What to do about Outlook’s synchronization logs?


Those of you who read my “other” blog (at WindowsITPro.com) are probably aware of my views on Outlook’s continuing failure to be able to suppress or otherwise deal with the generous number of synchronization logs that the client generates. Last May, I wrote about the fact that it is impossible to use Exchange retention policies to eliminate the pesky logs and that the suggested registry settings prove to be as ineffective.

Now I see that the nice people who work in Microsoft Support have given up the ghost too and issued KB2686541 that explains that you might “notice that messages are being created in the Sync Issues folder” but that “MRM does not process or delete the items” because “the folder is a client-side folder only. In this context, MRM means “Messaging Records Management”, the Exchange subsystem devoted to controlling content in user mailboxes. It really means MFA, the Managed Folder Assistant, because that’s the Exchange 2010 server component that does the processing of retention policies and would very much like to get its hands on Outlook’s synchronization logs, if only they weren’t hidden away in that client-side folder.

All of this is eminently understandable and logical from an Exchange perspective. You cannot expect a server-side assistant to be able to reach down to fetch items stored in the Sync Items folder if Outlook has never synchronized those items to the server. The error from Exchange’s perspective is that it lulls administrators into a false sense of retention security by allowing them to create a retention policy tag for the Sync Issues folder and include that tag into a retention policy that’s then applied to user mailboxes. All happiness and light in the eyes of the administrator; but frustration and inability to execute on the part of MFA.

What gets me is that this issue has been in existence for a very long time. I imagine that the Outlook developers have even noticed it themselves, that is assuming that synchronization conditions occur within the sacred halls of Microsoft’s datacenters to force Outlook to spit out the offending items. But perhaps Outlook’s developers don’t notice these small and irritating issues that occur for administrators in production environments, if only because users tend to notice the presence of synchronization logs (well, inquisitive users anyway) and then ask questions or even expect administrators to do something to rid Outlook of the synchronization log plague. The high standing that administrators find themselves in the eyes of users is the somewhat corrupted when users realize that the all-powerful administrators can do nothing to eradicate the logs. Even MFA’s application of retention policies, the most invasive process that an administrator can apply to a user mailbox, is powerless.

Clearly something has to be done about this problem. Outlook 2013 insists that what was good enough for its predecessors is good enough for it and continues in the long line of clients that churn out synchronization logs ad nausem. Maybe we should have a write-in campaign to ask Microsoft to provide some method to suppress the logs. After all, few people ever want to know the details of why some transient network condition caused Exchange and Outlook to argue about the exact condition of an item. In fact, I can’t think of a single situation when I found something useful in a synchronization log. This might just be me, but I suspect that others find themselves in the same state.

Even though those of us who attend the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in Orlando next month might let off some steam by complaining to the many members of the Exchange development group who will be gathered at MEC, I think that a write-in campaign sounds like the right thing to do and could be more effective. The appropriate destination seems to be PJ Hough, an old colleague of mine from Digital Equipment Corporation’s Dublin, Ireland office who has risen to the Olympian heights of Vice President of Program Management in Microsoft’s Office division. PJ seems like a good recipient for multiple copies of Outlook synchronization logs that you can find in your Sync Issues folder, if you only care to look. But don’t tell PJ that I told you to send him your logs. He might not like to receive the volume of logs that you might send. On second thoughts, this is probably a bad idea and you should send your logs to your ever-friendly local Microsoft representative instead, who can then transmit the logs to an appropriate location within the Outlook chain of command.

Let’s make 2012 the year that Outlook synchronization logs are finally eliminated!

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About Tony Redmond

Exchange MVP, author, and rugby referee
This entry was posted in Email, Exchange, Outlook and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to What to do about Outlook’s synchronization logs?

    • Looks like:

      a) A lot of cut and pasting, and:
      b) Some errors, as in:

      “The Sync Issues folder. The SyncIssues field is applicable for clients that target Exchange Online and versions of Exchange starting with Exchange Server 2013.”

      As everyone knows, the Sync Issues folder (not field) has been around for quite a few versions, not starting from Exchange 2013. Or maybe this isn’t what you mean?

      TR

      • Well, because the sync folders are now a well-known folder and items are stored in / synced to the Sync Issues folder in the mailbox (using Outlook 2013 .. that could make the difference, haven’t checked with lower versions yet), it looks like there is some development in that area.

  1. czgurl says:

    I found a weird work-around. This issue has been driving me crazy in Outlook 2010 for a while.
    -On the “Unread Mail” folder right click.
    – Select “Customize This Search Folder”
    -Click Browse.
    -De-select “Search Sub folders”.

    This solved the problem for me so far…of course the stuff that is unread is not showing up in the “Unread Mail” folder anymore either…but if you do have unread items you will see them show up next to the folder they are in. EX. if you have an unread email in your Inbox if you look at your Inbox folder it will show: Inbox [1] for when you have an unread item in it.

  2. windcock says:

    Some of the problems may be solved by indifference. Just be indifferent – even apathetic – to Microsoft and its myriad idiocies. That’s perhaps one way the damned nuisance will go away. Moreover, as a consumer, I think that’s the best strategy to meet MSFT’s absolute apathy and disregard for use sentiment. Meet its apathy with apathy. Of course, unfortunately, if MSFT goes away, some good people like you might have nothing to do, even in your idle time…. Of, would that rather be a fortunate thing to happen?

    PS: I still maintain a Hotmail account. That’s where I send things of little consequence in my life or those that might attract spam. It is my sewer pit.

  3. Andrew Mazurek says:

    Tony

    I am catching up with your posts and at the risk of sounding a bit to high on myself, after reading the above that my views on The Way MS works are actually shared by others.
    You’ve actually started the “let’s make Exchange better” campaign. I would only add that we need to support this with how we spend our money.

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