Official performance patch for Outlook 2007

Computerworld has drawn my attention to a new performance patch for Outlook 2007, issued on Friday. Here’s what Microsoft says:

This update fixes a problem in which a calendar item that is marked as private is opened if it is found by using the Search Desktop feature. The update also fixes performance issues that occur when you work with items in a large .pst file or .ost file.

The patch is welcome; there’s no doubting that Outlook 2007 has proved horribly slow for many users. But does it fix the problems? If you read through the comments to earlier postings on this subject you’ll notice that there are actually several performance issues. The main ones I’m aware of:

  1. Slow receive from POP3 mail servers. Sometimes caused by conflicts between Vista’s TCP optimization and certain routers – see comment 27 here for a fix.
  2. Add-ins, for example Dell Media Direct, Acrobat PDFMaker, Microsoft’s Business Contact Manager. See Tools – Trust Center – Add-ins and click Go by the “Com Add-ins” dropdown to manage these.
  3. Desktop search indexing. You can disable this (it’s an add-in) but it is a shame to do so, since it is one of the best new features.
  4. Large local mailbox – could be a standalone .PST (Personal Store), or an .OST (Offline Store) that is kept in synch with Exchange.

The published fix appears to address only the problem with large local mailboxes.

Does it work? I’ve applied it, and it seems to help a bit, though I reckon performance remains worse than Outlook 2003. My hunch is that the issues are too deep-rooted for a quick fix, especially if you keep desktop search enabled. I’ll be interested to see whether the patch fixes another Outlook 2007 annoyance: if you close down Windows while Search is still indexing Outlook, you almost always get a message saying “The data file ‘Mailbox …’ was not closed properly. The file is being checked for problems. Then, of course, you wait and wait.

Is it our fault for having large mailboxes? Here’s a comment from Microsoft’s Jessica Arnold, quoted in the Computerworld article referenced above:

Outlook wasn’t designed to be a file dump, it was meant to be a communications tool,” she said. “There is that fine line, but we don’t necessarily want to optimize the software for people that store their e-mail in the same .PST file for ten years.”

A fair point; yet quick, indexed access to email archives is important to many of us. Archiving to a PST is hazardous, especially since by default Outlook archives to the local machine, not to the server; and in many organizations local documents are not backed up. Running a large mailbox may not be a good solution, but what is better?

Perhaps the answer is Gmail, if you are always online and can cope with the privacy issues. Note the first selling point which Google claims for its service:

Fast search
Use Google search to find the exact message you want, no matter when it was sent or received.

Apparently Google understands that users want to be able to find old messages. Surely a desktop application should be at least as good for finding these, as an internet mailbox that might be thousands of miles away?

Update: I still get “The data file ‘Mailbox …’ was not closed properly.” Not fixed.

See also where a member of the Outlook team further describes the patch.


9 thoughts on “Official performance patch for Outlook 2007”

  1. I’m switching to Thunderbird 2.0. The email archives are searched by google desktop search. I take objection to Arnold’s comment that the email program is not meant to be a file dump. The fact is, many of us need to archive and search email, particularly when these days email is used for much business correspondence. So, Microsoft, please design an email program that can be used as a file dump.

  2. My main gripe about Outlook 2007 is the painfully slow (and CPU-intensive) rendering of incoming HTML-emails. By comparison, Outlook 2003 was fine.

    HTML emails take forever to appear (whether in the reading pane or when “opened”). And bizarrely, some newsletters that rendered perfectly in Outlook 2003 are badly broken in Outlook 2007. Some HTML emails lock Outlook 2007 at 100% CPU usage.

    I did read somewhere that Outlook 2007 dropped the IE HTML engine in favour of the Word HTML engine. Could this be a cause? Whatever it is, it makes Outlook 2007 close to unusable.

  3. Did you ever find a solution to the “date file ‘Mailbox…’ was not closed properly” – error? I get that DAILY! Ughhh!

    I think you always get this if the indexing is not complete – which takes ages for a large mailbox. It’s especially a problem on laptops. Indexing is designed to run when the computer is not busy doing other tasks; but in this state laptops tend to put themselves to sleep – no indexing.



  4. The easy answer may be to use X1 to archive .pst files. I have two separate .pst files thats both contains files more than ten years old. I can get to any message within 10 seconds via a single interface: X1. I do no searching in Outlook whatever.

  5. I also get the error when opening Outlook 2007- “data file did not close properly”….and that it is the archive folder having the problem. But the problem I am having now is that when the error message goes away the program shuts down. I have gone to add and remove programs and performed a repair, but nothing I am doing is allowing me to keep outlook open past the error message. Any patches out there?

  6. I’m not sure if anyone is still reading this blog. I have had a lot of the same problems that are listed above. I systematically added and took away things from my default outlook data file and I have found this:

    Outlook 2007 slows to a crawl (at least for me) ONLY when I import my CONTACTS and only when these start to number in the hundreds. I had 900 contacts and Outlook was essentially disabled. I reduced it to about 200 and things were much better.

    If you delete ALL your contacts, Outlook works great. All you have to do is import your contacts into a separate folder and you can still use them, all 900!

    I hate Outlook 2007. This “fix” of mine is going to make contacts synchronization with my PDA a real problem.

    Has there been any other progress on this issue?

  7. Has there been any other progress on this issue?

    Not that I know of. There will be an Office 2007 service pack at some point, might help, might not.

    I’m mystified as to why 900 contacts would make a difference. Can you verify this 100%?


  8. Tim ( and others):for solving the “data file not closed properly”issue, be a bad Windows user and never close Outlook. Just turn Windows off and let it solve the problem. It worked perfectly for me. Good luck

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