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Microsoft Outlook is occasionally prone to a problem where, after being closed and reopened, attempts to send or receive e-mail hang indefinitely and eventually time out with an error. The culprit is often a previous instance of Outlook that never completely shut down.
When this happens, the OUTLOOK.EXE process remains in memory, and all port assignments used by Outlook to send or receive e-mail continue to be held by that application. No other program can use them -- including other instances of Outlook.
There could be a number of reasons for an incomplete shutdown. For instance, if an improperly debugged third-party plug-in doesn't shut down on its own when Outlook terminates, the OUTLOOK.EXE process will continue to run.
If you experience this problem, close Outlook, wait 10 seconds, then look in the Task Manager for any outstanding copies of the OUTLOOK.EXE process. If there are any still running, terminate them manually and restart Outlook. You should be able to send and receive e-mail normally after that. Rebooting will also work.
Versions of Outlook earlier than 2003 were far more prone to this problem, but Outlook 2003 is still occasionally susceptible as well. Be sure to keep Outlook and the rest of the Office suite updated from Microsoft's Office Update site.
Also, check to make sure that any third-party plug-ins -- such as antispam or accelerated-search tools -- are up to date and not causing shutdown problems. You can see a list of all third-party plug-ins in Outlook by looking in Tools -> Options -> Other -> Advanced Options -> COM Add-Ins.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.
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