How to Open Outlook in Safe Mode

Start Outlook in safe mode to troubleshoot startup problems

Screenshot of the Outlook 2013 safe mode window
Outlook 2013 Safe Mode.

One of the easiest, and first, things to do if you can’t start Outlook is to open it in safe mode. When you open Outlook in safe mode, it starts without extensions or custom toolbar settings, and will disable Reading Pane.

Outlook should open normally when started in safe mode because those areas of the program mentioned above that are disabled in this "mode" tend to be common sources of problems. Once Outlook starts, you can then investigate those parts of the program to see what's preventing it from opening normally.

Note: Opening Outlook in safe mode does not involve using Windows, as a whole, in Safe Mode—the two are not the same. You can definitely boot into Safe Mode and then open MS Outlook (normally or in safe mode) but doing that does not automatically start the Outlook application in safe mode.

When to Use Outlook in Safe Mode

Outlook automatically disables certain features while running in this special mode, so you don't want to always use Outlook in safe mode. However, there are times when safe mode is necessary.

You might use Outlook in safe mode if you can't open some of your Outlook windows, the settings are freezing up when you try to make changes, you suspect that a recently installed extension contains malware, or maybe if some of the features or windows are behaving oddly.

Note: It's possible that you're using Outlook in safe mode without wanting to. This is most likely caused by the KB3114409 update that forces Outlook 2010 to open in safe mode all the time. You can fix this by uninstalling the update from Windows Update. The issue was fixed with the release of KB3114560.

How to Start Outlook in Safe Mode

The easiest way to get to the safe mode version of Outlook is to hold down the Ctrl key as you're opening the Outlook shortcut. You'll be asked if you're sure you want to open Outlook in safe mode—click or touch the Yes button.

Another way is to use the command line. Like the keyboard shortcut method, this one works in all versions of Windows and for all editions of Outlook, from version 2003–2016. This method is also useful because you can use it even if Explorer isn’t working.

Outlook Safe Mode Command.
  1. Open the Run dialog box with the WIN+R keyboard shortcut.
    1. If you can’t do that, like if Explorer has crashed, open Task Manager or Command Prompt instead.
  2. From the Run dialog box, enter the command outlook.exe /safe.
    1. If you’re using Task Manager, go to File > Run new task and type the same command there. Use File > New Task (Run...) in Windows 7 and older versions of Windows.
    2. The Command Prompt method isn’t as straightforward since you need to type the full path to where Outlook.exe is stored. See the section at the bottom of this page for more on that.
  3. If you see the Choose Profile window, pick the default Outlook option and click or touch OK to open that profile.

You can also make an Outlook safe mode shortcut if you want to always be able to open Outlook in safe mode without going through these steps again.

  1. Right-click or tap-and-hold a blank area on the desktop.
  2. Go to New > Shortcut.
  3. Type the full path to Outlook.exe and use the "/safe" switch at the end. See the example in the "Command Prompt Method" section below if you need help.
  4. Click or touch the Next button and name the shortcut something recognizable like Outlook Safe Mode.
  5. Use the Finish button to make the shortcut to Outlook in safe mode and exit the Create Shortcut window.

You can tell if Outlook is running in safe mode if the title of the program says (Safe Mode).

To "disable" safe mode in Outlook, just double-click or double-tap the regular Outlook shortcut you always use. Safe mode isn't enabled unless you use one of the methods described on this page.

Command Prompt Method

You need to know the full path to the Outlook.exe file before you can start Outlook in safe mode using Command Prompt. The path of the file depends entirely on your version of Outlook and whether it’s the 32-bit or 64-bit edition. 

Opening Outlook 2013 in Safe Mode With Command Prompt (Windows 10).

If you don't know what to type in Command Prompt, see the next section below. Otherwise, open Command Prompt and type the command exactly like this—of course, replacing this path with the one to your Outlook.exe file:

“C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\outlook.exe” /safe

After you've made the necessary changes in Outlook, close down the program and reopen it with the normal shortcut you always use to open Outlook. As long as you don't open Outlook with one of the methods described above, it will always start normally (not in safe mode).

Outlook 2007 and 2003

If you're using one of these older versions of Outlook, there are some other commands you can use instead of /safe that will do something else to Outlook instead of open it in full safe mode.

  • /safe:1 will start Outlook with Reading Pane disabled.
  • /safe:2 opens Outlook without automatically checking for new messages
  • /safe:3 starts Outlook with all extensions disabled.
  • /safe:4 opens Outlook without starting custom toolbar settings—the outcmd.dat file and *.fav file don't get loaded.

Note: In some instances, like when deleting add-ins in safe mode, you have to be running Outlook as an administrator. You can do this by launching the above command in an elevated Command Prompt.

Outlook.exe Location

There are a couple ways to find exactly where Outlook.exe is stored. The easiest is to just copy the command as you see it below and paste it directly into Command Prompt. Of course, you need to know which version of Outlook you have in order for this to work.

Tip: If you go with this method, instead of typing the commands manually, highlight the text below and copy it. Go to Command Prompt and right-click the black screen and choose Paste. Hit the Enter key on your keyboard to execute the command.

Another way that doesn't require you to know which version of Outlook is installed, is to search through your whole computer for outlook.exe. You can do that with the built-in search tool in Windows or with a third-party program like Everything.

Note: Be careful not to include any of the bold text or leading spaces when you copy these commands! Just copy and paste from the first double-quotes (including the quotes) all the way through to /safe.

Outlook 2016

  • 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\outlook.exe" /safe
  • 32-bit (alternative): "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\outlook.exe" /safe
  • 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office16\outlook.exe" /safe
  • Click-to-Run 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office 16\ClientX86\Root\Office16\outlook.exe" /safe
  • Click-to-Run 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office 16\ClientX64\Root\Office16\outlook.exe" /safe

Outlook 2013

  • 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\outlook.exe" /safe
  • 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\outlook.exe" /safe
  • Click-to-Run 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office 15\ClientX86\Root\Office15\outlook.exe" /safe
  • Click-to-Run 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office 15\ClientX64\Root\Office15\outlook.exe" /safe

Outlook 2010

  • 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\outlook.exe" /safe
  • 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\outlook.exe" /safe
  • Click-to-Run 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\outlook.exe" /safe
  • Click-to-Run 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office14\outlook.exe" /safe

Outlook 2007

  • 32-bit: "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office12\outlook.exe" /safe
  • 64-bit: "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\outlook.exe" /safe