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Fixes for Outlook General Failure Error, Unwanted Windows Reboots

Here's a potential fix for the dreaded Outlook General Failure error, plus how to keep Windows from automatically rebooting after an update.

Back in July I promised to help track down a solution to the "General failure" error that appears in Microsoft Outlook when you click a link embedded in an e-mail. Judging from the number of pleas for help I continue to get from readers, this problem hasn't gone away. And it appears to affect users of all browsers, not just Firefox or Internet Explorer.

I've been trying to locate the right person at Microsoft who can address this issue, and hopefully provide a fix, but no luck so far. (Don't worry--I'm not giving up!) In the meantime, a helpful reader steered me to a solution he said worked for him. And based on what I've discovered in some user forums, it has helped at least a few others as well.

One caveat: I haven't tried this myself (because I'm not experiencing the error), so I can't say for sure it'll do the trick. But it seems like a totally safe thing to try, so I have no qualms about recommending it. Here's what to do:

Close Outlook. Launch Internet Explorer. Click Tools (which in later versions of IE is the little gear icon in the upper-right corner), then select Internet Options. Choose the Security tab, and then select Reset all zones to default level. Close Internet Explorer. Restart Outlook, then open any e-mail that has an embedded hyperlink and click it.

If all goes well, your browser should pop open. (Obviously this solution is intended for IE users, but it may help even if you use another browser as your default.)

Stop Windows from Rebooting After Automatic Updates

Show of hands if this has happened to you: You step away from the computer for a while, or even overnight, and when you come back, all your programs and documents are gone. Why? Because Windows downloaded some updates and took it upon itself to reboot without your permission.

Gah! This happened to me again just yesterday, and I almost lost some in-progress work as a result. Thankfully, Word had auto-saved my open document, and Chrome was smart enough to re-open all the tabs that I'd been viewing. Even so, I think it's ridiculous that Windows would ever reboot without my go-ahead.

Thankfully, there's an easy fix for this--provided you actually remember to take advantage of it. If you've been plagued by the same problem, here's what you need to do:

If you're a Windows Vista or Windows 7 user, click Start, type Windows Update, and then hit Enter. (XP users should head to the Control Panel and seek out Windows Update.) Select the Change Settings option on the left. (That's where it appears in Vista and 7; not entirely sure about XP.) Change the setting to Download updates but let me choose whether to install them. Click OK.

That's all there is to it. Windows may still nag you about installing updates, but at least it won't reboot without your permission.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: [email protected]. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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