Repair Outlook OST File

Outlook 2007 just crashed on me and, once again, was unable to restart successfully. Instead the following error message was presented:

Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Cannot open the Outlook window. The set of folders cannot be opened.

In my case at least, the solution was to run:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\scanost.exe

(I don’t understand why Outlook wouldn’t automatically attempt to repair these files following a failure to start. But I digress…)

If you Google this error message, as I did, you’ll notice that the results exhibit a very low signal-to-noise ratio. It seems that this particular Outlook error is highly overloaded — it occurs for a variety of reasons and thus has a variety of fixes.

Incidentally, this is why I decided to blog about it. I hope this saves someone some time.

While I’m in rant mode: Can we get some software vendors out there to require googleable error messages? I mean seriously. I should be able to Google any error message that could possibly come out of your product and immediately find an official page describing it. Bonus points if this page is a Wiki.

While you’re at it, please ditch the stupid “OK” button (no, screw you, it’s not OK) and replace it with “Google this error…”


5 Responses to “Repair Outlook OST File”

  1. 1 Alkivar March 26, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I’ve always had good luck googling for error messages as long as I throw the whole message in quotes. ESPECIALLY with microsoft errors since you cant use microsofts search on their own site to find anything.

  2. 2 Mark March 26, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Yes I’ve used that trick before. The problem with this particular error message is that it apparently comes in a few forms. For example:

    Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Cannot open the Outlook window. The set of folders cannot be opened. The attempt to log on to Microsoft Exchange has failed.


    Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Cannot open the Outlook window. The set of folders cannot be opened. The inforation store could not be opened.

    There are a bunch more. All of them seem to have an additional sentence or two, as compared to my message. All of them contribute greatly to the “noise” without improving the “signal” much at all (from my perspective).

  3. 3 Alkivar March 26, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I certainly hear what your saying Mark. When you’ve got a case like that I start putting in the least common words and partial phrases and hope for some luck… Some of the following will be common sense for you but not necessarily for other people who come across this page via google:

    in your second quote my google search would be reduced down to something like:

    Microsoft +Office +Outlook +”information store” +”could not be opened”

    using your original full phrase #2: Results 1 – 10 of about 278,000
    using my sequence: Results 1 – 10 of about 816

    the key to google’s full power really comes down to intelligent reading/logic use. We want to remove as much of the unnecessary matches without killing the valuable content. So I work back to front sentance by sentance.

    Here’s my logic path:

    if I cant open the information store then I cant open outlook so I dont need to say “Cannot open the Outlook window” its redundant saying just “information store” and “cannot be opened” reduces the number of useless matches unrelated to this information store issue.
    The most important words in the rest of the error are 1) Microsoft 2) Office 3) Outlook so I throw them in for good measure.

    If I got a bunch of Mac office tips in the result i’d throw +Windows in to help reduce it again (or -Mac). If my problem was with office 2003 and my results were mostly for 2007 i’d throw in +2003 to once again narrow it down (or -2007). Sometimes I’ll try it one way and sometimes the other because results may be completely different.

    Once you really grasp the concept of keyword loading and narrowing phrases to the most relevant google really helps narrow your work down to a much more manageable size.

  4. 4 kitronit May 27, 2008 at 3:55 am

    Thanks Mark. Your suggestion was a whole lot more helpful than Microsoft’s…
    Just a comment from my own experience – before running the executable you mentioned, besides Outlook (which naturally was not running at the time), I also had to shut down (*entirely*) Microsoft Office Communicator…

  5. 5 zlatan24 September 1, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I heard about not bad application-how to open a .ost file, open *.ost files and convert them into *.pst files, that can be opened by any program, compatible with Microsoft Outlook email client,allows opening ost files and to store your personal data independently from Microsoft Exchange Server, it is very important, if you’d like to access your contacts and email archive from outside of your company,convert them to a suitable format, that can be read by other email client.

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