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Outlook won’t connect

What to do when Outlook won’t reconnect to Exchange Server

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Ira J writes from his work laptop:

I have Outlook on my laptop for work. I leave it on all the time whether I’m connected to the Internet or not. Sometimes Outlook won’t connect to the office even when there’s a net connection and it keeps saying ‘Trying to Connect’. A workmate tells me the fix is to restart the computer but surely there’s a better way?”

Firstly, let’s clarify the type of setup Ira has. This is Outlook (version not known) connected to Exchange Server, which is the typical setup for corporate users of Outlook. Individuals normally use POP or IMAP to get their email.

Outlook should automatically setup a link to Exchange Server whenever the computer is connected to the Internet. This means you can open Outlook on a portable computer and just leave it running on the assumption that it will send/receive mail whenever possible. When there’s no connection, Outlook will work offline (using the copy of mail etc stored on your computer) and attempt to reconnect from time to time. There should be no need to manually switch from online to offline mode – Outlook should do that for you.

That’s the theory and normally it works fine. However sometimes Outlook gets ‘stuck’ and can’t reconnect with the Exchange Server.

Assuming the link to your office is working (we’ll get to that in a moment) then all you have to do is force Outlook to work offline then resume online connection. That should be enough to shake Outlook out of its problem and reconnect to the office.

In Outlook 2010 go to the Send/Receive tab and click on ‘Work Offline’, wait until the status bar changes from ‘Trying to connect’ to ‘Working offline’. Then click ‘Work Offline’ a second time, Outlook should then try to connect and, hopefully, succeed after a few seconds.

For Outlook 2007 and earlier versions click on the status bar where it says ‘Trying to Connect’ and choose ‘Work Offline’ from there.

Restarting your computer also works but it takes a lot more time than simply changing Outlook’s connection state.

All that is assuming the link to your office is working. You should be able to test that by using ‘Outlook Web Access’ (OWA) which is a way to view your mail, calendar etc via a web browser. If you’ve been given a web link to check your email then try that if Outlook can’t connect. The chances are that if you can’t connect using both Outlook and OWA that the Exchange Server isn’t working. Note: going to the public company home page means little because that site is usually operated entirely separately from the email/Exchange Server system.

The details of how to connect Outlook to Exchange Server depend on your organization and the version of Outlook/Exchange Server. Some companies add more security (like a VPN link) to the usual arrangement. Check with your network admin.

Article posted: Wednesday, 04 May 2011

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