I've heard from a lot of frustrated users complaining because they were told by "support" to make a new profile to fix a problem with Outlook, but were hoping I could help them avoid the hassle of recreating multiple accounts.
Too many people, including support engineers who should know how to fix everything wrong in Outlook, are using a new Outlook profile as the cure all for all things wrong with Outlook when less drastic measures would fix the problem, without requiring the user to re-configure Outlook to their liking.
It reminds me of the early days of PC phone support provided by most computer manufacturers, when format c: was the solution to all things wrong with Windows. It was the easy way out - why take the time to troubleshoot and solve a problem when you can wipe it out and start fresh? It looks great for the support staff, with low call times and a high percentage of calls marked resolved, but it's a lot of unnecessary work for the customer.
It's the same way with Outlook. Yes, a new profile will fix a lot of what ails Outlook, but it's often unnecessary and should not be the first solution you try.
Tip: If you make a new profile, don't delete the old profile until after you see if the new profile works.
My goal as a support person is to recover your current profile intact. This is especially important if you have a lot of accounts in your profile as rebuilding them can be time-consuming.
We do recommend a new profile when you upgrade from an older version of Outlook, especially when the older version is Outlook 2002 or older. You may also need a new profile if you used Windows Easy transfer or similar tool to move your data to a new computer as WET is known to corrupt profiles.
If you use the Outlook Hotmail Connector and store your tasks in the Hotmail data file, you will lose them when you make a new profile because the data file is tied to the account.
What troubleshooting steps should you take before giving up and making a new profile?
Safe mode is harmless and will give you an idea if the problem is with an add-in or support file or something else. If it works in Safe mode, look at add-ins first, starting with antivirus and sync add-ins, then support files. To open Outlook in Safe mode: Close Outlook then hold Ctrl as you click on the Outlook icon. You'll get a message asking if you want to start in Safe mode. Click OK.
When Outlook won't start, one of the support files Outlook relies on is likely corrupt. It's often a corrupt navigation pane and starting Outlook using the /resetnavpane switch will fix it. You'll need to add your favorite folders back to the Navigation pane, but otherwise, your profile is intact. See Using Command lines for other helpful switches.
When Outlook crashes during a send receive, it's the SRS file. That file holds your send and receive configuration and can be deleted. When Outlook won't print, OutlPrnt is usually corrupt.
When you can't view a folder, the view could be corrupt. Always try resetting the view on the folder first, as using the /cleanviews switch will wipe out any custom views you are using. A new profile will not fix a corrupt view, unless you also make a new data file.
Scanpst is also relatively painless to use, although like new profiles, it's often over prescribed. It's usually going to find something wrong with the data file, even if nothing is wrong, so don't worry too much if you run it twice and it finds errors both times.
While uninstalling and reinstalling Outlook rarely fixes problems, you can try repairing your installation in Add and Remove Programs. We do not recommend upgrading to a new version with the hope that it will fix what is wrong. You're more likely to bring the problem to the new version. Fix the problem first, then upgrade. The exception: when you use older versions of Outlook on Windows 7 or Vista, upgrading will fix some broken features.