Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Avatar jkoceng 4 years, 1 month ago.

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    intersilver
    Member
    #139270

    Hi all,

    I’m trying to troubleshoot this problem for a user who runs Outlook 2003, connecting to an Exchange servr in cached exchange mode, RPC over HTTP. The system is a fully patched WinXP SP3 (running on a 2.4GHz Intel Core2 Quad, 2 GB of RAM).

    When he sets his outlook to Work Offline, things are fine. But the minute he tries to connect to the server (even before entering his username/password), Outlook starts having problems with his .ost file:
    “The file D:outlooknew offline folders.ost is in use and could not be accessed. Close any application that is using this file, and then try again.”
    This pops up repeatedly, and so often that it gets quite impossible to get any work done.

    The thing is… I checked, and as far as I can tell, there is no other process using this file:

    – I verified that there’s only one instance of OUTLOOK.EXE
    – I disabled all search indexers, scanners, virus protections that might be accessing the ost file
    – I checked with SysInternals’ Process Explorer and Filemon utilities, and verified that no other process had locked the file, or was trying to access it in any way

    Right now it’s really quite awkward…. this message keeps popping up left and right, and I’m sitting here with Filemon capturing all events relating to the ost file, listing all the sharing violations that cause the popups to appear – and the only process accessing the file is the single instance of OUTLOOK.EXE. Outlook basically keeps reporting sharing violations with… itself.

    I’m out of ideas… any suggestions?

    Avatar
    joeqwerty
    Moderator
    #301358

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    Since the ost file is a local “copy” of the mailbox, why not close Outlook, delete the ost file, and let Outlook recreate it?

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    intersilver
    Member
    #254744

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    joeqwerty;149667 wrote:
    Since the ost file is a local “copy” of the mailbox, why not close Outlook, delete the ost file, and let Outlook recreate it?

    I’ve thought of this as a last resort… but this is a 8 gb mailbox – recreating everything from the server will take way too long (from past experience), so I wouldn’t like to try that until the weekend, and the user needs to be able to use Outlook in the meantime.

    Anyway, I’m not even sure if that would help, since the file itself does not appear to be corrupt.. it’s the accesses to the file that seem to be causing the problem. So.. any other possibilities in that direction that can be eliminated first?

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    joeqwerty
    Moderator
    #301360

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    Try turning off cached mode and see what happens. You can then schedule the ost “rebuild” for the weekend. I’m assuming this is a laptop, otherwise what’s the point of using cached mode? Does this user have performance issues related to the size of the mailbox?

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    intersilver
    Member
    #254745

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    No laptop – it’s a desktop computer in an office, but working without Cached Exchange Mode still slows things down considerably. The Exchange server is hosted externally, and we don’t have the fastest net connection in the world, so the point of cached mode is to achieve acceptable speed and performance (i.e. not having to wait a few seconds for each email to open when you’re browsing through every unread email).

    Anyway – I’ve renamed the old ost file as a test for now, just to see if the problem indeed goes away when I let Outlook recreate it.
    For now it seems to be working fine – I just hope that the problem doesn’t come back when I actually let the offline folders synchronize fully over the weekend… so I’d still like some input about the possible cause, if anyone has some insight, just in case it does come back.

    Thanks!

    Avatar
    Virtual
    Member
    #332288

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    An 8GB mailbox sounds too large to me. I would recommend setting up quotas on the mailboxes and training users in maintenance.

    I have one particular client that have a limit of 500MB per user. Some do reach their limit but know how to maintain their mailbox, so is an acceptable size. I am very black and white about this. I have had the Chief executive of companies request an increase on their mailbox limits and I have explained why I can’t. Eventually, that will lead to increased storage space, emails that are useless and badly managed and space being wasted.

    Since you have remote email, it is all the more reason to ensure smaller mailboxes.

    Avatar
    intersilver
    Member
    #254746

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    Oh, definitely agreed there… I’ve been trying to teach users for ages to minimize the sizes of their attachments, to pay attention when they forward an email and decide whether or not they really need to include the multi-mb attachment from the original, and so on. If I only was in an official capacity to do more I certainly would.

    Avatar
    intersilver
    Member
    #254747

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    Update about the problem from the original post:

    After further re-creating the offline folders from the server, the “ost file is in use” problem is back again. The same popups appear whenever outlook is connected to the server.

    Also, I’ve now found out that this user has the same Exchange account set up on his laptop, – same Outlook version (2003), same clinet-side settings (RPC over HTTP, Cached Exchange Mode, and always connected to the server)… but everything is fine on the laptop – no “ost file is in use” popup, ever.

    So the problem doesn’t seem to be related to the size of the mailbox. Actually, performance-wise, the desktop (where Outlook is problematic) is much faster and has more RAM than the laptop… the only difference in setup is that the laptop runs on XP SP2, while the desktop has SP3.

    What could be causing the “file in use” problem if the file isn’t actually in use, and if another machine has the exact same setup with no problem? I’m out of ideas here so I’d genuinely appreciate any insight………

    Avatar
    joeqwerty
    Moderator
    #301369

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    Are there any third party plugins for Outlook running on the affected computer?

    Avatar
    intersilver
    Member
    #254748

    Re: Outlook 2003 says .ost file is "in use and cannot be accessed" – when it isn’t

    joeqwerty;150016 wrote:
    Are there any third party plugins for Outlook running on the affected computer?

    There was only Lookout (search indexer), but I had removed it for my testing, problem still persisted.

    Anyway, thanks for your input…. seems as if something was corrupt in the Exchange account on the server side after all (even though the aforementioned laptop wasn’t experiencing any problems).
    I tried switching to Outlook 2007, and while this solved the “.ost file is in use” messages, a whole host of other problems appeared instead (frequent freezes, new mail not appearing). I then emailed our Exchange admins. They informed me that they have “re stamped” the mailbox (whatever that means), and now things appear to be working fine… knock on wood.

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    jkoceng
    Member
    #390851

    Using third party application you can fix all corruption issue from OST file and make them workable by converting OST to PST format. You can download [MOD EDIT DELETED] tool, this tool is capable for fix all inaccessible OST file data and save the recover data in PST, EML, DBX, MSG, HTML, TXT and MBOX also allows you to use free trial version without give any charges.

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