“Can’t delete email” problem emerges for Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 and Exchange 2010 SP3

Microsoft’s new cumulative update strategy for Exchange 2013 calls for updates to be shipped to customers every thirteen weeks. An expectation exists, at least on the part of Microsoft, that customers will then install the updates soon afterwards, if only to keep their systems in a supported state.

Delivering updates at a rapid cadence is all very well, assuming that the new software is of a high quality. Regretfully, recent experiences of Exchange 2010 roll-up updates has not been great. And as we look forward to Exchange 2013, a new problem has emerged to reinforce the necessity for quality code.

I was first acquainted with the problem when Kevin O’Brien posted a comment to my post about the new cumulative update strategy. Since then some other evidence has emerged to indicate that the issue is being hit by people who have installed Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 or Exchange 2010 SP3. You can read posts describing experiences here and here. It does not surprise me that both versions exhibit the same problem as Microsoft has released both recently and the root cause probably lies in an update that’s included in both SP2 RU6 and RU3. It would be surprising if two entirely different bugs caused the same problem.

In a nutshell, it seems like clients working in online mode cannot delete certain items. Outlook clients configured in cached Exchange mode do not exhibit the same problems because delete operations are processed on the client and synchronized back to the server. Evidence suggests that some linkage exists with messages that have PDF attachments, but other indications suggest that this is not the only cause. For instance, it might be possible that messages generated by Cisco Unity voicemail servers are affected too.  The only solution is to deinstall Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 (or in the case of SP3, either wait for Microsoft to provide a fix or rebuild the server).

This is not a good situation for Exchange to be in. Not only has another quality issue occurred with an update, it seems strange that the problem should be in a fundamental messaging operation like client deletes. This is not an esoteric backroom bug. It’s something that stares users in the face and should have been caught by the massive suite of automated tests that Microsoft uses to validate Exchange builds.

What’s more worrying is that the rapid cadence for Exchange 2013 CU releases might encourage administrators not to test CUs thoroughly before putting new software into production. After all, when you only have thirteen weeks before the next CU is released, something has to give if everything is to be done, including the normal day to day administration required of Exchange servers.

Seeing a new problem emerge in an update released for Exchange is disappointing. No word is yet available from Microsoft as to the root cause or whether we will see Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6-v2 or an updated SP3. The cynics will say that this is par for recent update quality. I sincerely hope that things improve for Exchange 2013.

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About Tony Redmond

Lead author for the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook and writer about all aspects of the Office 365 ecosystem.
This entry was posted in Exchange 2010, Exchange 2013 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to “Can’t delete email” problem emerges for Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 and Exchange 2010 SP3

  1. The real showstopper in Exchange 2013 would be the inability to uninstall the CU! I can “live” with updates that cause issues if I’m able to go back one step. But I cannot live with an Update that is a full install and can’t be uninstalled! Microsoft! Where are you going?

    • Zoltan says:

      Self-destruction by destroying confidence in product quality.
      Businesses these days cannot afford such “glitches”. Too many it too short of a time.

  2. Tony, there are at least some indications that voicemails from Cisco Unity are also triggering this bug.

  3. Richard Sobey says:

    I wonder how us normal administrators are supposed to catch this sort of bug? If, as you say is correct, Microsoft run masses of automated tests, and this wasn’t picked up, I feel that it is beyond us to any better.

  4. Hi,

    ‘The only solution is to deinstall Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 or SP3.’:
    After you upgrade Exchange 2010 to a newer service pack, you can’t uninstall the service pack to revert to the previous version. If you uninstall the service pack, you remove Exchange from the server.

    Regards, Martijn

    • Thanks Martijn… you are absolutely right. You’ll have to wait for SP3 to be patched by Microsoft or decide to rebuild the server with an earlier version. Not particularly good, and illustrative of the problem anticipated by Christian in an earlier reply if a problem occurs with an Exchange 2013 cumulative update.

  5. Neill Tinlin says:

    Oh frabjous day. Of course MS’s recommendation is usually to use cached mode anyway but for those of us with VDI or large Citrix usage that isn’t an option.
    I had been holding out on putting RU5 on since I figured SP3 would be along any minute but it looks like RU5 it is.
    We’re looking at a Datacentre move later in the year and had thought about going to EX2013 at the same time but thinking again now.

  6. Kevin O'Brien says:

    Of the messages that we could not delete, we saw 3 different types. One was voice mail messages from Cisco Unity, two were messages with PDF attachments sent from our printers, and the third type was a “message recall” type message. Many people use Cisco Unity for voice mail and only one person reported the problem. I contacted a few other people and none had a problem deleting voice mails. I was originally thinking it had to do with messages with attachments, but the message recall message is the one that really stumped me. Message recall and Cisco Unity messages are both different classes than a regular email and that may be the root cause of the issue.

  7. Kevin O'Brien says:

    Another major problem with RU6, and a bigger problem for us, is that is messes up the views for Outlook 2007 clients. The Inbox and the Sent Items showed no messages. Starting Outlook with a /cleanviews startup switch fixes the Inbox but not the Sent Items. Resetting the view on Sent Items shows messages displaying the From: field and omits the To: field, a totally useless view for Sent Items. Adding the To: field causes all messages to disappear from your view, forcing you to reset the view again and leaving off the To: field. Uninstalling RU6 fixed this problem for us as well.


  8. Rick says:

    I didn’t see this blog and installed SP3 on 3/6 and the following morning users starting reporting this issue. It is not affecting everyone. Cisco voicemails is something we experience it on but today it started happening for users on calendar notifications that the invitee accepted the invite. On this one it provides a message but with help and states you are deleting more than 4000 emails and it cannot continue. I called Microsoft support and opened a case, they did state they were aware of the issue for RU6 but not SP3. They gathered logs and suppose to get back with me.

  9. Tony Brock says:

    In my particular instance, I cannot delete or move an affected Cisco message unless it is to a newly created folder (Shift-delete also works).

  10. Rob says:

    Hi all, thinking of moving to 2010 SP3 and creating a new 2013 CU1 environment for side by side migration… Glad i researched first!

    Have any of the above problems been reported to MS support and tickets opened? have you any updates on the issues?

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