Outlook Safe Mode Switches, and How to Launch Them

outlook safe modeMicrosoft Outlook is an information management application that comes packaged with the Microsoft Office suite, or available as a stand-alone tool for people who only need Outlook specifically. With this tool, users can check their email, create and track tasks, take notes, keep a journal, and manage a personal calendar.

It’s an extremely useful personal information manager for busy people and multi-taskers, but it’s not so useful if it isn’t working. The first recommended method of troubleshooting Microsoft Outlook when it’s giving you problems is running the application in safe mode.

In this guide, we’ll review Outlook safe mode benefits, and explain how to enable it yourself. For more Microsoft Outlook general use tips, check out this introduction to Microsoft Outlook 2010 or this entry-level course for Outlook 2013.

What is Safe Mode?

Safe mode is an operational mode for running operating systems and certain types of software when they’ve encountered an error, or were forced to shut down unexpectedly. It’s diagnostic, meaning it will not fix the issue your OS or program is facing, but will instead attempt to identify the root cause of the issue and offer a solution. For more on troubleshooting, check out this guide on IT troubleshooting management.

For Microsoft Outlook, safe mode is a way to load the easily customizable application without any of its additional plug-ins or add-on files, in the case that one of these files is causing Outlook issues. If Outlook runs smoothly without its add-ons, it means the problem lies with one of these extra files, and not with the software or installation of the software itself, letting you rule those possibilities out.

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How to Start Outlook in Safe Mode

For Windows Vista or  Windows 7, go to Start, and type in cmd and Enter to open the command prompt. You can skip this step if you want, since Vista and 7 both have search bars in the Start menu, but in case you have a custom skin that removes this, then open the command prompt.

Next, just type in outlook.exe /safe and press Enter. This will launch Microsoft Outlook in safe mode.

For Windows 8, press your Windows key, enter the Start screen, and type outlook.exe /safe before hitting Enter.

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For all of these operating systems, you can also type or find the Run prompt and type in outlook.exe /safe for the same results. If you don’t want to use Run or the command prompt, simply hold the Ctrl key and click the Outlook shortcut on your desktop, in the Start menu, or on your Quick Launch toolbar, and you will be prompted to launch Outlook in safe mode.

If for some reason your computer can’t find outlook.exe, you can ask it to navigate to the full location. Usually, the default installation folder for Microsoft Outlook is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office, with Office followed by your version number: for instance, Office12.

Are you using Microsoft Outlook 2010? Get started with this Outlook 2010 beginner’s course, or jump right into Outlook 2010 intermediate and Outlook 2010 advanced training courses.

Outlook Safe Mode Switches

There are a number of “switches” you can add on to the outlook.exe /safe command to specify how safe mode should launch. The only one compatible with all versions of Outlook is outlook.exe /safe.

  • /safe – Launches Microsoft Outlook in safe mode, without add-ons and plug-ins – including Component Object Model add-ins – toolbar customization, or the reading pane.

The following Outlook safe mode switches are compatible only with Microsoft Outlook versions 2003 and 2007:

  • /safe:1 – Launches Outlook in safe mode, without the reading pane.
  • /safe:2 – Launches Outlook in safe mode, skips over mail check.
  • /safe:3 – Launches Outlook in safe mode with Microsoft Exchange Client Extensions and Component Object Model add-ins off, but with both are listed in the manager.
  • /safe:4 – Launches Outlook in safe mode, but does not load customized toolbars, outcmd.dat, or *.fav files.

Learn more about Outlook in this definitive Microsoft Outlook 2013 training course.

Create an Outlook Safe Mode Shortcut

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of manually launching Outlook in safe mode every time you need to, you can create a safe mode shortcut.

The first thing you need to do is locate outlook.exe. Don’t try to launch it in the command prompt again – actually find the file. It should be under C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office if you have Windows 32-bit, or C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office if you have 64-bit, with Office followed by your version number.

If Outlook isn’t in either of these directories, you can search for it in windows explorer, or type in Outlook in your Start menu search bar, right click on Microsoft Outlook, and select Open file location.

Once you’ve located outlook.exe, right click somewhere on your Desktop (or in the folder you want to create your shortcut), and select the New>Shortcut option from the context menu. Browse to outlook.exe using the Browse option, or type in its file location, inside quotes, followed by /safe. The /safe switch should be located outside the quotes, like this:

"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office\OUTLOOK.EXE" /safe

Again, Office should be followed by your version number, like Office12 or Office13. Once you’ve entered in the above, hit Next, choose a name for your Outlook safe mode shortcut, and click Finish.

This way, you can have a convenient shortcut to Outlook safe mode to make troubleshooting easy and convenient. Check out this guide for more Outlook safe mode and troubleshooting tips.

When it’s working, Microsoft Outlook is a great tool for time management. Learn some Outlook-specific time management tips with this course.

If you need help getting started with Outlook in general, you can get started with this beginners course on Outlook 2007, this beginners course on Outlook 2010, or this beginners course on Outlook 2013.