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Outlook 2010 - Multiple devices configured for same Exchange account but different .OST file sizes

Posted on 2015-02-11
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Last Modified: 2015-02-19
I have been tasked with identifying why a particular User on our Network has differing .OST file sizes compared amongst (3) connected devices - (2) HP Elitebook laptops and (1) MS Surface Pro 2

The locally stored .OST files are 6.1GB, 14.3GB, and 11.7 GB respectively. To help figure this out I deleted the .OSTs on all devices, uninstalled Office Suite on all, rebooted, then individually logged in as the User, installed Office again and loaded the Outlook profile from scratch. I had also moved all of the original Outlook files (.OST, xml, etc) into another folder so that Outlook would not load off of them. When finished, the devices all had different sized .OST files and I cannot figure out why.

I was looking at this because the User was stating how some emails could not be found on one device yet they could be found on one of the others. The User sees many issues with Calendar invites and updates not working properly as well as receiving many Sync issues in the Sync Issues folder.

Any thoughts?

Could this occur due to differing Cached Mode settings? I did not check that yet as it just now popped into my head.
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Question by:Michael Machie
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Expert Comment

by:VB ITS
ID: 40605386
Outlook sync problems usually points towards some sort of networking issue. Have you tried updating the NIC drivers on all the devices as a first step? It's unlikely that this is the issue though as you say the sync problems are happening on all three machines, but nevertheless it's always nice to have up-to-date drivers :) - just make sure you get the drivers from the laptop manufacturer's website.

The mailbox may also be potentially corrupt. Try running the New-MailboxRepairRequest command on the user's mailbox to see if it fixes the issue:
New-MailboxRepairRequest -Mailbox user@company.com -CorruptionType SearchFolder,AggregateCounts,ProvisionedFolder,FolderView

Open in new window

Keep in mind that the user won't be able to access their mailbox while the repair runs. To find out more about this command please see this article: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff625226(v=exchg.141).aspx
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40605450
Thanks a bunch, I will try to get this done today and post an update.
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Expert Comment

by:Davis McCarn
ID: 40605691
Not!
If you go to the More Settings option in accounts and then the advanced tab, the default is to delete the email from the server when it is received.  Check the box to leave a copy on the server and I generally check the box to remove when deleted items are removed.  You will need to do it on all 3 systems.
What is happening is that, when he receives an email on one device, it is then removed from the server so every inbox is different!
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Assisted Solution

by:weinberk
weinberk earned 250 total points
ID: 40605909
The sync issue does sound like a problem, but also consider that one of the things that could cause a  difference in OST size is a difference in compaction as handled by each individual Outlook installation.   The OST's aren't identical bit by bit.  A simple reason for this would be reading a message on one and then consequently having it marked read on the other two.  The information display is the same on each outlook installation, but the OST file itself is now slightly different.  There's a million other reasons for this to happen too.  This makes the compression algorithm give different resulting sizes since they're now different files.   It shouldn't be a significant difference though.  (is it now that you've recreated the profiles?)

Also, I respectfully disagree with DavisMcCarn's assessment above.  I think he missed that this is an exchange server that we're connecting to (OST, not PST).
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40607246
Thanks all. I did not have the opportunity to check any if these sugestions. I'll do my best to get it done within the next few days and post an update.
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40608587
@VB ITS: I updated the NIC drivers with no noticeable change in anything afterwards. Network problems may be a reason so will ask my networking guy to take a peek. I have not had a chance to kick the User off from using email so I can try the repair of the mailbox. Will provide an update when completed.

@DavisMcCarn: Thanks for the suggestion but unfortunately those options are not available to me. The only options I have under the 'Advanced' tab is to "Open additional mailboxes" , "Cached Mode Settings", and "Outlook Data File Settings". None of those options have anything related to what you state.  

@weinberk: Thanks for the clarification on why they would be different in size. Yes, I uninstalled everything on all three machines and then reinstalled from scratch, including moving the original .OST to a different folder so as not to re-use the same file. No activity was happening in the mailbox during this uninstall/reinstall since I was able to do this during a meeting the User had. Upon completing re-installation I loaded the mailbox to all three devices one at a time. All new .OST files are different in size by multiple gigs.    

Also, I performed all updates to Windows and the Office Suite to rule that out.
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Expert Comment

by:Davis McCarn
ID: 40608643
Apparently, you are right; the option to leave a copy on the server is missing for cached exchange accounts.  However; it is still the root of your problem and the only fix seems to be to change all 3 PC's to a pop3 account so you will have the option.
Three, completely different, inboxes is enough to drive someone crazy!
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by:weinberk
ID: 40608843
Different by multiple GB is different than I was talking about.  I was guessing a couple MB difference.  Forget everything I was saying.

I just setup an account on 2 different Windows 8.1 boxes, each under Outlook 2013  to see what I could find.  To my immense surprise, after syncing completely, one OST is 164mb and the other is 560mb.  Same account, same data.  I have ABSOLUTELY no idea why that would be.  This is running off of an Exchange 2013 server.    Only thing I can now guess is something to do with how the OST is indexed using the built in Outlook / Windows indexing service.  

Now, we're not having any trouble with that server and the account that I put on the 2 machines is fine, but I, like you, find it odd that the 2 OST files would be so different in size.    I'm not worried, but I still find it curious.

And again @Davis, I think you are way off base here.  Exchange is a server based  solution.  Yes, you can enable pop, but there's generally not a real reason to.  It operates quite well with multiple devices keeping a single account in sync (WIndows Mobile, Android, iOS, OWA, Outlook).

