Microsoft Outlook folder deletion and synchronization problems

Users who run Exchange Server offline mode (i.e., using an .OST file) can sometimes experience a strange problem where certain Microsoft Outlook folders cannot be deleted. In this tip, SearchExchange.com contributor Serdar Yegulalp explains why and provides a solution.

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Users who run Exchange Server offline mode (i.e., using an .OST file) can sometimes experience a strange problem where certain Microsoft Outlook folders cannot be deleted.

When users attempt to delete any Microsoft Outlook folders, they are greeted with an error message along the lines of: "Outlook cannot delete this folder since there are items in it pending synchronization with the server."

The problem is caused by a bug in Microsoft Outlook that provides an incorrect offline item count for a folder, which consequently doesn't allow the folder to be deleted.

If you right click on a folder that refuses to be deleted and click "Clear Offline Items," it will force the folder to resynchronize with Microsoft Outlook and reset the offline item count to its proper setting. It might also be necessary to manually resynchronize the Microsoft Outlook folders before you do this, especially if you are in fact using offline content in the e-mail client.

If a given Microsoft Outlook client has messages in its Sync Issues folder with the error ID 80004005-501-4B9-0, it's a good sign that this folder deletion and synchronization problem is present.

These error messages contain a link to a Microsoft Knowledge Base article 842284, which contains a number of additional suggestions, up to and including creating an entirely new .OST file or replacing damaged Exchange Server support .DLLs. But this last step is regarded, rightly enough, as a last-ditch maneuver; odds are forcing resynchronization will iron out of the problem a lot more quickly.

This error comes as a surprise most of the time, not the least of all because it happens to people regardless of whether or not they use the synchronization functions in Microsoft Outlook at all.

(Microsoft blogger The Old New Thing wrote about this originally.)

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.

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This was first published in May 2006

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