Smartphones

Troubleshooting tricks for Android Exchange connection problems

When there is a problem with an Android-Exchange setup, it can be difficult to figure out what has gone wrong. Jack Wallen offers some troubleshooting tips for common Exchange-Android configuration issues.

The installation of a Microsoft Exchange account on an Android device is usually pretty simple, but if the setup goes south, it can seem impossible to make that connection. The following configurations are generally the best first solutions for troubleshooting an Android-Exchange connection.

Caveats

All Android devices are not created equal. Although Google is attempting to quell this diversity, many carriers opt to add their own spin on the Android device. To that end, how an Exchange connection is set up on an HTC EVO is not the same way that connection is set up on a Droid Incredible or an AT&T Samsung Captivate.

In this post, I will use general concepts that should apply to the full array of Android devices. With that in mind, let's start troubleshooting.

Server address

I've seen users attempt to set up their Android-Exchange connection using the Exchange OWA address for their company -- this will not work. If your company's OWA address is https://mail.company.com/owa, then most likely your Exchange address for your Android device is mail.company.com. Some third-party apps require the OWA address, but the built-in tool does not.

Domain

The setting that people seem most unsure about is domain. When the Android-Exchange connection is set up, the domain is not a fully qualified domain name (www.techrepublic.com is an example of a fully qualified domain name). A domain in regards to an Exchange setup is a group of computers running that share a central directory database that houses user and other pieces of information necessary for machines to function together. A Windows domain is usually one word.

When there are Exchange connection issues on an Android phone, the domain is often the first place you should check. Your username might require the following format:

DOMAIN\username

The Android Exchange settings often come in one of two forms:

Domain:

Username:

or

Domain: user name

The first type of configuration asks for the domain and username to be added in individual settings, whereas the second type requires the DOMAIN\username format.

Secure Sockets Layer

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a security protocol that manages the security of a message transmission. This is a very tricky issue because it depends upon how the Exchange server is set up, and this is typically out of the hands of end users.

On the Android side of things, there are two settings with regard to SSL:

  • Use secure connection
  • Accept all SSL certificates

More than likely, both settings need to be enabled for your Exchange connection to succeed. There are instances when an Exchange server is using an SSL certificate that is not approved by Android. If that describes your situation, you might need to approach your IT department and suggest a new certificate. One SSL that is free and accepted by Android is StartSSL.

Remote wipe and PIN locking

Certain Exchange configurations require email PIN/password locking and remote wiping. If this is true in your case (you can find out from your Exchange admin) you're in luck if you're running Android 2.1 or higher. With Android 2.1 or higher, no further configuration is necessary (besides entering the standard information for your Exchange account). If you're running an earlier version of Android and your company enforces remote wipe and PIN locking, you will have to use a third-party application such as TouchDown, which will give you full Exchange support and features.

When all else fails

On a number of occasions, I've seen a working Exchange connection fail due to either an Android update or an Exchange update. When this is the case, sometimes it is necessary to delete the Exchange account and re-add it to the phone. Before you delete the account, I highly recommend clearing the Account and Sync Settings cache. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Menu button on the handset.
  2. Tap the Settings button.
  3. Tap Applications | Manage Applications | All | Account and Sync Settings.
  4. Tap the Clear Data and Clear Cache buttons.

If the clearing the cache doesn't resolve the problem, then it is time to delete and re-add the Exchange account.

Additional TechRepublic resources

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

1 comments
sysadmn
sysadmn

Found this while trying to set it up myself. Thought I'd add this for the next person who finds this. Step 0: Login to your OWA account from any web browser (works best from a laptop or desktop). In the upper right corner, select the Question Mark icon, then "About". If there is not an "External Pop" or "External IMAP" entry, your administrators have not set up access. If there is, use those values for SERVER, PORT, etc.

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