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Issue #632: September 1-7, 2019

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Q: Dear The Geek:

 Unfortunately, I have Windows 10 and my software was converted to the “service,” Office 365. There are two problems:

  1. I can no longer directly open Outlook. 1.1 A notification states, “Outlook is closing,” in spite of Outlook notifications being set to “off.” Therefore, I have to open the task manager, search “background processes” for the Microsoft Outlook process with an X, and end the process. After that, Outlook will open.
  1. I need to save email files so that I can cancel an EarthLink email address, after spam settings were thoroughly overcome by spammers. How can I do this?

– Valerie W.
Crestview, Florida

A: Dear The Valerie:

I hope you’re a regular reader, because there’s been a lot of discussion in the column lately about Windows versions. You’re in the same boat with Windows 10 as everyone else. Personally, I don’t think Windows 10 itself is so unfortunate. For the most part, it is stable and reliable, however, Microsoft has been unforgivably clumsy with updates for it, and for far too long.

Let’s talk about your Outlook problem. First of all, the message “Outlook is closing” does not fall into the category of a “notification,” at least not as it pertains to notifications that can be disabled. The message in question is more like an error or information message that is conveying necessary information to you about the status of the program. It would be somewhat foolish for a programmer to allow such messages to be disabled, and it would be impossible for users of the software to know of its status in that circumstance. The notifications that you can disable are of a more mundane variety, such as e-mail arrivals, and calendar events.

The fact you’re getting an “Outlook is closing” error means that Outlook is already running, and has hung in memory while trying to close. That X on the icon in Task Manager is a direct giveaway. Once you’ve killed-off the hung process, Outlook is free to launch again, and as you stated, happily does so. So, the question is not one of why you can’t open Outlook, but rather why is it crashing while it’s trying to close?

I looked into this for you, and I’m afraid you’re not going to like the answer very much. I found complaints about this problem that date back to at least 2010, yet the problem persists. For some reason, Microsoft occasionally ignores errors, despite the strident pleas of their users for fixes (thanks, Bill). Makes me wonder if they know something that the rest of us don’t, and therefore they don’t consider these things to be problems worth fixing. Considering that this problem has now been present in every edition of Office for at least the last 10 years, I believe I disagree with that philosophy.

There are workarounds available. As you discovered, you can skirt the problem by forcing the Outlook process to close. One industrious Geek on an Office discussion board that I read observed that whenever any folder from an Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) server is displayed, his Outlook hangs when closed. If a local folder is selected, it exits correctly. To me, that means there is some unfinished network activity in progress when the connection prematurely terminates. The software is waiting for a condition that cannot be satisfied, and the only remaining option is to manually force it to close. The IMAP connection could be a mere coincidence, and the problem could be caused by anything within Outlook that is using the network connection when it closes. This includes plugins and shared calendars. If you have anything like this setup in Outlook, I suggest disabling them one by one until the problem goes away. Barring success in that, I’m afraid you’re stuck with one of the workarounds I mentioned until a better option comes along.

The answer to your question about saving your Earthlink e-mails depends largely on what your next e-mail solution is going to be. If you’re using Outlook to access your Earthlink mail, and you plan on staying with it, you could change the Earthlink connection from IMAP to POP3, and download copies of everything directly into your Outlook personal folders. If you want to change to a cloud-based e-mail such as Gmail, the new service probably has built-in facilities to import e-mail from other services to assist your transition. Take a peek into the help files, or do a Google search for more information.

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