Shutting Down Outlook

This is one of those things that I thought only happened to me. For years, I’ve been running multiple Outlook profiles: one for my personal e-mail, and one for my Microsoft e-mail. It’s quite common for me to exit Outlook and fire it up again so I can check a different e-mail account. As a matter of fact, I do this many times each day. Unfortunately, a quick re-start of Outlook doesn’t always work, because the OUTLOOK.EXE process usually hangs around for awhile before it terminates. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m quite used to popping up Task Manager to see if the process is closed, and if I get too impatient, I close it myself. Come on…admit it…you’ve done it too (dad…if you’re reading this, I’ll explain what Task Manager is later). πŸ™‚

Like I said, I thought it was a problem that was unique to me. However, I received an e-mail today that not only confirmed that I wasn’t alone, but it actually contained a suggestion for eliminating this problem altogether! If this information is to be believed, closing Outlook by clicking on the X doesn’t always shutdown the OUTLOOK.EXE and WINWORD.EXE processes right away; but, if you use File/Exit, both processes shut down immediately. Of course, I’ve been trying to test this tonight, but Outlook is closing immediately in all cases…kind of like the car that doesn’t squeak when you drive it to the dealership.

While searching the internet for similar cases, and I’ve found a few other solutions:

  • KnockOut – a tool that sits in your system tray and lets you know if the Outlook or Word processes are currently running
  • Shutdown Addin – a tool that helps Outlook shut down more quickly, and if it doesn’t after a period of time, the addin forcefully terminates the process
  • A list of software that may cause problems

If you can confirm that File/Exit does the trick, please post feedback!

Comments (53)

  1. swiss-knife says:

    Cannot get OL hanged right now :), but it’s quite easy to prove that "File->Exit" and "Close Window" have 2 different code paths: just open any folder in new window: you now have 2 OL instances… closing any of them won’t terminate outlook.exe, but File->Exit will… I think it’s reasonable to say that "hidden" outlook instances will behave the same way: outlook.exe just exits.

  2. Personally I use KnockOut on my PCs – it’s a rain pain that Outlook & Word never seem to kill themselves.

    I’m not a File -> Exit man as I normally Alt + F4 most apps to close the window….

  3. Bill Nitz says:

    Interesting. I had always assumed the delayed close was entirely due to MAPI. I found it annoying as well.

    But this seems to do the trick. Thanks, Mike.

  4. Sriram says:

    Just tested and it didnt work – it hung around for atleast 15 seconds

  5. Alex says:

    IMHO, using KnockOut is not a good option – when running on my machine it is consuming about 10MB of memory!Instead, it’s much, much better just pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc and killing apropriate process(es).

  6. Jeff Parker says:

    I have noticed this as well. Windows Media player 10 has the same behavior. There are a lot of these newer apps when you hit close the GUI goes away but the app continues to hang around. And yes you basically have to go kill the process.

  7. Mark says:

    no, man you’re not alone, we all do.

    and yeah, in the past there was a MAPISP.EXE process, but that has gone in recent outlook versions… still outlook stays there for a while….

  8. MSDNArchive says:

    To paraphrase that old saying about democracy vs. other governments…

    Outlook is the worst email client, except for all the others.

  9. Larry says:

    What is really sad is that this has happened for the last few outlook versions and no one at Microsoft has ever bothered to address it. The fact that an MS employee is complaining about it just makes it worse. Why not get some one to fix it?

  10. Hi Michael,

    Great tip, worked fine when i tested that.

    Good day,


    Windows Server Update Services Wiki

    I Blog on

  11. In my day job (Codeweavers CrossOver Office) we have this problem. Seems some threads never die or something if you use the X to kill the app but file/exit seems to fix the problem. For the longest time I thought it was a Window Managment issue where the WM was not properly sending a Quit Message to the Win32 API.

  12. CedarLogic says:

    Not sure how many folks are having this problem but I’ve been having it on several machines all running…

  13. I have the same problem with a VB. NET Projet

    reading the appointments.Item in OUTLOOK (2003)

    I search and find nothing….

  14. My problem is that Outlook is closing too quickly – it shuts down in the twinkling of an eye (on clicking the "x" or File + Exit). It frequently needs to clean itself up when I switch it back on ….

  15. The problems seems to occur when the project is

    a WEB FORM, and there is no problem with a WIN FORM.

    Does it help some body ?

