Receiving new mail alerts when Outlook is closed

We often see questions regarding getting new mail notifications when Outlook is closed. Ironically sometimes they are requests about how to get them and sometimes they are complaints about how to get rid of them.

So, how do you get these new mail alerts or how do you get rid of them?

The short answer is; If Outlook is closed, you cannot get any alerts since Outlook is closed. So if you do get these notifications, Outlook isn’t actually closed at all.

Getting rid of the new mail alert

If you think you’ve closed Outlook but you still get new mail alerts, then Outlook is hanging in its closing process. If this is the case, then you’ll still see OUTLOOK.EXE on the Processes tab of Task Manager (keyboard shortcut CTRL+SHIFT+ESC).

Common causes for Outlook not closing properly are faulty add-ins or external applications relying on the outlook.exe process to function properly. For instance, when you are running certain fax software or when you have your mobile (phone) device connected to your computer for synching with Outlook.

To troubleshoot Outlook shutdown issues see the guide; Outlook doesn’t close

Getting new mail alerts…

If you do want new mail alerts but do not want Outlook to be (visually), then there are various options depending on whether you actually want Outlook to be running or not in the background.

…with Outlook running in the background
If you want new mail alerts but do not want Outlook to be visible on your Windows Taskbar all the time, then you can minimize Outlook to the Notification Area.

To configure this, expand the Notification Area, click on the Outlook icon and then select the option “Hide When Minimized”.

Note: Enabling this option in Windows 7 could cause some inconveniences.

Disable Hide When Minimized for Outlook on Windows 7 in 3 clicks
Enable “Hide When Minimized” for Outlook in 3 clicks.

…without Outlook running in the background
If you do not want Outlook to be running in the background all the time (for instance to free up some memory), then you could use a new mail notification utility.

  • For accounts with POP3/IMAP support
    There are quite a number of these utilities including free ones such as PopTray and POP Peeper. Even though the names suspect otherwise, most of these tools also work with IMAP accounts or have extensions for it.
  • Alternative for Live Hotmail accounts
    If you are using a Windows Live Hotmail account, then you could also install Windows Live Messenger to get new mail notifications for your account or pin the Windows Live Hotmail to your Windows Taskbar (requires Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9).
  • Exchange accounts
    If you are using an Exchange account, then you could also use Outlook Web Access (OWA) to get notifications via your browser or use a utility called OWA Tray.

Pinned Windows Live Hotmail site on Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 9 showing a new mail alert and the Jumplist.
New mail alert and Jump List for the pinned Live Hotmail site.

Note: We’re still waiting for an update of OWA for Exchange 2010 to offer support for Pinned Sites when you are using Internet Explorer 9 on a Windows 7 computer. Similar to the Windows Live Hotmail option, the OWA website will then show as a separate icon in your Windows Taskbar which can show an email envelope for new mails or a bell icon when a reminder is due. Additional options such as creating a new mail or meeting will also be available in the Jump List (right mouse click on an icon in the Taskbar). Fingers crossed for this update to make it into Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2 (don’t expect it to be back ported to Exchange 2007 or previous).