Fix for error: Outlook could not create the work file


A friend of mine, Chris Fenly from Waterstons, got in touch today about a weird problem he was having with two Windows XP SP 2 machines running Office 2003.  Opening Word or Outlook generated the error “Outlook could not create the work file. Check the temp environment variable.”  It’s an issue which a few people seem to have according to Internet search engines.  Anyway, before I could be of any help, he’d fixed it. 


On his machines HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\User Shell Folders\Cache was pointing to %windir%\temp.  He changed it to C:\Windows\temp and all was well.  I didn’t ask where his %windir% variable was pointing at the time – I wish I had now.


Comments (2)

  1. pemca says:

    Same problem except Outlook 2007 with Office 2003 Upgrade

  2. barnwal says:

    Dear All,

    I had the same problem and I struggled almost a week to find a solution. I found so many sites but none of them could provide a clear answer except some pointers. But I have figured out how to fix the problem. Here is step to step instruction to fix the issue. Just now I fixed my problem and you may try out yours.

    1. Why it happens?

    Due to a number of reasons the variables under registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrent VersionExplorerUser Shell FoldersCache gets changed to incorrect values and you start getting this weird message whenever you use any microsoft office application.

    2. Solution:

    Follow the steps given below at our own risk

    a. Start->Run-> enter "regedit" and hit ‘enter’ to run the program to edit Registry variables.

    b. Go to folder -> "HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrent VersionExplorerUser Shell FoldersCache"

    c. Check the variable values- All the variable should have values starting "%USERPROFILE%". Any variable which is not having this starting point is probably corrupted. In my case, all the corrupted variables had a corresponding "Backup_VariableName". Example: my "cache" variable had a corrupt value while there was a variable called "backup_cache" with correct values

    d. Change the value of all the corrupted variables to correct values. Example change value of "cache" variable to "%USERPROFILE%Local SettingsTemporary Internet Files" and so forth.

    e. Close all the Ms Office Programs and re-start. The problem should be fixed now.

    Have fun and continue to share the information to each other.

    Sanjay Barnwal

    Brookfield, CT, USA.