If you’re
running Windows XP, you’ve probably already rolled out XP SP2 to your desktop
users and taken care of any problems that were encountered. However, for
those of you still running Windows 2000 and considering or planning a migration
to Windows XP, be aware of a potential minor problem with Windows XP SP2 and
all recent versions of Outlook. Note that it doesn’t matter what version
of Exchange you’re running.

problem: You may get calls to your help desk from users complaining that
Outlook locks up when the user attempts to search their mailbox (this happens
only with Outlook versions earlier than 2003). Further, users may
complain that new messages do not appear in their inbox until they click the
Send/Receive button nor do they get notification in the system tray that a new
message has arrived. Finally, users may be frustrated that messages sit
in their Outbox for an inordinate amount of time before being delivered.

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What’s going on?

If these
three (or two, for Outlook 2003 users) symptoms are affecting your users, the
problem likely lies with the firewall included in Windows XP SP2. All of
these features rely on UDP connections from the Exchange server to the user’s
desktop. Since the connection is not initiated from the desktop, the
Windows firewall considers the traffic unsolicited and summarily drops
it. Hence, the problems your users are experiencing. Outlook 2003
does not suffer from the searching problem because this version does not use
UDP to perform searches of a mailbox.

To correct
the problem, you need to make a change to the Windows XP Firewall settings and,
if you’re running Outlook 2000 or Outlook 2002, also need to make a change to
the registry.

change — this adds the Outlook executable to this list of programs allowed to
communicate through the Windows Firewall.

  • Open the system’s Control
  • Open the Windows Firewall
    Control Panel applet.
  • Select the Exceptions tab.
  • Click the Add Program button,
    located near the bottom of the window.
  • In the Add a Program window,
    choose the Browse button.
  • Find the outlook.exe program,
    usually located in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11.
  • Click OK.

change — assumes you have either Office 2000 SP3 (for Outlook 2000) applied, or
Outlook XP SP1 (for Outlook 2002) applied.

  • Open Regedit.
  • Locate the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft
  • Go to Edit > New >
    Key.  This creates a new folder in Regedit.
  • Name the new folder “Office”.
  • In this folder, go to Edit >
    New > Key again.
  • For Outlook 2000, name the new
    key “9.0”.  For Outlook 2002/XP, name the new key “10.0”.
  • From the 9.0 or 10.0 key, again
    choose Edit > New > Key.
  • Name the new key “RPC”.
  • From this new folder, choose
    Edit > New > DWORD Value.
  • Name the new value “Force
    Polling” and give it a value of 0.
  • Close the Registry Editor.