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A lump-in-your-throat fix for when Outlook 2013 won’t open anymore

I was working along, getting some things marked off my MMS 2013 list, when I decided it was time to setup a new Exchange account for Outlook 2013.  I had delayed doing this for a couple days and decide I could do this as somewhat of a break from my nose-to-the-grindstone work.  During setting up a new Exchange account, you have to completely exit Outlook and use the old Control Panel Mail app (btw: this is on Windows 8, but it’s the same process on earlier versions of Windows).  During setting up the Exchange account I needed to do something else more critical in Outlook and decided I’d cancel out and finish the Exchange setup later on, once I had my task complete.

So, I attempted to start Outlook back up, but was confronted, or accosted rather, by the following error message:

“Cannot start Outlook. Cannot open outlook window. The set of folders cannot be opened.”

Oh man.  That horrid feeling came over me, where I had so much to do but I was at a technology roadblock.  And, not only that, but this was Microsoft Outlook – the one piece of software that I simply cannot live without.  So, I jumped out to Bing to see if I could locate others who had the same issue.  I wasn’t alone.  In fact, this seems to happen quite a lot.

For some the fix was running Outlook.exe in safe mode using the outlook.exe /safe command line.  For others it was fixing a corrupted Navigation pane using the outlook.exe /resetnavpane switch.  I tried all of these and they just didn’t work for me.

Some suggested running the scanpst.exe that comes with Microsoft Office to fix a corrupted PST file.  That didn’t work for me, either.

So, after digging around on my own I noticed something peculiar.  On the Data Files tab in Outlook’s Account Settings there was no default data file defined.  Apparently, when setting up an Exchange account, Outlook assumes that you’ll want the new OST that will be created as the default data file, so it removes the default flag on your currently selected option.

After setting the default data file back to it’s original setting, Outlook opened again.  I had to import some old Rules, but that was quick and easy since I export those regularly (and old habit I learned after getting burned a couple times).

Default data file

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A community professional, keynoter, and evangelist who has driven social media and marketing strategies, editorial successes, delivered customer successes and built some of the largest and longest-running online communities. Rod has created, managed and grown small, medium, and mega-sized conferences; run entire editorial teams to deliver record traffic and market leadership; as product manager, directed the success of hundreds of product releases; supported sales and marketing to ensure customer success; developed, run and sold businesses; written thousands of technical articles, white papers, case studies, and technical documentation; hosted and delivered hundreds of attendance shattering webinars and virtual tradeshows; and delivered keynote speeches and sessions at a wide variety of events including conferences, webinars, events, and user groups.


  1. Yeah man you re good …. Icloud was set to default data file… now it work thank you 🙂

  2. How did you get into the account settings if you couldn’t start outlook?

  3. Thank you for this. I just wasted 3 hours on this issue and your suggestion solved my problem.

  4. Yay. You saved me. Bing search for this article worked. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the help. Out of all the recommended fixes I tired, this was the only one that worked.

  6. Big help

  7. Thanks so much! The only solution that worked!. Had to solve one other problem first though: could no longer access the account settings via control panel (don’t know why). Installed an earlier version of Outlook (2007), set it up, then removed it, and could access account settings for Outlook 2013 again. So happy!

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