Enable Outlook’s ‘Select an identity’ option at launch

From the Outlook for Mac forum on Microsoft Answers:

How do I switch identities in Outlook 2011 for Mac?

Is there a way I can get the old configuration back of just automatically having the option to choose which identity I want to use when I click on Outlook?  The identity box that comes up does not have the option to always make it appear, so I am unsure what is wrong here.  Any help?

Select an identity

Outlook for Mac still retains the ability to allow selecting an identity when launching the application. Enabling it requires a few simple steps to set the preference.

  1. Quit Outlook for Mac and any other Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 applications (Excel, My Day, PowerPoint and Word).
  2. Open the Activity Monitor application found in /Applications/Utilities.
  3. In Activity Monitor’s Search field enter Microsoft and tap the return key. This will display only Microsoft processes still running.
  4. Select each process (in particular the Microsoft Database Daemon process) and click the Quit Process button at the top of the Activity Monitor window.
    Quit Microsoft processes
  5. Quit Activity Monitor.
  6. In the Finder hold the Option key and select Go menu –> Library. This will open the hidden Library folder in the home folder.
  7. Within the Library folder locate the Outlook Preferences file in Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Preferences/Office 2011/ and move it to the Trash.
  8. Launch Outlook. It will now display a dialog box to choose an identity.
  9. Select the option Show this list when opening Outlook at the bottom of the window.

Microsoft deprecated the identities feature in Outlook for Mac 2011. Some folks, however, still rely on being able to use multiple identities to keep email data separate or for testing purposes. Although the feature was prominent in Outlook’s predecessor Entourage, it’s now slated to go away in a future version of Office for Mac.

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11 comments to Enable Outlook’s ‘Select an identity’ option at launch

  • Petra Boucher

    Thanks for this, I provided me with exactly the information I needed

    It is a pity that this has been deprecated and will not available in future versions. Having separate identities is essential for my business. It is a shame that I will have to go back to Windows in the future to be able to get this.


    • I personally don’t use multiple identities but can understand why people want it.

      Don’t take the fact that it’s deprecated to mean it’s going away in the very next version. Microsoft often deprecates things a few versions ahead (at least for Windows) and could very well be persuaded to keep the feature if enough folks demand it. Please be sure to let Microsoft know you’d like to keep this feature in future versions by using the Help –> Send Feedback mechanism in any Office application.

  • Thanks for this post. I’ve been looking for the solution to my problem and I finally found it here. I did have to do a few tries to get it right.

  • I tried this but possibly Office 2011 has changed where the folders are located.
    When I get to Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Preferences/Office 2011/
    My options are-
    Application Support/Microsoft/Office/14.0 or user templates

    Can you help me? I really need to access my old identity.


    • You need to update your Office software. Microsoft did change location settings around version 14.2.0. I believe you must be running something earlier.

      In Outlook, select Help menu –> Check for Updates and install all available updates. After updating launch Outlook then try to locate the preference file again.

  • Davide

    Thanks. Really handy

  • JoeW

    Hi William,

    I am following your instructions: quite all MS tasks running in the Activity Monitor, move the default Outlook Preferences file to Trash, restart Outlook. But Outlook never gives me the option to select and identity.

    I have created two Accounts in Outlook (1 works the other is a dummy for now). I have Outlook v 14.3.6. And I unchecked Group similar folders in the Outlook General Preferences menu. I have tried this 3-4 times with no luck. Thanks in advance for any suggestions you may have.

    • Hi Joe!

      Just so we’re speaking on the same page, an “Account” is something you configure in Outlook to connect to an email service. It’s not the same thing as an “Identity”, which is a collection of accounts, mail and preferences you want to keep completely separate from another identity. Although it’s possible to have both a work and personal email account in one identity, some folks prefer to use two identities to keep the two completely separate and avoid accidentally sending mail between the two.

      You may not be seeing the identity dialog because you may not have multiple identities yet. Launch Outlook with the Option key pressed and you’ll be able to create a second identity. Just name it for now. No need to configure it with any accounts unless you want. Follow the instructions again and see what happens.

  • Robert

    I have the opposite situation; How do you stop Outlook from constantly prompting to “select an identity”? I have an Outlook account that always opens the identity box to choose an account, either the “Archived Mail or the Main Identity” account. The button is unchecked for: “Show this list when opening Outlook”.

    How do I get it to only use the “Main identity” and never open the Select an identity box again?

  • JT

    This is still an issue in 2013. This solution above works right up to when you want to switch to another profile to check other emails. Quitting Outlook doesn’t work — the last profile opens and the dialog box containing the list does not appear to allow you to choose. In order to see the list and select another profile, you must not only quit Outlook, but THEN you have to completely quit the Microsoft Database Daemon or any other Microsoft functions that may be running in the background of your system to completely quit — THEN you can launch Outlook and THEN you’ll see the list again, and choose another profile. I’ve found that this must be done each and every time you want to access another email profile. Or, you can quit Outlook and then restart your computer, which also completely quits the Microsoft Database Daemon and any other Microsoft functions that may be running in the background.

    Needless to say, this is still completely ridiculous!!! Makes it too cumbersome to manage multiple business and personal emails… wasting more of your time. Wow.

  • Jason Rambo

    I found that you can launch Mac Outlook holding ‘Option’ to get the “Database Utility” — from there you can add new identities and change the default one with the “+” “-” and Gear buttons on the bottom-left of that window. This is an ideal solution for my needs where I only need the alternate identies on occasions enough that the extra few clicks, though less ideal than the Entourage menu item, isn’t a big enough deal to loose sleep over.