Not too long ago I was asked to start looking into then recent reports of Outlook hanging on first launch. The first launch hang symptom happened as mail items were writing into the OST (cached mode) as user’s came in each morning and opened Outlook. Forcefully closing and reopening Outlook was a workaround but the cause needed to be identified as the impact was potentially the entire firm.
After a couple days I began to see a common theme. I was using Resource Monitor (resmon.exe – also accessible from the Task Manager Performance tab) in an attempt to identify the culprit. For hang scenarios, simply recreate the issue, open Resource Monitor, go to the Overview tab and locate the hung process. Typically a hung process will be displayed in red:
Right-click the hung process and select Analyze Wait Chain to get a list of the thread IDs. One of these threads will contain the module(s) that is causing the process to become unresponsive.
To look inside the threads, you can use Process Explorer. Just right-click on the target process, select Properties and go to the Threads tab. From here, use the TID column to locate the threads from the wait chain provided by resmon. Double-click the thread or select the Stack button to view the loaded modules in the thread. In this case, I saw a consistent stack in each of the hung Outlook processes on the various workstations:
There is a single 3rd party module appearing here, everything else is Microsoft. This made sense as this particular module was part of a recent Outlook add-in upgrade. The other threads were also examined but the only 3rd party modules they were referencing were proven addins that had never caused issues. A POC was tested on with several users over the course of a couple weeks by disabling the add-in via load behavior in the registry and issue did not resurface. The issue was raised with the vendor and a newer client for the add-in was provided that resolved this problem.
Another way to identify the cause assuming you have Windows Debugging Tools installed is to generate a dump of the hung process from the Task Manager. A quick !analyze –v –hang pointed to the same culprit (this is a 32bit process from a 64bit OS so you will need to get the 32bit stacks. Use .load wow64exts and .effmach x86 commands before !analyze):