I
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by:Davis McCarn
ID: 40608856
As long as you use IMAP, yes; but, an Exchange account deletes emails received on that device when they are received which is fine as long as you don't have multiple devices.
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by:weinberk
ID: 40608896
@DavidMcCarn.  I'm not sure what you're thinking of, but this simply is not true.  

Under normal operating circumstances with Outlook Anywhere,  RPC, RPC over HTTP(s), etc, mail stays in sync with the server.  Cached mode or not, mail stays on the exchange server unless you're using pop and tell it to delete upon download to the client.
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by:Michael Machie
ID: 40608904
@Davis: I cannot change the account type as a viable solution. I will, however, bring this up as a suggestion and if allowed I can try it and see what happens.

@weinberk: Yea, I don't know why either but the User in question has a real good way of putting me in a pickle and demands exact, verifiable answers for all questions. In this case, I noticed the size differences and since I did not have an answer right then I am now tasked with finding out why they are so different in size, and whether or not that difference is why the User sees the loss of emails among devices and the numerous synch failure emails. I have no problems with the Server or anything else, and it could just be the way all devices are synch'ing to the Server that is the actual problem.

If this were a network problem as suggested by 'VB ITS' I suppose this issue would be seen by other staff, but I am not ruling that out as a possibility. My network guy will peek at that when he can.

Does anyone here think it could be related to (4) devices trying to sync the same Mailbox? I do know that having multiple devices sync'd can cause all sorts of sync errors and failures, but shouldn't everything eventually sync? I mean, I believe the sync continues until it succeeds, so even receiving a failure notice I have seen the failed email appear properly in a short time, once the connection is solid and an update occurs. Could this really be the issue?
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by:weinberk
ID: 40611049
I have 5 devices syncing my Ex 2013 mailbox, 2 Outlook 2013, 1 Outlook 2010, and 2 Android devices.  The outlook OST's are all significantly different in size, but I see no sync issues, everything seems to be everywhere.

(oh, and I just re-read the OP, sorry that I originally missed the huge difference in OST size)

I know there are sync issues and calendaring isn't working.  I wonder if that might be something separate from missing emails.  When you say some emails "can't be found" do you mean via search or by just going to the date/time that the message is known to have been delivered?  If search, maybe it's an indexing problem?
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Accepted Solution

by:
VB ITS earned 250 total points
ID: 40611510
@DavisMcCarn: Please don't post those kind of comments without providing some sort of backing from legitimate sources. What you are saying is absolutely incorrect in regular Exchange environments. Emails delivered to a device syncing with an Exchange account do not get deleted from the mailbox on the Exchange server by default. If this is happening to you in your environment then you either have some sort of misconfiguration on the Exchange server or on the device itself. Changing over to POP/IMAP will not address this issue, in fact it'll most likely confuse the user and make things worse. Syncing to multiple devices works perfectly fine providing you're not using POP/IMAP.

Back on topic. The size difference you are seeing with the OST files is perfectly fine in most scenarios. The OST file is just a cache of the data downloaded from the Exchange server. The difference in size can (in most cases) be explained by how often a user actually uses one particular machine. There's other factors as well that can contribute to the size of the OST file such as caching of Shared Mailboxes, etc.

Have you had a chance to try the mailbox repair on this user's mailbox?

Forward the below article to this user if they want to know more about why the OST file size is different:
http://www.msoutlook.info/question/779

Long story short, the OST file does not and is not meant to reflect the actual size of the user's mailbox.
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40611515
Thanks a lot for your help and clarification guys. I have not beem able to run the repair yet but will.
The link and info on the .OST is very helpful too.
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by:weinberk
ID: 40616875
@VB ITS: thanks for backing me up on the crazy @Davis posts.  Just totally wrong, insistent, confident, and totally wrong.

@Machienet:  Assuming we've addressed everything, accept (the hopefully helpful) answers and close this?
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40617615
I am performing the repair on the mailbox tonight. So far everything else suggested has not helped. I will be posting an update tomorrow about the repair, but I may need to keep this open until the User confirms whether or not the issue is gone.

Will the repair process delete anything? Should I make a backup first?
Egad! How do I back up the User's mailbox?!

Thanks for the patience!
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Expert Comment

by:weinberk
ID: 40617629
4 ways to backup the mailbox that I can think of:

1) in powershell on the server do something like:
New-MailboxExportRequest -Mailbox THeUsername -FilePath "\\SERVERNAME\AShareName\TheUserBackup.pst"
That's for exchange 2013

2) Export using ECP

3)  not-elegant-but-it-works-way:  Create PST on an Outlook machine where you know all data resides.  Copy all folders, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, etc to the PST.  COPY do not move.  Save PST

4) use server side software like BackupExec on the exchange server
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40617906
Thanks guys. Update later or tomorrow.
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40618028
Ran the repair, went quickly and smoothly. Verified it ran by checking the Event logs. Got both the start and the completed events. Was done in mere moments. Hard for me to believe it actually scanned anything.

Does it usually run that fast?
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Author Closing Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40618035
You guys answered my question as best as possible and gave more suggestions for repairs in case that was the issue.

I'll probably update this on how the repair went (see how things go) but the original question was answered.

Thanks.

- Cheers!
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Author Comment

by:Michael Machie
ID: 40619031
OK, good news Gents!

The User notified me today that 30 unread emails from before noon yesterday appeared in her devices this morning. They were all marked as Unread, and they were not there before.

I think the repair fixed some issues, even though I saw no Events stating so.

Thanks again!
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