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Delay when opening messages in Outlook

Users may experience a five-second delay when opening messages in Outlook if a certain MSN Messenger related option is enabled.

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After upgrading to Outlook 2002, I experienced a strange five-second delay whenever I opened a message. The delay manifested throughout all of Outlook -- I couldn't do anything with any Outlook window at all during that time, and even the buttons for Outlook windows on the task bar refused to respond. I ran through all the usual culprits -- a damaged Outlook installation, bad plug-ins, cluttered TEMP directories -- with no luck.

The problem turned out to be an Outlook option that allows for e-mail address integration with MSN Messenger. When enabled, e-mail addresses in e-mail messages provide a context menu with Messenger-specific options when you hover over them with your mouse.

However, this introduces a delay in the rendering of the window, and all other program actions are held up until the window can finish displaying all its elements. The additional context options aren't even needed if you don't use MSN Messenger in the first place.

To get rid of the delay, just disable MSN Messenger integration in Outlook 2002. From the main Outlook menu, select Tools -> Options -> Other, then uncheck "Enable the Person Names Smart Tag" option and click OK. Close and restart Outlook.

If you want to get rid of access to MSN Messenger entirely, open Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs, and select Set Program Access and Defaults. Then, under Custom, uncheck the "Enable access to this program" option next to "Windows Messenger."

Note that the Outlook option to integrate Messenger smart tags will still be available even if you have disabled access to MSN Messenger.

If the problem still persists, try clearing the Internet Explorer cache. Outlook uses IE to render HTML e-mails, so temporary files left in the cache may cause some messages to open slowly.

If things are still running slowly every now and then, Office may have speech and handwriting recognition components installed by default, which can also cause this problem. Fortunately, Microsoft has published a detailed guide on how to disable these Office features.

With any luck, the next iteration of Office won't have those components installed by default -- and if they do, expect another detailed guide on how to turn them off in the installation process!

Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.


I have the exact problem mentioned, but I cannot find the 'Enable the person names smart tag" option as you mentioned. I have already disabled the MSN Instant Messaging option, but the problem persists.
—Raymond H.


Check the last paragraph of this tip for another possible reason why this may be persisting -- it's something Microsoft documented in Knowledge Base article 823586: How to turn off the speech recognition and the handwriting recognition features in Office 2003.

I've found that this is actually one of the biggest reasons for Outlook windows to have a delay when opening up.
—Serdar Yegulalp, tip author

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Related information from

  • Reference Center: Microsoft Outlook

  • Dig Deeper on Outlook management