Avoiding the dreaded "unable to download folder (null)" error with Outlook 2003/IMAP

I’ve been using Outlook as an IMAP client for a long time (I know, I know, there are better IMAP clients out there, but I work in an Outlook/Exchange shop, so I’m not particularly inclined to use a different tool). One of the things that has driven me crazy for ages is that periodically Outlook would stop being able to access the IMAP server. Doing a “Send/Receive” would display the wonderfully helpful error:

“Task 'Checking for new mail in subscribed folders on <servername>.' reported error (0x8004DF0B) : 'Outlook is unable to download folder (null) from the IMAP e-mail server for account <account>. Error: The connection to the server is unavailable. “

Also, the “Connect to <account>” menu, though enabled, would have no effect. Only restarting Outlook would fix the problem – no fun if you’ve got 20 message windows open. I googled like crazy, but could never find a solution to the problem.

Finally one day I noticed something about the computer right before the problem occurred – it had momentarily lost and then restored it’s wireless network connection. Could this be the trigger that I’d been looking for? After a little more experimentation, I’m pretty convinced that it is.There are two common times when a network connection is momentarily unavailable on a laptop – during a wireless dropout, and while coming out of sleep mode. By avoiding doing a send/receive in Outlook at those moments, I’ve pretty much eliminated the folder (null) problem.

The moral  of the story? Make sure you have a network connection before doing a Send/Receive to an IMAP server.

Hopefully this problem will be fixed in Outlook 2007.


  • Same issue here and we are hard-wired. This is an Outlook issue as none of the alternative mail clients have this issue. Once again Microsoft wins the encrypted ambiguous error message award! BTW, the microsoft knowledgebase does feature this error message though the only "cause" is Exchange caching?

    Uh... I am using IMAP.... not Exchange. ;-) thanks for the write-up...

  • Hi,

    Thanks for the post, it helped me.
    I had the same problem, and confirm that it is probably a lost (even temporary) of the connexion. I have a WiFi connexion, some time lost for an hibernate for example.

  • Yep, same issue here too, also hard-wired, and Outlook is driving me crazy with this error. Regular IMAP, no Exchange, happens intermittently. Anybody comes up with a solution, please share!


  • I am having the same exact problem. I am hard wired via ethernet LAN to the router so there is no loss of connection from that perspective. This only happens with outlook and vista as I have an XP machine with identical connections and outlook configuration that works perfectly. At times, the vista machine seems to work which leads me to the ISP but then both machines are on the same ISP connection?? I have tried the "detect and repair" as well as turning off the fax add-in option but thus far nothing has cured the problem.

    Hope someone comes up with the solution.....thanks.

  • running vista, outlook 2007, am hard wired nOT USING WIRELESS, and problem is there.. very irritating... just switched back back from Mac to Vista for work... I hate myself for it.

  • Hi all,
    I run Vista in a LAN behind a router.
    Outlook 2003 and IMAP at STRATO via DSL works fine. BUT!! In the same network I've a XP machine, again Outlook 2003 and this ugly problem. Sometimes another message tries to say me "no network" which cannot be proved, because ping to the imap and smtp server works. Strange thing. No solution until now.

  • I had the same problem in our offices.
    For the Server Port Numbers, in the Outgoing (SMTP) section the old webmaster at my work used 5151, but everyone from time to time had the cannot connect the mail.*****.com server. I believe that was the wrong outgoing port number so I just put the defaults back and I don't have any errors. I was wondering if this kind of error would occur when the port numbers are incorrect?

  • I am running a PC with XP using Office SP3 and a wireless card.

    Was getting this error for weeks! (but never restarted comp or outlook).

    Simply rebooted and restarted Outlook and problem solved... 100 messages came crashing in!



  • We've had the same problem. Outlook 2003 running on Vista, we removed Exchange Extensions and iTunes AddIn which appear to have cured the problem for us.

    Outlook2003/Tools/Options/Other/AdvancedOptions/Add-In Manager/Untick Exchange Extensions property.

    Outlook2003/Tools/Options/Other/AdvancedOptions/COM Add-Ins/ remove anything that isnt essential, (we removed everything)

    Hope that helps.

  • We have just installed a new system online, and setup the IMAP folder so we can drop and drag emails, etc into this folder, but I still constantly get the error: the connection to the server is unavailable, but my internet is on!!! No one at this stage wants to help with a solution, so any comments would be appreciated.

  • Same problem here. We just switched from POP3 to IMAP on Outlook 2007.

    C'mon, Microsoft, get with it.

  • Thanks so much for the advice on disabling iTunes add in!

    That was the solution for me as well! I had been looking for a fix for quite a while!

  • unchecked the box for Exchange Extensions and restarted Outlook

    That fixed my problem!

  • I want to develop my own IMAP client. Can you please provide code related to it. Provide more information over hostory of IMAP development.

  • I had the same problem, but it was due to Windows having a maximum size limit on the COMBINED mail files. After purging the administrator account of its' store, all was ok again :)

  • You guys are awesome! Thanks for sharing the fix worked perfectly...no more errors! Yeah!!!!!

  • This tip seems to have fixed it for me. Thanks Shahid:

    Outlook2003/Tools/Options/Other/AdvancedOptions/Add-In Manager/Untick Exchange Extensions property.


    Outlook2003/Tools/Options/Other/AdvancedOptions/COM Add-Ins/ remove anything that isnt essential, (we removed everything)

    Hope that helps.

    Shahid Hafiz

  • Outlook2003/Tools/Options/Other/AdvancedOptions/Add-In Manager/Untick Exchange Extensions property.... worked for me!!!

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