Shock! Outlook 2010 users on Windows XP experience problems with Exchange 2013 CU7

Shock and horror. Some Windows XP users have run into problems with Outlook 2010 running against Exchange 2013 CU7. "Bah humbug" says Microsoft, as they firmly believe that all saw the light when XP was consigned to the great unsupported wastebasket in April 2014. "Let us have our public folders," say the customers. I sympathize with both, but know that Microsoft isn't going to do anything to fix the problem.

It might have escaped your attention that Windows XP came to the end of the support runway in April 2014, a fact that certainly appears to be the case for the folks who have reported issues running Outlook 2010 on Windows XP against Exchange 2013 CU7 servers.

CU7 shipped in December 2014, some six months after XP was shuffled off to the side (at least in the minds of everyone at Microsoft). There’s a fair chance – perhaps even a 100% chance – that Microsoft did not test Outlook 2010 clients on Windows XP against CU7 during the development cycle. It’s therefore totally unsurprising that some features don’t work. What is surprising is the features that seem to be causing problems because they’re not new stuff.

For the life of me, I can’t think why Outlook 2010, which is a reasonably recent client, would fail to access public folders after mailbox servers are upgraded to CU7. Everything works with CU6 but fails with CU7. Microsoft has been working with public folders to improve their performance and scalability, but it’s not that. The problem report explicitly mentions public folder databases, so we know that old-style public folders are in the mix. In turn, this makes the problem even stranger because old-style public folders have been, well around so long, or certainly long enough to have made Outlook 2010 know exactly how to cope with the little beasties.

Another odd issue is a report that shared mailboxes aren’t functioning as well as they should when Outlook 2010 clients (again on XP) connect to CU7. The mailboxes work as shared repositories, but synchronization isn’t working as automatically as it did before. Manual synchronization works, but users are upset that something has changed.

The folks reporting these issues have noted that they are preparing for migration and just need to keep these XP clients around for a few more months. From their perspective, it’s a royal pain in the rear end to suddenly discover that a server upgrade wreaks havoc on clients, especially in areas of functionality that you would have assumed are stable. So I have some sympathy for their complaints.

But I also sympathize with Microsoft. They told customers that XP was for the scrap heap for a very long time before the day of destiny arrived. Six months on, it’s difficult to criticize Microsoft for failing to ensure that a reasonably new Outlook client running on a very old operating system (in cloud terms) has issues when connected to the latest and greatest on-premises Exchange server.

It could be that Microsoft viewed the demise of Windows XP as an opportunity to trim some of the old code in the server from the Exchange code base. Like any product that has been around for a very long time, Exchange is full of conditional code paths necessary to cope with different circumstances. The rewrite of the Information Store into managed code for Exchange 2013 was a form of code colonic irrigation for the server, but some stuff still lingers on.

And at the same time, Exchange is evolving to cope with cloud services and decisions are being made to upgrade functionality to work better in the cloud. Windows XP clients are not on that particular design chart, so why would we be surprised when problems happen?

I can’t offer much joy to the folks who have to cope with the outrageous slings and arrows of XP. Perhaps you should keep some Exchange 2013 CU6 servers around and place all your public folder databases and mailboxes for XP users on those servers. The tactic will work and reflects reality, even if it seems to be a shame not to be able to run the latest code.

Life can be hard at times, especially if you run XP in 2015.

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Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Feb 5, 2015

Windows XP is no longer supported, it is done and finished. Although some places have paid for extended support...at a price which is meant to persuade them to upgrade, I feel no sympathy for people with this issue.

Windows XP is done.

on Feb 6, 2015

Although I agree that Windows XP is done, I still have to report that some of my Microsoft contacts have been taking a look at this situation (it might disguise a problem that will erupt on a supported platform) and you never know... No guarantees...

on Feb 7, 2015

I've had the same issue with a customer running Outlook 2007 on XP.

We tested with an identical version of Outlook 2007 and it works on Windows 7 and above.

I understand that XP is end of life, and in an ideal world you could just walk away, but when an existing established customer that for whatever reason hasn't yet upgraded the desktop OS has an issue, it's not as simple in the real world to tell them it's their own fault, even if deep down that's what we're all thinking.

I used an HTTP sniffer to look at the traffic between the 2007 client and Exchange, and everything looks normal.

The traffic pattern is subtly different for 2007 on XP than it is on W7.

On XP Outlook looks up the autodiscover URL for the primary hierarchy mailbox folder public, and gets an HTTP /1.1 200 OK response.

Then you see the RPCDIAG connection status for Public Folders cycle thru some extremely quick referrals, before you get the error that "your profile is not configured".

It looks to me like the issue is in the RPC stack on XP, and not so much in Outlook itself.

on Feb 9, 2015

CU7 includes some changes to the way that public folders are processed. The details are available in http://blogs.technet.com/b/exchange/archive/2014/11/07/on-premises-legacy-public-folder-coexistence-for-exchange-2013-cumulative-update-7-and-beyond.aspx. I suspect that lies at the root of these problems.

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Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro. His latest books are Office 365 for Exchange Professionals (eBook, May 2015) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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