Solved Outlook 2003 on XP cannot start up

July 3, 2015 at 11:27:47
Specs: Windows XP, Pentium4 3GHz/1GB
I've been running MS Office Outlook 2003 on Windows XP(sp3) for years without any problems. Last night, the Outlook screen froze while it was closing down and I used the on/off power switch to force a shut down (turned off power)...I don't think that has ever happened with Outlook before. This morning, Outlook would not open. Error message read: "Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Unable to open the Outlook Window. The set of folders could not be opened. The server is not available." Have tried "outlook.exe /resetnavpane" without success...any further advice gratefully received...thank you.

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July 3, 2015 at 11:35:51
That switch works for Outlook versions that have the Navigation Pane, which 2003 does not.

Try one of two things. Hold down the Ctrl key when opening Outlook, or, in the Run box, type Outlook.exe /safe

See if that works.

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July 3, 2015 at 17:05:37
✔ Best Answer
Some ideas that fit the symptoms here if you've not seen them:

(Yes, it's the Derek you know)

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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July 4, 2015 at 01:19:52
Thanks beachyhbt.
1) Useful to know about NavPane (viz. its absence in Outlook 2003).
2) Held down CTRL key when, as usual, opening Outlook from desktop shortcut - unusually, had to double-click twice for response. Pop-up msg: "Outlook has detected that you are holding down the CTRL key. Do you want to start Outlook in Safe mode?" But problem persists - same response whether I press "Yes" or "No" and whether I continue to hold down CTRL key or not. Same error msg appears.
3) Tried <Outlook.exe /safe> in Run box (with and without CTRL key pressed). But problem persists - same error msg appears.
For completeness, the full error msg reads: "Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Unable to open the Outlook window. The set of folders could not be opened. The server is not available. Contact your administrator if this condition persists." This message appears after I see the Outlook window for a fraction of a second.
For information, I can see the Outlook <.pst> files in the Personal/Archive folders, via Control Panel=>Mail.

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July 4, 2015 at 01:50:31
Thanks Derek. Ha! hope to see you soon...and could be bringing the machine.
Will give those ideas a go, and get back to you.

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July 4, 2015 at 03:02:03
Very long shot... but sometimes they work...

Download/run the free utility at

Perfectly safe to run, I have tested/run a couple of times to great effect. Ideally run in safe mode, but will run in normal mode too. Follow all the steps. It will find and fix any errors it detects witthin the windows system as is; including many of those issues which affect some of the major MS office apps. (which is how I came to discover it via another forum discussion).

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July 4, 2015 at 11:41:41
Many thanks Derek. That link provided the solution. Outlook 2003 now re-opening perfectly again...and I've tried it a few times just to make sure.

I set the Inbox Repair Tool (Scanpst.exe) to work on my Personal Folders file. The tool came with Outlook 2003 (found it via Search of C:\ drive) and I located file via Control Panel==>Mail icon.

Thanks again...won't need now to bring my machine with next BBQ?

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July 4, 2015 at 11:44:41
Thanks trvlr. Have now found solution (see above), but will take a look at

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July 4, 2015 at 14:46:49
Good to hear and thanks for taking up the spirit of Computing Net and letting us know (not everyone does that).

message edited by Derek

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