  16. Ben Claudin says:

    instead of OL shuting down it wont start up at all i re-install, un-stall, then re-installing it but it always gets stuck on the welcome message. i even went to mirosoft to see if there was an up-date there wasnt. if you find the answer plz email me at

    (3 L’s) thanks

  17. Daniel says:

    I havnt notice outlook doing this, but i have noticed winword doing this often, even if i just launch word and cross it off (not even though outlook). Same deal with all of the Office suite and as of late… iexplorer.exe ahs been doing the same thing.. File->Exit works, but Alt+F4 or crossing it off just hides the UI and leaves the process to consume/use RAM

  18. Alan Barker says:

    We experience the same problem on system shutdown. The shutdown occours before outlook has closed the Archive files and next boot Outlook takes 5 minutes to check the Archive files

  19. Doug Powell says:

    I wonder if this failure to shutdown is somehow related to the Windows prefetch utility.  There is some mixed opinion about prefetch and I currently have my registry set for prefetch to save only the essentials.  However, apparently Microsoft considers any application they developed an essential.  


  20. Vlad says:

    Seems like it’s still an issue with Outlook 2007

  21. Robert Rosen says:

    I can verify it still happens in Outlook 2007 and clicking the X or file/exit doesn’t make a difference.

  22. Anders says:

    Running Outlook 2007 on Vista Business, Alt+F4 will keep the process running, while FileExit will not. Thanks.

  23. Simon says:

    I am running OL 2007 and am having the same problem X does not kill the exe but file exit does WTF?? I was running OL2003 for a couple of years without a problem but OL 2007 chews the memory and causes more grief – I did have a bit of success by going into tools -> trust centre addins and disable everything but it only worked on the first time I tried – any other ideas without running some background app to close another app that should be closed??

  24. Erik says:

    I have the same experience as Alan Barker above. Using Outlook 2003 I experience the persistent background OUTLOOK process. If I shut off my machine right away, I will get a message like "Outlook was not closed properly, checking Archive.pst for problems" So I right click > close my archive file and keep it closed until I need it.

  25. Ryan says:

    I’ve had this problem with every version of Outlook I’ve ever used and under both XP and Vista.  I can’t imagine anyone not having the problem.  I assumed Microsoft just thinks no one should ever have to close Outlook.  But thanks for the tip that closing using the X and closing using File/Exit are two different procedures.  Sure enough, that seems to be working for me tonight (Vista Enterprise with Outlook 2007). Maybe you’ve helped solve a big headache for me! But I’m not going to get my hopes up too high until it has worked for several days in a row.  

  26. Martin says:

    Using taskmanager, applications -> End task to shut down Outlook 2007 on Vista without using X or File -> Exit first, is the only thing working for me. And it shuts down cleanly.

  27. I run OL 2007 in Windows Vista Ulitmate and I have this problem.

    I have my PST-file on a memory stick, to access it on three different pc’s.

    Every time I kill the process, on restart of OL I get an error message claming that the file was not properly closed during last shut down of OL, and that it has to be checked for faults.

    I worry about my data!

    Just letting you know.

    I’m now turning my attention to newsgroups to check if there is a solution to this very annoying mishap.

    Have a nice 2008!

  28. adrian jaramillo says:

    incredible but It works !!!!!, now outlook.exe takes 3 to 5 seconds to close,

  29. Johnny Canuck says:

    This has pissed me off for years. Especially when I notice multipy .exe for outlook and winword in Task Manager and neither is actually running. For me they hang around forever … I first noticed this problem when I was getting some wierd responses from Outlook.

    BTW, thanks for the Exit tip. I just tried it and it worked like a charm. (and I had a Winword just sitting there.) Now all I have to do is get the whole family to exit, instead of x-ing.

  30. Sarah Edmands says:

    outlook.exe still running 6’20" and counting after hitting File>Exit.

  31. Seems to work well for me, too. Running OL 2k7 on Vista and was noticing too that it would remain in the task manager. More important, some change settings (like deleting some autocorrect features) would keep coming back. That’s when I realized that restarts were forcing an abort, losing those changes. I tested and confirmed that using File>Exit does really terminate outlook (and then, like you, I later found that then even just Alt-F4 would magically work. Very curious.) Anyway, thanks so much.

  32. Experiencing Outlook.exe hang problem for 2003. No real idea why it was happening until an upgrade to SP2 revealed the problem. The Quick Launch shortcut contains the /recycle switch and it was not releasing the .exe file. Once removed, this solved the issue. This even fixed the problem with an Outlook installation using no SP as well.

    Hope this helps.

  33. Shengshwi says:

    XP, outlook 2007.  It hung around for about 8 minutes.  I started closing some other things to free up memory and outlook finally exited.

  34. Jon says:

    I tried the File, Exit and that worked. Next, I tried editing the Quick Launch shortcut and found that also worked. The latter technique offers an advantage for me since I most commonly start Outlook with the Quick Launch button and use the ‘X" to close it.

    As such, I needn’t change my routine.

    Thank you for bringing the /recycle issue to light.

    That seems to have fixed my problem!

