Outlook 2007 – 99% CPU Utilisation
July 27, 2011 | In: e:volve tech blog
I came back to work after a two weeks off to find that my Outlook email was hanging my PC. All had been fine before I left so what had happened?
I rebooted a few times. System was fine until about 1 minute after I opened Outlook. My PC is also the host for our database so I had to be careful. There’s no wipe and reload option due to time stamps and BCM 2007 file creation dates. Mid 2008 we had a melt down and after a full restore we discovered that all customer profile dates was set to the date of the restore and there was no way to recover their originate date of creation to see when a customer had first joined us… Anyhooo….
Rather then spending ages I decided to launch Acronis and roll back a few times (I have a nightly drive image which is a snap shot of my C Drive). Strangely after going back a week there was no change. I didn’t want to go back too far as others had mentioned using my PC and the database in the preceding few days and everything was fine. I considered going back another week or more in a few jumps (bearing in mind the database would also be rolled back with all recent entries erased so I’d have to roll forward again once I found a solution (a bit like Back To The Future but less exciting even though my CoolerMaster case does look a bit like a DeLorean). I decided to hold off for the desperation to set in and see if I could diagnose the properly in case it ever arose again. I had a few days to play with before things got busy for me.
So, I researched and tested, and CTRL-ALT-DEL’d and End-Task’ed to my hearts content. Basically, using the Task Manager in XP Pro (and most versions of windows) you can go into processes and see what’s hogging the systems resources. Outlook.exe was fine for about 60 seconds but almost to the second would kick up in 3 or 4 jumps to 99% and the system would slow to a CRAWL. Clicking repeatedly over and back between Task Manager and Outlook give it a little freedom to process what you clicked on, as when you clicked on something outside of Outlook it was de-prioritised in Windows and therefore was being forced back down the priority list which freed up a little processor time for the next click.
I tried all the following:
Outlook /safe (outlook safe mode) = no change
Ran the Office Diagnostics = no change, nothing wrong
ScanPST.exe = (Should be on your hard drive (Use Search Everything to find it and everything else)) found 4 errors but after backing up and repairing there was no change, but it did indicate a .PST file problem
Disabled all Plugins = No Change
Disabled Spell Checking and Grammar = no change
Disabled AVG scanning & plugin = no
Checked for any relevant updates = no change
I edited Outlook registry entries = no change
I removed all the personalisation files = no change
I disabled all the 10 email accounts I use on this system = no change
I removed the PST file and created a new empty one = SUCCESS – Hurrah! Kinda…
All I had to do now was fix my own…
I followed every tip and trick and patch and update and anything I could find online to see if it worked as I could always roll back to last night erasing all the rubbish attempts and only implement the final working fix. Lots of other people had success with many of the above options so you can google them if you’re not sure how to follow them. But my own personal Outlook 2007 Purgatory was solved as follows.
I created a Virtual Machine and loaded up Windows XP Mode. I installed a clean copy of Office 2007. Backing up at every step I copied the PST file from my failing setup to the new virtual environment expecting it to be bogged down as per my PC. However my PST file worked fine in this new setup. Aaargh! Didn’t make sense.
Remove the PST file from my other one and it works indicating my PST file.
Copy in my PST file to a clean environment and it works.
Problem = conflict between my existing PST file which worked fine for the last 3 or four years on my solid system running my up till now solid Outlook and BCM.
Solutions = start hacking away at the PST file.
Bear in mind that every click took a painstaking 1 to 2 minutes to respond and you can imagine my agony at this. I was also on my 19th hour dedicated to attempting to repair it outside of office hours as I couldn’t be interfering with our database entries which happen all through the day. I guessed it was something that happened in the last 14 to 21 days and it appeared to be within my PST file…
So I repaired it again via ScanPST and if fixed a few more bugs = no change.
I opened it parallel to the new clean PST file as a secondary file = system worked as long as my PST file wasn’t the primary file
I dumped the clean PST file and put mine back as primary = no change
I copied my PST file to a backup folder and deleted my entire current inbox with over 200 new emails (could be a virus maybe? Or a currupt link or exploit). Quit and restarted = no change
I hacked out my entire folder structure of emails (over a gig of my 1.3gb PST file) and quit / restarted = no change
I emptied the Deleted folder = no change
I emptied the sent folder = IT WORKED!!!!!!!!!!!!
Finally. It was something in the sent folder. Unbelievable.
I restored a good copy of the PST file and dumped the Inbox, archive and sent folder = it worked
I resorted last nights backup, backed up the PST file and dumped the inbox, archive and sent folder = it still worked! But had no emails in there!
However, I needed my inbox, my archive and some of my sent emails for reference. All of the first two and the last 6 months of sent mails would be enough. I compacted my ran ScanPST, suprise suprise a few more errors found. I compacted my PST file which took ages to get the first few hundred meg down (since it was now practically empty bar contacts, reminders, etc.) I renamed a good backup of the untouched PST file and loaded it parallel to my working PST file. I copied the Inbox over (working), the archive over (working) and the sent folder over (just to see) and it broke it. So I considered leaving the primary PST file with Inbox and archive and the second PST running parallel with just the sent folder and everything else removed but it was too untidy. Who knows what that would cause in the future (bubonic plague to my database maybe?).
So I copied from one month back to six months back into my and it worked.
Why are you still reading, there’s your fix. Did you want to know what email broke it? I have to admit, I was curious. Since it came into my inbox and allowed me to open it in the first place. Then it allowed me to edit it and send it to someone else. Before it turned on me and decided some days later that it would screw with my system. But no, 22 hours was enough of my life wasted on the latest MS bug. I decided against restoring my last 3 weeks of sent emails one at a time (only about 300 since it’s off peak time) to see exactly which one broke it. I’m happy enough that the solution was finally uncovered and I was free to enjoy the thrills of Outlook 2007 with it’s glorious idiosyncrosasies!
And that really is the end. Although I’d still love to know which email broke it… Still life has few remaining mysteries these day!