Windows 7 and Outlook

Thinking about upgrading your computer to Windows 7 or are you using Outlook on a Windows 7 computer already? The process seems to be less troublesome as with Windows Vista upgrades so far but there are still a couple of attention points before you start. This guide contains not only upgrade preparation and troubleshooting steps but also various tips about the changes that you could encounter involving Outlook after upgrading to Windows 7.

Is your Outlook version compatible with Windows 7?

Officially only Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 are supported to run on Windows 7. This is similar to Windows Vista which also did not support earlier versions of Outlook. You can install a version prior to Outlook 2003 on Windows 7 though but there are several issues which you could encounter.

In addition to these version requirements, even with Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007 there are several compatibility issues which you could encounter on Windows 7. The most critical of these issues have been taken care off in prior Service Pack releases. So before starting Outlook on Windows 7, make sure your first apply at least Service Pack 3 for Office 2003 and Service Pack 2 for Office 2007. Some open issues can be found here.

Of course it is always wise to stay current with the latest Service Pack and update releases, so make sure you set Windows Update to also include updates for other Microsoft applications.

Special notice; Upgrading from Windows XP

When you are upgrading from Windows XP, you are actually doing a clean install of Windows 7 as Windows 7 does not support automatically transferring your programs, settings and files when upgrading from Windows XP. So before upgrading, make sure you backup all your Outlook data and make sure you take good note of the settings of all your configured emails account as you will have to reconfigure this after installing Windows 7.

Windows Easy Transfer (WET) is an application that can help you transfer your files and settings from Windows XP to Windows 7. As this may indeed work for a lot of applications, it often fails miserably when using it in conjunction with Outlook. While in some cases the issues have been minor and could be fixed by recreating the mail profile, in many other scenarios the Outlook database (pst-file) was not included at all in the transfer and thus all mail, contacts, calendar items, etc were lost.

Therefore, I strongly urge you not to rely on WET when it comes to backing up and restoring Outlook files and settings. A detailed guide about backing up and restoring Outlook data can be found here. For additional support and settings files concerning Outlook which you might like to transfer as well (like for instance your Signature and Templates) you can take a look here.

There are also several Outlook Backup applications that you can use which, aside from backing up your Outlook data, also backup various settings and allow you to easily restore it after you have installed Windows 7 and Outlook. Personally I’ve had good experience with ABF Outlook Backup; backing up an Outlook 2003 with multiple pst-files and accounts restored nicely on Windows 7 with Outlook 2007 installed. If you decide to order, use ABF-HT2GL to get a discount.

If you did not format your PC before upgrading, you may also be able to find back your original Outlook data under:

  • Outlook 2007 and previous
    C:\Windows.old\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\
  • Outlook 2010
    C:\Windows.old\Documents and Settings\%username%\My Documents\Outlook files\

Special notice; Upgrading from Windows Vista

When you are upgrading from Windows Vista, then you can do an actual in-place upgrade. Programs, files and settings will then be migrated automatically to Windows 7 and after upgrading you can directly logon to Windows 7 and start Outlook with all its files and settings in place; just like you left it in Windows Vista.

Nevertheless, it is still good practice to make a good backup (not just of Outlook, but preferably your entire machine) and write down your account settings before starting the upgrade process. In these cases it really is better to be safe than sorry.

Before starting with the upgrade, you should also run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. This tool will indicate which drivers and applications you need to uninstall or update before or after the installation process. This will increase the speed of the upgrade, its chance of success and decrease the chance of ending up with broken applications or other troubleshooting requirements. For instance, If you have Windows Mobile Device Center installed to sync your mobile device with Outlook, make sure you uninstall this application before upgrading.

If you did not format your PC before upgrading and chose to do a clean install, you may also be able to find back your original Outlook data under:

  • Outlook 2007 and previous
  • Outlook 2010
    C:\Windows.old\Users\%username%\Documents\Outlook files\


If you are using any add-ins with Outlook, make sure they are also compatible with Windows 7. You’ll probably find that most of them are compatible as Windows 7 is in that aspect similar to Windows Vista and most of the compatibility requirements for add-ins are coming from Outlook and not from Windows. Still, since add-ins are not limited to operate just within Outlook and with Outlook data, it is a good thing to check with the vendor of the add-in first.

If you are having startup issues with Outlook after upgrading, disabling your add-ins would be a good troubleshooting step.

Virus scanner integration

After Windows 7, you probably also directly install a virus scanner. When installing your virus scanner, make sure you do not install any Outlook integration components. This is not specific to Windows 7 or any Outlook version but a general best practice for Outlook.

There are many known issues caused by having a virus scanner integrated with Outlook. These issues range from poor Outlook performance to send receive errors and from corrupted emails to complete data loss.

You can safely disable this integration part of your virus scanner without compromising your security; you’d still be sufficiently protected by your on-access scanner part of the virus

Pictures not showing and “Work file” error

After upgrading, you might encounter an issue where pictures from the Internet might not be downloading into the message or that you get an error which reads;

Outlook could not create the work file. Check the TEMP environment variable.

Solving this issue is 2-fold and requires editing the Registry;

  1. Reset the registry value for the location of the “Temporary Internet Files” folder to default.
  2. Delete the registry entry for the “SecureTempFolder” in Outlook

Step 1
The registry entry for the Temporary Internet Files folder can be found here;

  • Value name: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Current Version\Explorer\User Shell Folders
  • Key name: Cache
  • Value type: REG_EXPAND_SZ

Here, verify that the location for that key is set to;
%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files

Step 2
Outlook uses a subfolder in the Temporary Internet Files folder to write its temp files which are retrieved from the Internet. For instance; linked pictures and attachments. To make sure a proper folder is being created, we reset the reference to this folder so that Outlook will recreate the registry entry and folder automatically the next time is needs to be used.

  • Value name: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\<version>\Outlook\Security
  • Key name: OutlookSecureTempFolder
  • Value type: REG_SZ

Delete the key name. If the key name is not there, you’re ok already.

Now restart your computer for the changes to take effect and try again.

For more information about the SecureTempFolder for Outlook see the guide:
Error opening attachments / Cleaning out the Temporary Outlook Files folder.

Upgrade has failed

Did the upgrade has failed and/or do you want to do a clean install of Windows 7?
Even if you only have upgrade media and not a full version of Windows 7, you can still do a complete clean install.

The way to do this is to do a clean install of Windows 7 by booting your computer with the Windows 7 DVD. Then, instead of activating it, directly start the Windows 7 setup again from within Windows. This time, choose to do an upgrade and when that procedure has finished, you should be able to activate Windows. As long as you are entitled to use upgrade media to license your copy of Windows 7, then this method is fully supported and considered legal by Microsoft.

Once installed and updated, you can restore your Outlook data and reconfigure your mail accounts in Outlook.

Outlook 2003 compatibility issues

Word as email-editor
If you’ve are composing new emails with Word set as the e-mail editor, then these windows will be grouped with the Word logo on the the Taskbar instead of with Outlook.

Empty Libraries
One functionality incompatibility that exists in Office/Outlook 2003 which can be annoying is that most of the Open/Save dialogs do not support the new Libraries function of Windows 7. This is because Office 2003 uses its own file browser dialogs instead of the ones of Windows.

A workaround for this is to add your favorite locations to the Office Places bar for easy access.

Other changes concerning Outlook and Windows 7

You’ll also find some functionality changes within Windows 7 that will affect Outlook. Below you’ll find some links discussing these changes.