Troubleshooting Outlook Sync Issues Folder

Administrators have multiple sources of information to help them when diagnosing problems with Outlook and Exchange. One folder which should always be reviewed when looking for errors is the Synchronization Issues folder. The Synchronization folder also contains subfolders that can also be used for diagnostics. Those subfolders include: the Conflicts folder, the Local Failures folder and the Server Failures folder.

Logs and items that Microsoft Outlook cannot synchronize with the Exchange server are stored in the Synchronization Issues folder. In addition, all of the synchronization logs are contained in this folder. The sync issues folder is the place to look for information when you are having problems synchronizing your clients or items are missing after synchronization. Trouble with Cached Exchange Mode can also show up in the sync issues folder. Administrators should always check the sync issues folder for help in determining where to begin their troubleshooting efforts.

Synchronization errors will usually occur when a user has edited a mail item. An example would be when a user has changed the subject line for some reason.  In one example an organization had a mail zip macro that zipped the attachments of emails in order to minimize their storage usage.  That process unfortunately resulted in synchronization errors being generated.

When Outlook synchronizes with an Exchange server it uses a specific order of synchronization of the folders based on their frequency of usage. The synchronization is performed in this manner so as to minimize the performance impact to the user.

The Outlook folders are synchronized in the following order:

  1. Utility folders (common views, views, and security settings)
  2. Calendar
  3. Contacts
  4. Drafts
  5. Inbox
  6. All other folders (defined by the user)
  7. Sent Items
  8. Deleted Items
  9. Public Folder Favorites (added by the user)

Note that the synchronization order can be changed. The Sync Issues folder, Conflicts folder, Local Failures folder and the Server Failures folder are displayed only in the Folder List view of the Navigation pane. They are not displayed in the All Mail Folders list in the Mail section of the Navigation pane. An administrator can view these folders by using the Navigation icons in the Navigation Pane, the Go menu or by pressing CTRL+6 on your keyboard.

Items found in those folders mean that their changes either could not be uploaded or downloaded or that the same item got edited on two separate locations at the same time. An administrator can verify if the missing items still exist in a users’ mailbox or if they exist on the server by using Outlook Web Access when using an Exchange account or through another email client if the Outlook Connector is being used. You can try to move the item to a different folder and then go back to verify that the change has been applied. If this procedure works then an administrator can clean up the Sync Issues folder to keep all changes and folders consistent with one another.

Sometime email messages are informational and not a symptom of a problem. Informational email messages which might show up in the Sync Issues folder can be similar to the following:

12:30:21 Synchronizer Version 12.0.4518
12:30:21 Synchronizing Mailbox ‘(user name)’
12:30:21 Synchronizing local changes in folder ‘Deleted Items’
12:30:21 Uploading to server ‘(email server name)’
12:30:21 1 item(s) added to online folder
12:30:21 Done

If cached mode is not necessary to run then an administrator can disable Exchange Cached Mode and these informational messages will stop being recorded.

It has also been noted that intermittent synchronization conflicts are the undesirable result of MAPI add-ins.  Such an add-in which can cause a synchronization conflict is the Outlook ActivIdentity extension.  An administrator can disable the Outlook ActivIdentity Extension in the Outlook Add-in Manager by going to the following menus in this order:

  1. Tools
  2. Options
  3. Other (tab)
  4. Advanced Options
  5. Add-in Manager
  6. Restart Outlook.

This should correct the problem. If not, then an administrator should try to disable other add-ins and then restart Outlook. The add-ins should be disabled one at a time to isolate which add-in is causing the synchronization problem.

Finally, it should be noted that the contents of the Sync Issues folder are not copied to your server, and you cannot view the items in the Sync Issues folder from any other system. The contents of “Server Failures” folder are displayable only when you have a connection to the server.

Written by Mike Rede

1 Comment

  1. Timmer · August 30, 2011

    Useful article — but the REAL question is, how do you DISABLE Sync Logging????

    It’s driving our users crazy, and it’s just full of informational entries, not errors (at least in our case).

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