Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity

Spotlight may display mail messages as part of a search result but Outlook for Mac may present the following error when attempting to open them:

Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity

Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity.

This problem occurs when Spotlight returns mail messages from an identity other than that which is currently set as the default for Outlook. Quite often these unassociated messages are from identities abandoned while troubleshooting an earlier Outlook problem.

Outlook users can resolve this issue in four ways:

  1. Delete the old identities so that Spotlight no longer returns results from them
  2. Exclude the old identities from Spotlight searches
  3. Salvage a single message from an old identity and return it to Outlook
  4. Salvage multiple messages from the old identities and return them to Outlook

Delete the old identities

The simplest solution is to delete the old identities so that their messages no longer appear in Spotlight search results. Outlook users should only do this if they are confident that their current identity is up-to-date with these messages or that they no longer need to view messages from the old identity.

First, identify the name of the current identity:

  1. Quit Outlook and then launch it again while holding the Option key. This will open the Microsoft Database Utility application.
  2. Locate the bolded identity. This is the default identity that Outlook is currently using.
  3. Note the name of this identity for later. Typically, Main Identity is the default identity.

    Microsoft Database Utility

    Microsoft Database Utility

  4. Quit the Microsoft Database Utility.
Next, move the old identities to the Trash.
  1. While in the Finder select Go menu –> Documents.
  2. Locate the Microsoft User Data (MUD) folder.
  3. Open the MUD folder and then open the Office 2011 Identities folder.

Each folder in the Office 2011 Identities folder is an individual identity and the names of each folder will correspond to the name of each identity listed in the Microsoft Database Utility.

  1. Except for the default identity, drag every identity to the Trash.

Note: Do not empty the Trash yet. Moving files and folders into the Trash is enough to remove them from Spotlight searches. Only empty the Trash when confident that the old identities are no longer needed.

At this point Spotlight will not longer display search results that contain messages from the extra identities.

Exclude old identities from Spotlight searches

Excluding identities from Spotlight allows the message files to remain in the Office 2011 Identities folder without being searchable by Spotlight.

  1. Follow steps 1-7 to identify and locate the default identity.
  2. Select Apple menu –> System Preferences… –> Spotlight –> Privacy tab.
  3. Except for the default identity, drag every identity into the list.

    Exclude identities from Spotlight searches

    Exclude identities from Spotlight searches

Salvage a single message

More than likely only a single message needs salvaging. This requires locating the found message in Spotlight, determining its associated Source message and adding it back to Outlook.

The result that Spotlight displays in a search (the .olk14Message file) is actually not the mail message itself with the content of the message. It’s only a pointer message. This is why Outlook cannot open it but instead displays “Outlook cannot open the file because it is not associated with the default identity.” Although it contains an Outlook icon the .olk14Message file itself is not an Outlook mail message.

After finding a message in Spotlight that won’t open in Outlook:

  1. Return to Spotlight and search again.
  2. Hold the Option and Command keys down and click the message in the Spotlight menu to reveal the message in the Finder.

    Option + Command + Click

    Option + Command + Click the message in the Spotlight menu.

  3. Note the number in the found file’s name.

    27612

    Note the number of the .olk14Message file.

  4. While viewing the file select as Columns from the View menu to more easily see the file’s location. Use the column view to trace the file’s path up to the enclosing Data Records folder. Note that this message falls under the Messages folder inside the Data Records folder.

    Column view

    Note that this message falls under the Messages folder inside the Data Records folder.

  5. Locate the Message Sources folder just above the Messages folder and select it. The Message Sources folder contains similarly names sub-folders as the Messages folder. The actual mail message file lies within the Message Sources folder.
  6. Subtract “1″ from the number in the found file’s name. For example, if Spotlight found a .olk14Message file with number “27612″ in its name then the message source file number will be 27612 – 1 = “27611″.
  7. Starting in the Message Sources folder retrace the same path found under the Messages folder to the corresponding message source file. If the original message file name is “x00_27612.olk14Message” then its corresponding message source file name is “x27_27611.olk14MsgSource”.

    Column view

    Restrace the same path found under the Messages folder to the corresponding message source file.

  8. Copy (do not move) the newly found .olk14MsgSource file to a temporary location such as the Desktop.
  9. Change the file extension to “.eml”. For example, rename “x27_27611.olk14MsgSource” to “x27_27611.eml”.
  10. Double-click the .eml file to open it in Outlook.

    Message in Outlook

    Double-click the .eml file to open it in Outlook.

  11. To copy the .eml file back into Outlook drag it onto a mail folder in the Outlook window.
The free AppleScript Scavenge Outlook Messages 1.0 automates these steps and even converts multiple .olk14Message files at a time.

Salvage multiple messages

Extra identities may contain multiple messages that the Outlook user may wish to keep because they are not available in the current default identity. An entire folder of .olk14MsgSource files can be renamed using free tools such as AppleScript or Automator or commercially available tools such as A Better Finder Rename. The messages, however, will be unorganized and may need to be refiled once put back into Outlook.

  1. Locate a folder of .olk14MsgSource files within an identity folder. These will be located in the Data Records folder of the identity in a sub-folder called Message Sources.
  2. Use the Finder’s File menu –> Duplicate command to duplicate the files to a temporary location. Do not rename the original files and folders in order to preserve the integrity of the identity.
  3. Use a mass file renaming tool to change the “.olk14MsgSource” file extension to “.eml”.
  4. To copy the .eml files back into Outlook drag them onto a mail folder in theOutlook window.
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