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Utility Spotlight: Scan for Problems in Microsoft Outlook

The Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool scans your Outlook profiles to identify any potential issues.

Lance Whitney

Having a tough time troubleshooting a problem with Microsoft Outlook? Microsoft has a free tool that can help point you in the right direction.

The Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool (OCAT) scans your Outlook profiles for potential issues and errors. Then it provides you with a full report on its findings. This helpful utility can uncover problems that would otherwise be hard to find.

OCAT supports Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions) under Windows 7, Windows Vista SP2 and Windows XP SP3. It also requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0.

To get started, download OCAT_SETUP.zip from the Microsoft Download Center. You should also download the file named OCAT supplemental information download.docx. This file has the full documentation on how to set up and use the tool.

Scan Time

Make sure you’re logged in as an administrator on the computer you wish to scan. Unzip the OCAT_SETUP.zip file to extract OCAT.msi and setup.exe. Launch the setup.exe file, and you’ll be prompted to install the .NET Framework 2.0 or higher if it’s not already installed. The OCAT Setup Wizard will then appear to guide you through the installation process.

After installation, you’ll find a folder called Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool in your Start Menu Programs area. Open that folder to launch the shortcut for OCAT, and you’re ready to go.

At the OCAT Welcome screen, click the first item: Select options for new scan. Enter a name for the scan. By default, OCAT will prompt you to start Outlook if it’s not already open. If necessary, you can run the scan without having to open Outlook by clicking on the Task pulldown menu and selecting offline scan. However, the online scan is preferable because it can uncover more information and provide greater details.

There’s another option that lets you enter credentials for an Active Directory logon if the computer you’re scanning isn’t joined to the same Active Directory domain as your Exchange mailbox. After you’ve selected the necessary options, click the link to Start scanning (see Figure 1). Depending on the size of the Outlook profile, your scan can take several minutes to run. The time estimated by Microsoft within this utility won’t necessarily be accurate.

Once you’ve configured the Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool, you’re ready to scan Outlook profiles.

Figure 1. Once you’ve configured the Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool, you’re ready to scan Outlook profiles.

After the scan is completed, click the link: View a report of this configuration scan. OCAT will display its findings in a default List Reports type (see Figure 2). The first tab—Informational Items—shows you all of the add-ins and updates installed for Outlook and Office. Clicking on a specific update will reveal more details, including a link to its Microsoft support page.

The second tab—All Issues—shows the potential problems your scan uncovered. The third tab—Critical Issues—shows only the problems deemed most severe. You can sort the results displayed in each tab according to class, severity or issue.

After each scan, the Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool presents a findings report.

Figure 2. After each scan, the Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool presents a findings report.

In one scan run during the testing process, the All Issues information tab reported that the Sent folder was too big. It also told me Outlook had experienced recent crashes, and there were several orphan files found in an Outlook temp folder (see Figure 3). The Critical Issues reported just on the crashes and orphan files. Issues are highlighted by icons identifying their severity.

The Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool will report on and sort issues by severity.

Figure 3. The Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool will report on and sort issues by severity.

The Tree Reports type displays all the information in a tree format. You can also find more details on the issues OCAT discovered. The Summary View provides a cursory look at the Outlook data OCAT gathered, while the Detailed View drills more deeply into the results with links to help troubleshoot any issues (see Figure 4).

The Detailed View gives you more details for extensive troubleshooting.

Figure 4. The Detailed View gives you more details for extensive troubleshooting.

The Detailed View points to two events logged in the Windows Event Viewer, and provides details on the crashes. As with many logged events, the details list specific memory modules and IDs that would be of most value to a Microsoft support rep assisting in resolving the problem.

The item describing my Sent folder as too large links me to a Microsoft Support page explaining why a folder with too many items could hamper performance. Finally, the Detailed View shows me the names of the 42 orphan Outlook temp files so I can decide whether to delete them.

OCAT gives you options to print the report or to export it as an XML, HTML or CSV file. It also keeps track of all the scans. Click the option to Select a Configuration scan to view to display each scan. Then you can opt to view, export or delete it.

You can’t run OCAT remotely over a network-you must install it manually on the PC you wish to scan. Still, it’s a useful tool to help identify and resolve persistent Outlook problems.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney is a writer, IT consultant and software trainer. He’s spent countless hours tweaking Windows workstations and servers. Originally a journalist, he took a blind leap into the IT world in the early ’90s.

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