Tag Archives: Offline Files

Troubleshooting Offline Files

My previous post describes the normal operation of Offline Files. And most of the time, “it just works.” But there are times when it won’t, and getting it running again can be challenging.

Two Important concepts

First, it’s important to understand that the Offline Files facility is providing a virtual view of the network folder to which Documents has been redirected when Windows detects that the network folder is unavailable. This means that, when Offline Files is really borked, users can see different things in their Documents folder depending one whether their computers are online or offline.

Second, Windows treats different names for the same actual server as if they are different servers altogether. Specifically, Windows will only provide the Offline Files virtual view for the path to the target network folder. You can see the target folder path in the Properties of the Documents folder.

The Location tab shows the UNC path to the target network folder.

The Location tab shows the UNC path to the target network folder.

For example, these two UNC paths resolve to the same network folder:


If the second path is the one that is shown in the Location tab in the properties of the Documents folder, then you will be able to access that path while offline, but not the first path.

Show me the logs

There are event logs that can be examined. I’ll mention them, but I’ve rarely found them helpful in solving a persistent problem. If you want to get the client up and running again ASAP, skip ahead to the Fix it section.

There are some logging options available that can help in diagnosing problems with offline files. There are two logs that are normally visible in the Windows Event Viewer, under the Applications and Services logs heading:

  • Microsoft-Windows-Folder Redirection/Operational
  • Microsoft-Windows-OfflineFiles/Operational

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Folder Redirection and Offline Files

The following information is not new. We are in the process of making changes to our Folder Redirection policy, though, and I thought it might be helpful to have this baseline information in a place that is handy for referral.


Offline Files is a feature of Windows that was introduced in parallel with Folder Redirection in Windows 2000. Folder Redirection allows an administrator to relocate some of the user profile data folders to a network folder, which has the advantage of protecting that data from loss due to workstation issues like drive failure, malware infection, or theft. It also means you can access your data from multiple workstations.

The Offline Files facility provides a local cache of the redirected folder(s) so that mobile users can continue to work with the data in those folders when disconnected from the organization’s network. When the computer is connected to the network again, any changes to either the network folder or the local Offline Files cache are synchronized. Users are prompted to resolve any conflicting changes, e.g., the same file was modified in both places, or was deleted from one and modified in the other at http://followersguru.net/.

At UVM, we use Folder Redirection on the Documents folder (formerly My Documents in XP), as well as the Pictures, Video, and Music folders. Most of the time, the Offline Files facility works without issue. However, as with all technology, Offline Files can fail. There are circumstances that can result in the corruption of the database that Offline Files uses to track the sync status of files. Doing major reorganizing and renaming of files and folders, for example, seems to be a culprit. Another one is filling your quota; you can continue to save files to your local cache, but the files won’t get synced to the server because you’re out of space at http://followersguru.net/buy-instagram-likes/ .

How to sync your offline files

To manually synchronize your Offline Files with the target network folder, open the Sync Center by:

  1. Going to the Start Screen (or menu) and typing sync center
  2. Clicking the Sync Center item in the search results
Windows 8.1 Start search for "sync center"

Windows 8.1 Start search for “sync center”

Windows 7 Start search for "sync center"

Windows 7 Start search for “sync center”


  1. Find the Sync Center tray icon and double-click it, or
  2. Right-click and select the Open Sync Center menu item
Menu for the Sync Center icon in the Windows system tray.

Menu for the Sync Center icon in the Windows system tray.

The Sync Center Window should appear.

Offline Files status in Sync Center

Offline Files status in Sync Center

Note that the Offline Files item shows the time of the most recent sync operation. If you want to initiate a sync operation, click Offline Files and then click Sync.

A sync operation has completed.

A sync operation has completed.

If there are errors or conflicts that require intervention to resolve, those will be show in the result. A conflict result is shown below.

Sync operation with a conflict.

Sync operation with a conflict.

Click the N Conflicts link or View sync conflicts on the left to see details about the files in conflict.

Right-click or select and click 'Resolve'.

Right-click or select and click ‘Resolve’.

Select each file conflict you want to resolve, and click Resolve or right-click the file and select View options to resolve…

Windows provides information about the files in conflict and provides several appropriate options.

Windows provides information about the files in conflict and provides several appropriate options.

In this scenario, a file has been deleted in one location, and modified while offline in the other. Since only the one file exists, there are only two options: delete the file, or copy it to both locations.

Another scenario involves a file have been modified both offline and online, probably while using multiple computers. In that case, the resolution Window offers three choices: pick the offline file (on this computer), pick the online version (on the network folder), or keep both by renaming one of them.

Sync Errors are handled differently, and may require the help of your IT support staff or the UVM Tech Team.

A sync operation with error.

A sync operation with error.

To review the errors or conflicts, you can view the Sync Results.

Sync result, with detail for an error.

Sync result, with detail for an error.

You can view details about an individual error by hovering over it with the mouse cursor. In the example above, my folder “2. Archive” is throwing an “Access is denied” error. To resolve an error like this, it may be necessary to contact the Tech Team. In some cases, it’s necessary to reset the Offline Files tracking database and essentially start over. This procedure is documented in a separate post, Troubleshooting Offline Files.

Reset Offline Files cache

For my reference, mostly…

In Windows XP: In Explore’s Tools → Folder Options → Offline Files, then press CTRL+SHIFT and click the “Delete Files” button. How Macintosh is that? I’ve had to perform that maneuver a few times. With Windows Vista and later, the reworked Offline Files facility has worked much better. But occasionally, the Offline Files database still gets munged.

NOTE: Once you set the value and reboot, all the content in the Offline Files cache for all accounts on the system is purged. You need to perform a sync operation in order to populate your files into the Offline Files cache again.

If you have files in the Offline Files cache that haven’t been successfully synced to the server, those files will be lost. For this reason, I will often make a local copy of “My Documents” to another folder on C: (e.g.: c:\temp\MyDocsCopy) while the network interfaces are disabled, to make sure I’m copying data from the cache. It never hurts to create a backup.

In Windows 7 and 8, the process requires setting a single registry value:

To reinitialize the Offline Files cache, create the following DWORD registry value with a value of 1 and restart the system.


Note that you will have to create the Parameters key, and any unsynchronized changes will be lost.  In addition, any files and folders pinned by means other than Folder Redirection or Group Policy will no longer be pinned on that client.

The setting of this registry value may be automated using REG.EXE.

In an elevated command prompt, run the following command.

REG ADD "HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters" /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f


Clearing Offline Files Cache in Vista

There’s a rather arcane process to reset the offline files cache on a Windows XP system. However, the offline files caching engine was reworked in Windows Vista. After a few google searches, I located some useful blog entries that referenced a KB article and described a process involving setting a registry key and rebooting:

“add the FormatDatabase registry entry to the following registry subkey:
Then, set the FormatDatabase registry entry to 1.
The restart your computer”

I had to create the Parameters subkey. I created DWORD value and restarted the system without a network connection. Indeed, my local cache of my redirected My Documents folder was gone.

Another link: