Switch from working offline to online

If the status bar at the bottom of your Microsoft Outlook window shows Working Offline, it means Outlook’s disconnected from your mail server. You can’t send or receive email until you reconnect.

Outlook status bar with Working Offline status

The first thing to check is your Internet connection by trying to connect to a website. If your Internet connection is working, try reconnecting to the mail server. Here's how:

  1. Click Send/Receive.

Notice that when Outlook is set to Work Offline, the button is highlighted.

Work Offline command on the ribbon indicating Offline is on

  1. Click Work Offline to return to working online.

After you reconnect to the server, the Work Offline button has a plain background:

Work Offline command on the ribbon indicating Online

Still no luck? If you can use that email account with a website, such as Outlook.com, see whether you can receive and send new mail using that site. If you can’t, call your technical support or your email service provider for help.

If you can get and send mail on the website, the mail server’s fine. But Outlook might need updates or there might be a problem with the mail account settings. If you’re using an Exchange account, check for updates and install any required ones. (It’s always a good idea to keep current with updates.)

Desperate? Maybe your email account needs a fresh start. Try creating a new mail profile.

When you might want to work 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 can be times when working online isn't practical. For example, maybe there's no network connection available. Or maybe there is a network available, but you don't want to connect to it because you've exceeded your data plan or will be charged a fee.

In Outlook, you have the flexibility to choose whether you want to work online or offline, and you can do so either automatically or manually. If you elected to work offline, but are ready to manually start a send/receive operation, just click Send/Receive > Send/Receive All Folders.

Outlook Ribbon Image

Work offline with a Microsoft Exchange Server account

If you're using a Microsoft Exchange Server account, your messages are saved in your mailbox on the server. When you're connected to the server and you 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 Outlook Data File (.ost) on your computer, are useful.

The offline Outlook Data File (.ost) file is a replica or copy of your Exchange mailbox. When you are online, this 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 Outlook Data 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 a Web-based account, such as Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail).

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 Outlook Data File (.ost), use the Customized setup instructions.

Quick setup

  1. On the Send / Receive tab, in the Preferences group, click Work Offline.
  2. To set up an offline Outlook Data 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 offline Outlook Data File (.ost) file is created, when you exit and restart Outlook, you must synchronize your Exchange mailbox with the new file. The fastest way to do this is as follows: On the Send / Receive tab, in the Send & Receive group, click Send/Receive All Folders.

Customized setup

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

  1. If you have not already done so, create an offline Outlook Data File (.ost).

ShowCreate an offline Outlook Data File (.ost)

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings.
  3. On the E-mail tab, select the Exchange Server account, and then click Change.
  4. Click More Settings.
  5. Click the Advanced tab, and then click Offline Folder File Settings.
  6. 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. Click the File menu,
  2. Click Account Settings, and then click Account Settings.
  3. On the E-mail tab, select the Exchange account, and then click Change.
  4. Click More Settings.
  5. 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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Applies to:
Outlook 2010