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Outlook 2003 Freezes after reporting connection to server lost/restored

Posted on 2004-09-24
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Last Modified: 2009-03-05
I support several users at remote sites.  They are all running office 2003 and outlook 2003 with Exchange 2003.  The users are reporting that a few times a day they get a warning that outlook is connecting to the exchange server.  When this happens outlook freezes and they are forced to restart it.  We have network monitors showing no dropped connections and the users are able to connect to other resources on the network while this happens.  Some of the users have .pst files that seem to cause the lockup, others are running from the inbox.  None have extremely large mailboxes.  Our local users don't seem to have the same issues.
All users are running most up-to-date office patches and XP updates.

Any suggestions are appreciated.
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Question by:otishelp
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rsteel12 earned 2000 total points
ID: 12257010
Otishelp:

Based on the fact that local users are unaffected but remote users see the issue a few times a day, my guess is that you have a network device that is closing inactive TCP connections after the configured period of inactivity.  If the device doesn't notify applications that it is closing the connection, the app thinks it still has one and will try to use it when activity resumes.  When it does so, it will reach the timeout limit, double the timeout and try again.  When that fails it doubles the timeout and tries again.  I don't recall how many repeats it goes through before giving up and re-establishing the connection.  To the user this seems like forever and they term the app and start over.  There are a couple of things you could try to confirm this:

1.  Let the system sit ( 5-10 minutes) - it will eventually re-establish the connection if a non-graceful connection close was the cause.
2.  Since you are using Outlook 2003, Hold down the Control key and right-click the Outlook icon in the system tray at the bottom right of the screen.  Select "Connection Status" and look for connections to servers that have a status other than "established".  Click "reconnect" to drop the existing connections and re-establish.

If you confirm the connection loss as related to period of inactivity you can modify the TCPKepAlive setting on the remote clients and set it below the inactivity threshold enforced by the network device.  If you own the network device (SIP firewalll etc.) you could change the timeout value there.  Windows clients default setting is to send a TCPKeepAlive every 120 minutes.  So for example, if your network device enforces a timeout at 60 minutes, you can set the client keep alive to 50 minutes and the problem should be resolved.  This value can also be set on the Exchange servers and Active Directory GC/DCs if email is the only affected application.

I encountered the same problem a few months ago.  The network traces showed the TCP retransmissions with the doubling timeout and eventual re-establishment of the connection (5 minutes).  The problem was determined to be a stateful packet inspection firewalll device that was trying to recover idle connections.  It was timing out connections at 60 minutes of inactivity but didn't gracefully close the connection with a notification to the app (Outlook).  The affected connections on an Outlook client can be the mailbox server, public folder server, free busy server or the Active Directory GC/DC server where addressing info is stored.  In that instance I modified the client TCPKeepAlive setting in the client's TCP parameters key in the registry and the problem was solved.

Good Luck!

Rick
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