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Why does Outlook Synchronize Folders?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 by | Filed Under: E-Mail Help

Ben from Columbus asks:

Why does Microsoft constantly synchronize folders in Outlook?

You may one day be in Outlook working away when all of a sudden a two envelope icon appears on your taskbar. When you put your mouse over it, it will say something along the lines of “Outlook is synchronizing folders”. It’s not like when your computer is installing updates and can make your PC so slow as to be unusable at times.

This is because your offline email folders (where they are stored on your PC) are being synchronized with those being downloaded from the Internet and vice versa. You may not have set it up to work like this knowingly, but once it is set up so that every time you use that profile on Outlook, it will synchronize those folders. The idea being that you will have the email on your desktop which is accessible without Internet access.

To determine whether the offline folders are indeed being synchronized, you simply

Right-click the folder in question

– Click synchronization (note: If you don’t see a synchronization tab, you haven’t set your profile to be synchronized)

– In Statistics for this folder check when it was last synchronized and the amount that the server and offline folder contains.

You can tell if your profile is set up for folder synchronization if the offline and server folder contents are the same amount. If this is not the case, it’s not set up for it as of yet.

If the slowing down of speed while email is being downloaded from the Server is a problem for you, then there are several options:

Add RAM to your computer: RAM can be picked up for relatively cheaply nowadays from places like eBay. Shopping around can get you a good deal.

Remove start-up programs: If your Outlook profile is set up so that it downloaded email on start-up, then it might help to remove other programs that are unnecessarily running at the same time. Many programs set themselves automatically to start on start-up. You can change these by going to Run and typing in msconfig. You can learn more about msconfig here. Now click the Startup tab and remove the tick in the boxes for the items you don’t want to run at the start.

Regular anti-virus scans: It is possible that your computer is running slowly for other reasons and the double envelope icon and downloading of email simply tips it over the top. By running a regular antivirus scan and other similar software protection you can make sure this isn’t an issue for you.

Disable automatic send/receive

– Open Outlook and go to Tools then Options

– Click on tab that says Mail Setup

– Remove the tick from the box next to the phrase Send immediately when connected


By following these instructions to stop the automatic download, you can just download email whenever you decide to and your computer is prepared for it.

When you’ve done that, to initiate a manual synchronization and avoid altogether the hassle of the double envelope icon, you can follow these instructions:

– Click the folder that you want to synchronize

– Go to the Tools menu at the top

– Point to Send/Receive

– Click This Folder to synchronize one folder online or click Send/Receive All to synchronize all folders online.

Alternatively, in later versions of Outlook, just press F9 with the Outlook window in view to initiate a download.

~Richard Shelmerdine

One Response to “Why does Outlook Synchronize Folders?”

  1. Otto Thiessen says:

    I am unable to locate many emails placed in folders. The very recent ones are there. Is there an automatic deletion of folder email??????

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