you again for your help.
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by:Vanguard_LH
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Did you try to change Outlook's config so it does NOT sync when you change focus to a different folder?

A couple of actions that you didn't mention having tried.

- Delete the IMAP account in Outlook and create a new one for the same account, then retest.

- Exit Outlook and rename the .pst file to, say, old_outlook.pst.  Then load Outlook which will have you create new mail profile.  Alternatively, you can create a new mail profile using the Mail applet in Control Panel and make it the default [new] profile.  Perhaps your old profile got corrupted.  With the new profile, it may take awhile to resync to your IMAP folders if you have hundreds or thousands of e-mails sitting there on the server.
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Author Comment

by:smower
ID: 37768632
Thank you,

How or where exactly do you change the Outlook config to not sync?  I don't want to create a new profile since I have thousands of emails and it took forever the first time.  It would be nice if there was a setting for outlook to que up the delete and move commands from the inbox and send those updates in the background without stopping me from going to the next email.

I am finding that the gmail web interface is really fast.  I just wish I could figure out how to simulate the quick steps functionality of Outlook in the gmail interface so that a hotkey could forward and email to someone and then delete or move to another folder.
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by:Vanguard_LH
ID: 37768863
I doubt you want to keep putting Outlook offline and then having to remember to put it back online (connected).  Read the Office article for which I provided a link.  It says how to change the option of auto-sync when changing folder focus.  You want to NOT do a sync when you change focus between folders.

I don't see you ever mentioned using anti-virus, anti-spam, or any other security/privacy software that interrogates your e-mail traffic.  Do you?  If so, disable its e-mail scanner and retest after exiting and reloading Outlook.  Interrogation of e-mail traffic incurs an impact in delaying delivery of the e-mail traffic between client and server.  It affords no more protection than the on-access (realtime) AV scanner which is using the same engine and signature database as the e-mail scanner.
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by:smower
ID: 37769012
Thank you.  I have webroot antivirus.  I disabled it and it didn't speed up deleting items or moving items to other folders. It appears that link you sent is about purging deleted items.  I have the deleted item setting set to move to the gmail trash folder so that I can access the deleted items from my other devices, so I don't really want to purge it with outlook. I assume this performance issue might only be fixed by Microsoft.  It seems like lots of people online have reported the slow performance issue as well and it doesn't seem like there is a fix for this yet.  We should probably just close this ticket and focus on using gmail online since it is much faster.
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Author Closing Comment

by:smower
ID: 37790419
Vanguard_LH gave a very helpful and detailed explanation.  Unfortunately I still can't seem to get Outlook to work fast with IMAP when moving items to other folders or deleting items to Gmail trash folder.
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