Switch between working offline and online

In Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, you have the flexibility to make Outlook work online or offline with your mail server either automatically or only when you set it manually to do so.

In this article


About working offline

When you work online with Outlook and your mail server, you receive new mail as it arrives, and mail that you send is sent immediately. However, there are times when working online is not practical. For example, there can be times when a network connection is not available because of your location. There are also instances when even though a connection might be available, you don't want to use it to avoid incurring connection fees.

If your account connects to Exchange, your messages are saved in your server's mailbox. When you are connected to the server and work online, you can use all of the functionality in Outlook, such as opening items, moving them between folders, and deleting items. However, when you work offline, you lose access to all items on the server. That is when offline folders, which are saved in an Offline Folder file (.ost) on your computer, are useful.

The .ost file is a replica or copy of your Exchange mailbox. When you are online, this .ost file is automatically synchronized with the server so that both copies are the same, and changes made in either copy are made to the other. You can configure Outlook to automatically start offline if a connection to Exchange cannot be established. You can also manually switch between the online and offline connection states and choose which Exchange folders are kept up-to-date locally on your computer.

If you use an Exchange account, it is recommended that you use it with Cached Exchange Mode. Most of the reasons to work offline are eliminated when you use Cached Exchange Mode. The lack of a network connection is virtually transparent to you because you can continue to work with your items.

By default, Cached Exchange Mode creates and uses an Offline Folder file (.ost) and then downloads and maintains a synchronized copy of the items in all folders in your mailbox. You work with your information on your computer, and Outlook synchronizes it with the server.

Whether you are at the office, at home, or on an airplane, network changes or availability are transparent to you. When your connection to Exchange is interrupted, you can continue to work with your data. When a connection is restored, Outlook automatically synchronizes changes, and the folders and items on the server and on your computer are once again identical. Outlook manages your connection to the server and keeps your data up-to-date. There is no need to switch to working offline and to keep trying to reconnect to the server — it is all automatic.

Cached Exchange Mode also frees you from having to set up Send/Receive groups because it chooses the folders that you want to be available offline and keeps those folders synchronized.

The only time when you might still choose to work offline is when you want greater control over what is downloaded to the local copy of your Exchange mailbox. This can include situations where you are using a connection device or service that bases the charges on the amount of data that you transfer. Cached Exchange Mode keeps everything up-to-date. Working offline allows you to use Send/Receive groups to refine the type and amount of information that is synchronized.

What if you aren't using an Exchange account? Many people use a POP3 or IMAP account from their Internet service provider (ISP) or an HTTP account, such as Microsoft Windows Live Mail. When you are online, this means that a connection to the mail server is available, and Outlook sends and receives messages immediately for Exchange, IMAP, and HTTP e-mail accounts. For POP3 e-mail accounts, messages are sent immediately if the Send immediately when connected check box is selected on the Mail Setup tab (Tools menu, Options command). When you are offline, all accounts use the scheduling send/receive time in the Send/Receive Groups dialog box. Also, for IMAP e-mail accounts, folders are not available when offline.

When you work offline, Outlook connects to the mail server only when you choose for it to do so. When offline, Outlook does not try to connect to your mail server to check for new messages, download headers that you marked for download, or send messages.

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If you have a Microsoft Exchange account

You must restart Outlook to switch between working online and offline. Consider using Cached Exchange Mode for greater flexibility when you switch between online and offline connection states.

The fastest way to work offline is to use the default Outlook settings. If you want to customize the settings, including where to save the Offline Folder file (.ost), use the Customized setup instructions.

Quick setup

  1. On the File menu, click Work Offline.

Work Offline command on File menu

  1. To set up an Offline Folder file (.ost), click OK.

By default, the Prompt me at startup so I may choose to work offline or online check box is selected. If you want Outlook to always work online when a connection is available, clear this check box.

After the .ost file is created, when you exit and restart Outlook, you must synchronize your Exchange mailbox with the .ost file. The fastest way to do this is as follows: On the Tools menu, point to Send/Receive, and then click Send/Receive All.

Customized setup

If you want to customize the Offline Folder file (.ost) settings, such as where the .ost file is saved on your computer, do the following:

  1. If you have not already done so, create an Offline Folder file (.ost).

ShowCreate an Offline Folder file (.ost)

  1. On the Tools menu, click Account Settings.
  2. On the E-mail tab, select the Exchange account, and then click Change.
  3. Click More Settings.
  4. Click the Advanced tab, and then click Offline Folder File Settings.
  5. In the File box, type the path to the file that you want to use as the .ost file.

The default file name is Outlook.ost. If this file already exists, you are prompted for a new name.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Account Settings.
  2. On the E-mail tab, select the Exchange account, and then click Change.
  3. Click More Settings.
  4. Do one of the following:
  • Always start Outlook offline     Click Manually control connection state, and then click Work offline and use dial-up networking.
  • Choose whether to work offline or online each time you start Outlook     Click Manually control connection state, and then select the Choose the connection type when starting check box.
  • Always connect to the network     Click Manually control connection state, and then click Connect with the network.
  • Outlook automatically detects whether a connection to the server is available     Click Automatically detect connection state. If Outlook is unable to connect with the mail server, it starts in offline mode automatically.

 Note    To specify the amount of time to wait for a response from the server before you are notified to retry or work offline, type a number in the Seconds Until Server Connection Timeout box.

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If you use your Exchange account in Cached Exchange Mode

  • On the File menu, click Work Offline.

Work Offline command on File menu

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If you use a POP3, IMAP, or HTTP account

  • On the File menu, click Work Offline.

Work Offline command on File menu

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Applies to:
Outlook 2007