Fix Outlook 2016 Freezes/Hangs With Gmail IMAP

I recently shifted a client from custom email server to GSuite (Formarly Google Apps for domains). We selected GSuite for its simplicity, features and cost effectiveness. I’ll leave the comparison of GSuite and Office 365 for the next article. Until now, everything has gone smoothly except for one thing, if we use GSuite accounts with Microsoft Outlook client, it freezes and hangs and sometimes delays in receiving emails. Sometimes it works perfectly fine while sometimes it just freezes without any apparent reason.

In this article, I’ll list down the causes and steps I followed to fix this problem. Since GSuite and Gmail uses the same technology, the same solution can be applied on Gmail accounts with IMAP connection.

Subscribe selective folders

Since Gmail and GSuite gives a lot of mailbox space, some accounts can become very large. Our client had accounts as large as 40 GB and growing. Microsoft Outlook is not designed to handle such large accounts. Instead, archiving is a great option which Outlook provides but using Outlook archives means that you are downloading all your older emails to your local drive. But if you want to keep emails on the Google Servers, you can do two things, either buy archiving from Google to move old email from the main mailbox to an archive which resides on Google’s servers and is searchable and readily available or you can use selective sync and mails to keep offline Outlook feature to limit the no. of emails Outlook handles. Let’s see how we can do both of these:

Using selective sync option in Microsoft Outlook

To use selective sync option, follow the steps below:

  1. Open Microsoft Outlook
  2. Go to File –> Options –> Advanced
  3. Under Send and Receive Options, press Send/Receive button
  4. Select All Accounts group and press the Edit button
  5. Now select the Gmail account you want to selectively synchronize
  6. In the right hand pane, uncheck “Get folder unread count for subscribed folders
  7. Select “Use the custom behaviro defined below
  8. Expand [Gmail] and select the items you want to synchronize on this computer. Make sure Inbox is already selected as it is the most important folder to be synchronized.

Adjust Mail to keep offline

Outlook gives users an option to download only recent emails. You can decide whether to download up to one month old emails or three months or six months or one year or two years or all of them. These are pre-defined options. Please note that this feature is only available in Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2016. If you are using Outlook 2010, you may use the first options discussed above and only download headers instead of all mail to make sure Outlook data does not become very big.

To adjust mail to keep offline feature, follow the instructions below:

  1. Open Outlook and go to File menu
  2. On the right hand pane under Info, select Account Settings and click on Account Settings drop down
  3. Double click the account you want to adjust. A new window should open
  4. Here you can adjust the mail to keep offline slider according to your needs

I hope these steps will solve your problem of Outlook being slow or freezing and not responding at times. If you are still having problems, you may share your experience with us in the comments below and we’ll try to solve your problem.

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Usman Khurshid
Usman Khurshid is a seasoned IT Pro with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. He has experience in everything from IT support, helpdesk, sysadmin, network admin, and cloud computing. He is also certified in Microsoft Technologies (MCTS and MCSA) and also Cisco Certified Professional in Routing and Switching.

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8 thoughts on “Fix Outlook 2016 Freezes/Hangs With Gmail IMAP”

  1. In my case, the problem was that I can’t sync folders (other than Inbox, Drafts & deleted).
    The solution has been uncheck “Get folder unread count for subscribed folders”

  2. Thanks!!! Installed Outlook 2016 yesterday and the first synch worked fine, although took time and sluggish. After that however no new mails would show up. I had it set to 36 months (approx. 40k emails) and it just wouldn’t work. Googled, and googled… Found this tip, set Outlook to 3 months and now it works fine!! Appreciated!!

  3. After hours of fussing with the Outlook 2016 install on a new PC, your suggestion finally did the trick. I’d already employed “selective sync” to no avail, but had not tried adjusting the amount of mail to keep offline. The remaining mystery is why my previous install (same version of Office on a 6-year-old PC) worked flawlessly and was synchronizing everything(?) Anyhow, thank you very much!

  4. I have been searching for 2 days on the freezing of Outlook 2016 and your suggestions did it! Especially mail to keep offline set to 1 month

  5. Thank you, you solved my problem of Outlook 2016 crashing during sync of subscribed folders. When I checked the selective sync option, only the inbox was ticked, so I don’t think there was any problem there. However, setting the Mail to keep Offline bar back to 12 months resolved the sync problem immediately.

    • Keeping mail offline, with or without an IMAP email account is useful for the following situations:
      1) Because it’s your email, and you want to have access to it if you can or especially if you cannot login to your email provider anymore. If you can’t login anymore (lost mobile phones means no verification texts can be received), then it’s /their/ email.
      2) If you want to move your email to another provider.
      3) If you frequently have no internet access on the job, and you need to access your email to find information or solve problems.


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