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  • Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

    I am looking for the help of an Exchange guru who can help me with the dreaded "The connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable..." error.

    Here is our setup:

    We use a remote, managed, Exchange 2003 Server for email and group calendar. We connect to it via RPC over HTTP.

    We use Outlook 2003.

    Right now I have 4 PC's that are using Outlook 2003, and they are working properly. The problem is that I am trying to setup Outlook on a new laptop, and regardless of what I try, I get the "The connection to the MS Exchange server is unavailable" message when I try to resolve the username/password.

    After endless trial and error, I was able to get the username/password to resolve, and at this point when I would launch Outlook on the laptop it appeared that everything was working - it started to download messages, set up all the folders etc....but when I try to print an email I get the "The connection to the MS Exchange Server is unavailable."

    It is important to note that I have set up the laptop exactly like the PC's that are successfully connecting to Exchange Server.

    I have searched for months on google, read many articles and posts, but have not been able to get to the bottom of this. A few weeks ago I spent 3 hours on the phone with the guy who manages the Exchange Server - he admitted I was not the only customer with this problem, but so far has been unable to figure out what exactly is causing it. He thinks it was a recent patch/security update, because a few months ago this whole process worked fine for us.

    Oh the laptop is running Windows XP SP2 updated.....I have even tried to open my firewall to the Exchange and ISA Server....but it doesnt make a difference.

    Could this be a registry setting on the laptop? If so, which one?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated...this is really frustrating me - in fact this has been the most frustrating thing I have dealt with professionally....absolutely no matter what I do, nothing works. I have posted here before with no results, but I thought I would try again. What is especially frustrating is that a Google search shows that there are lots of other people experiencing this exact same problem, only there is no clear cut solution that I can find. COnfiguring Outlook 2003 for RPC over HTTP should be a 15 minute procedure, tops....this has been a 2+ month debacle. It is starting to make me look incompetent...so if anyone has any ideas please help.

    Thanks for your help.
    Mike

  • #2
    Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

    If this is a hosted Exchange solution then I wouldn't have accepted it going on for two months. If they have admitted that you are not the only customer with the problem then they should have attempted to resolve more than they have now.
    Blaming a security update is becoming very common, yet I run all of my Exchange servers at many clients with all updates and have not seen this problem.

    Therefore I would have to start looking at the issue possibly being outside of the Exchange/Outlook connection. Firewall, switch, network card etc. Look around the internet to see if there are any internet speed problems, packet drops etc for your network hardware.

    Simon.
    --
    Simon Butler
    Exchange MVP

    Blog: http://blog.sembee.co.uk/
    More Exchange Content: http://exchange.sembee.info/
    Exchange Resources List: http://exbpa.com/
    In the UK? Hire me: http://www.sembee.co.uk/

    Sembee is a registered trademark, used here with permission.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

      If you have 4 pc's that work correctly using RPC over HTTP then I have to say that that rules out Exchange, Firewall, Network, etc. as being the problem. If there were problems with these components than it is most likely that the pc's would experience the same problems since all those components are common to the pc's and laptops. I would look more closely at the laptop configuration. Is the Windows firewall on? Is there some other software installed that might be causing the problem. What type of network connection do they use, wired or wireless? Are they getting their ip configuration from DHCP? Are they on the same subnet as the pc's. Can you take one of the laptops to the Exchange network and plug it in to the same switch as a test? Are the RPC over HTTP settings configured identically to the pc's? Are you using a proxy server? Etc., Etc. Please post some additional info regarding configurations, etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

        Originally posted by joeqwerty View Post
        Please post some additional info regarding configurations, etc.
        Thanks for the replies.

        I will try to answer some of these questions.

        All of the PC's/laptops run XP w/SP2. Our LAN's domain controller is a Win2K Server box...but since the problem happens everywhere I dont think that is an issue. And we have a PIX firewall.

        The Windows firewall is not on. I turned it off when I started to try to narrow down the cause of this. And just to be sure it wasnt our PIX, I plugged the laptop into our DMZ and it still didnt fix the problem.

        I have tried both wireless and wired connections with the laptop - it doesnt seem to make a difference. The wireless connection uses WPA Personal w/AES.

        Is there some other software that is causing this? I have uninstalled Skype, Oovoo (similar to Skype), AVG Antivirus.....but the PC's that it works on have that software on them, and it isnt causing a problem.

        I am not using a proxy server. It is not caused by a switch or a bad cable - if I bring the laptop home the problem happens there too....yet I am able to successfully set up Outlook and connect to the Exchange Server on other PC's while at home....

        So it is something in the laptop. It is getting its IP by DHCP....so are the other PC's that it works fine on.

        And I was thinking it was a DNS problem, but I can ping the FQDN of the Exchange Server and it resolves correctly

        One more thing I forgot - I did install the correct root certificates, but that too didnt make a difference.

        This is not an uncommon problem. I remember reading a post somewhere a while ago where someone said they pulled their hair out for weeks over this and finally decided to call Microsoft...and after spending a day on the phone with them, he was given some registry keys to restore and it fixed everything. I am wondering if some piece of software has changed a crucial registry key on the laptop and no matter what I do - such as deleting and creating Outlook profiles - they wont be changed back to the way they should be. Just a theory.

        If I can I would like to avoid a reinstall. I dont have a ghost for this laptop, and anyway, if this is caused by an application, then the problem will probably reappear during the reinstall process anyway.

        I hope I answered all of your questions.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

          In the RPC over HTTP setup there is an option to use HTTPS then TCP for fast and slow networks. What are your settings? I normally set both fast and slow networks to use HTTPS first then TCP. When you launch Outlook you can press and hold the Ctrl key and right click the Outlook icon in the system tray and select "connection status", this will show you the connection and the protocol being used by the connection. This might shed some light on what's happening.

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          • #6
            Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

            OK - When I press ctrl and bring up the connetion status, which I think is the same as starting outlook with /rpcdiag , it isnt showing https connections like it should....instead it is showing tcp/ip connections.

            However, I have a laptop here that Outlook 2003 works correctly on, and when I check the connection status on it, the connections show https....

            So does anyone know what I need to change in the laptops registry to fix this?

            I would like to avoid calling Microsoft today if possible....

            Making progress finally. Thanks!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

              I had a similar incident happen to me. The laptop was connecting fine for months, then one day it stopped working. I verified that I could connect to the exchange server via "https://fqdn.of.exchange.server/rpc". But everytime I would get "Certificate Invalid". Turned out that the clock on the laptop was like 2 years ahead, so it made the certificate invalid. Changed the clock back and everything worked like it should.
              CCNA, Network+

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Connection to the Microsoft Exchange Server is Unavailable...please help

                If you are seeing TCP/IP as the connection type then that would explain the problems connecting.

                As already stated, do you have both options selection, so HTTPS is used always?
                If you browse to https://host.domain.com/rpc - where host.domain.com is the name you are putting in after msstd in the RPC over HTTPS settings - do you get a certificate prompt?

                There is no magic registry entry that I am aware of. I have been working with RPC over HTTPS for some time.

                Have you tried creating a new Outlook profile? Windows Profile?

                Simon.
                --
                Simon Butler
                Exchange MVP

                Blog: http://blog.sembee.co.uk/
                More Exchange Content: http://exchange.sembee.info/
                Exchange Resources List: http://exbpa.com/
                In the UK? Hire me: http://www.sembee.co.uk/

                Sembee is a registered trademark, used here with permission.

                Comment

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