  35. KeithB says:

    My main issue is on Terminal Server.  My users shut down OL 2003, then exit their TS session before it has a chance to close properly.  I’m starting to get corrupt profiles all over the place.  I read somewhere that Anti-Virus software could be the culprit, and also corrupt .SRS files.  No good answer on why or how to fix it.

  36. AzzA says:

    Editing the Quick Launch properties link to remove the /recycle worked for me too. Thanks heaps.

  37. Angela says:

    Editing the QuickLaunch to remove the /recycle worked for me..only if I use the File/Exit routine.  This may be a small thing…but hugely irritating.

  38. Angela says:

    I take it back.  Today after following the File/Exit routine it still did not release Outlook and WinWord.  Had to go into Task Manager, shutdown WinWord.  Then File/Exit released Outlook.  Any ideas?

  39. Alistair says:

    Outlook 2003, Win XP SP3.

    Knock-out worked for me.

    The Outlook Add-in did not.

    File Exit did not.

    Removing the /recycle option did not.

    It seems to have started when I switch to Microsoft Exchange server from previously using a POP3 mailbox.

    Causes a problem as the MS Outlook backup add-in cannot do its business whilst Outlook is running.

  40. Angela says:

    I fixed my problem.  May help you.  Go to tools/Options/Other/Advanced Options/Com Add-ins.  If iTunes Outlook Addin is checked uncheck it.  Worked like a charm for me.

  41. Sue Currey says:

    Getting rid of the iTunes addin worked for me too – File, Exit didn’t help.

  42. Apesbrain says:

    Using one or more of these suggestions, I can usually get OL to terminate when I close the application window.  One exception is when OL is launched in response to clicking a "mailto" URL.  Once the email is sent, the process does not close.

  43. Sandie Dutton says:

    Uncheck any COM add-ins, close Outlook, or kill it LOL, Go to Mail in Control Panel and use only one profile, go to %USERPROFILE%Application DataMicrosoftOutlook and delete all *.srs files.  Restart Outlook, this worked for me.  I tried each of these three steps separately and none worked by themselves.

    good luck, sandie

  44. David Moylan says:

    in my case it was itunes. I just did a complete reload of a PC but didn’t discover the outlook exiting problem until after itunes was installed.

    to fix it, I went to:

    tools / options / other / advanced options / COM Add-Ins and deselected "iTunes Outlook Addin".

    problem gone!

  45. Marc VI says:

    Unchecking the iTunes addin did the trick here too in Outlook 2003!

    This problem started a little over a week ago on my machine. In my "system restore points" I see an update of "Software Distribution Service 3.0" around that time.

    Could that have caused the problem???

    Thanks all for the suggestions!

  46. Paul Walker says:

    Getting rid of the iTunes addin worked for me too

  47. Lorenzo says:

    Removing the iTunes add-in (which I was not even aware of) solved the problem for me – I guess Apple make it just to pi** off MS users πŸ™‚

  48. Ryan says:

    @Sue Currey

    Getting rid of the iTunes addin worked for me too

    THANKS for this!

    The issue that the end user reported was that the recent "TO" history would not save new addresses, only show the existing ones when they typed "a" "b".

    Using a process kill approach via Task Manager or Shutdown Addin was not suitable, as unless Outlook quits properly with clean up, some recent changes like this are not saved to the NK2 file located here:

    C:Documents and Settings<username>Application DataMicrosoftOutlook<profile>.NK2

    Cheers all

  49. Pepe says:

    Getting rid of the iTunes addin worked for me as well. Thank you

  50. David Schenkel says:

    Just thought I would post the solution that resolved my problem with Outlook 2007 SP2 running on Windows 7 shutting down.  I removed the Live Search Maps add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook and the problem was resolved using either X or Exit now the Outlook.exe process shuts down in about 3 seconds.  You can remove this add-in using the Programs and Features section of the control panel.  


    β€œThe Live Search Maps add-in for Microsoft Office Outlook can cause significant problems for users of Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007. These problems can cause Outlook to crash or to perform other undefined behavior. Additionally, the Live Search Maps Add-in creates items that have incorrect values. These incorrect values create problems with messaging applications.”

  51. Joe Mauk says:

    Unchecking itunes com add-in took care of the problem. Thanks

  52. Paolo Betti says:

    Hi Mike,

    I have the same problem on one PC out of three.

    1) All PC are running XP Pro SP3.

    2) All PC have Outlook 2003.

    3) My PC with Outlook 2003 SP2 and iTunes 9.1 works just fine.

    4) My daugther PC same as above works just fine.

    5) My wife PC with outlook 2003 SP3 and iTunes 9.1 the output process doesn’t shutdown on exit. The only way is to enable the iTunes add, perform the sync with iPhone, then disable the iTunes add-in before exiting outllok.

    Do you think it exits a final solution?

    Many thanks.

    Best regard