Resolve Exchange Free/Busy and Communicator Presence Issues

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The presence feature in Communicator is a great thing when it’s working—no instant messages when you’re in a meeting or Communicator calls coming in when you’re busy. But if it’s not working, it could mean that there’s a conflict with the Exchange free/busy information. This article gives you some troubleshooting tips for resolving issues between Communicator and Exchange free/busy information.

Author: Collin Hoag

Publication date: May 2010

Product version: Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2

Have you ever been in a meeting and then started receiving instant messages or phone calls because your presence shows you as available? When Communicator uses Microsoft Office Outlook as its personal information manager, it can change a user’s presence automatically based on Microsoft Exchange Server free/busy information. However, sometimes Communicator is not updated or showing the correct presence because of what is in the user’s free/busy information. This article discusses basic and advanced troubleshooting steps to resolve these types of conflicts.

Before we begin troubleshooting, it is important to understand how Communicator pulls the free/busy information from Exchange. Figure 1 illustrates the flow of information when Communicator pulls free/busy calendar information from Exchange and Outlook.

Figure 1. How Communicator pulls free/busy information

How Communicator pulls free/busy information

Depending on the versions of Outlook and Exchange, Communicator will use one of two different methods to pull the information. Communicator will pull 8.5 hours of user calendar information from Exchange by using one of the following:

  • MAPI

  • Exchange Web Services

Table 1 outlines which method will be used based on the product version.

Table 1. Methods used by Communicator to pull free/busy information

Outlook Version Exchange Version Pull Method

Outlook 2003

Exchange 2003


Outlook 2003

Exchange 2007


Outlook 2007

Exchange 2003


Outlook 2007

Exchange 2007

Exchange Web Services

By default, Communicator pulls this information once every 30 minutes (plus or minus 10 minutes to randomize the times the information is pulled).

Step 1: Modify Communicator Default Polling Setting

You can lower the default polling setting by using group policy and the Communicator administrator template from 30 minutes down to 15.


Changing the default setting from 30 minutes to 15 could cause performance degradation to your Exchange environment depending on how many users you have.

The administrative template can be found at the following locations depending on your product versions:

The settings used to modify the pull interval depend on your environment and are shown in Table 2. You will want to configure the MapiPollInterval group policy if you have Outlook 2003 or Exchange 2003 in your environment because those clients use MAPI. If you have Outlook 2007 and Exchange 2007, configure the WebServicePollInterval group policy settings.

Table 2. Group policies that set polling intervals

Policy Name Setting Name in Group Policy Editor Description Type Values (default value listed first)


Time interval to load calendar data from MAPI provider

The frequency (in minutes) of loading calendar data from MAPI provider


Default = 30

Min = 15

Max = 4800


Time interval to load calendar data from Web service provider

Specifies the frequency (in minutes) of loading calendar data from the Web services provider


Default = 30

Min = 15

Max = 4800

Step 2: Verify Personal Information Manager Settings

After you set Communicator to update every 15 minutes, if the user’s presence still isn’t correct, what is the next step?

Make sure that Communicator is using Outlook as the user’s personal information manager and is updating presence based on Outlook calendar information. This can be verified by opening the Tools menu, clicking Options, and then clicking the Personal tab as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Communicator 2007 R2 personal information manager settings

Communicator 2007 R2 personal information settings

Step 3: Check Presence Status

Now that we have verified that Outlook is able to control the user’s presence, we need to check that the user has not changed his presence. If a user manually changes their presence, Communicator will not allow their presence to be changed by their Outlook calendar. To switch back to having presence controlled by Outlook, the user will have to reset their status in Communicator as shown in Figure 3. This means that if you manually change your status Communicator thinks you are in charge and will no longer automatically change your presence status.

Figure 3. Resetting Communicator status

Resetting Communicator status

If you have done all these things and the user’s presence still isn’t correct, it’s time to check your free/busy information between Outlook and the Exchange server.

Advanced Troubleshooting

In the previous sections I have shown you some basic troubleshooting steps for Communicator. In the following sections, I will explain some advanced troubleshooting steps.

Step 1: Make Sure that Outlook Publishes Free/Busy Information

First, you will want to verify your Outlook settings to make sure they have not changed. This will ensure that you are publishing your free/busy calendar data to the Exchange server. To check this setting, you need to open your Outlook settings. Figure 4 shows the default settings for Outlook.

To configure these settings, do the following:

  1. In Outlook, click Tools, and then click Options.

  2. Click Calendar Options, click Free/Busy Options, and then click the Other Free Busy button to open the Free/Busy Options as shown in Figure 4.

    Figure 4. Free/Busy Options in Outlook 2007

    Free/Busy Options in Outlook 2007

Figure 4 shows that Outlook will update the Exchange free/busy information every 45 minutes. This setting might be set by a group policy to a different time interval.

For user-level or administrator-level information about Outlook free/busy update intervals, see the following:

Step 2: Verify that Others Users Can See Your Free/Busy Information in Outlook

After you verify that the free/busy information is publishing to the Exchange server, check the Exchange server information from another client. If free/busy is working, the other user will see availability information for you. If they see nothing but hash marks (\\\\\\), your free/busy information could be corrupted or missing from the server.

In Figure 5, the user named Chen is not resolved, and it shows the hash marks. If your name is resolved, it will have a line under your name like the user Kerim. If your name is resolved and showing the hash marks, that means the client who is checking your availability (the Exchange free/busy data) cannot read it from the server. If this is the case, the next thing to do is check the Exchange server.

Figure 5. Free/busy information missing from the Exchange server

Free/busy information missing from Exchange server

Step 3: Check Autodiscover and Exchange Web Services

If a user’s Exchange free/busy information does not resolve, we need to verify that the user checking the free/busy information can get to the Exchange Web Services.

To test if you can reach the Autodiscover service and Exchange Web Services, right-click the Outlook icon in the notification area, and then click Test E-mail AutoConfiguration as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Testing the Auto Discover and Exchange Web Services

Testing the Auto Discover and Exchange Web Service

Figure 7 shows the outcome of this test. If the Availability Service URL does not show up or is incorrect, it’s time to look at the Autodiscover service in Exchange 2007 because this is where the problem lies. Communicator must be able to connect to the Exchange Web Services and not encounter any problems.

Figure 7. Output of autoconfiguration test

Output of autoconfiguration test

To ensure that Communicator can get to the Exchange Web Services, you need to open the Available Service URL in Internet Explorer. If you open this website in Internet Explorer, you will probably be prompted for credentials. Enter your credentials and then continue to the website to see the Web Services XML information as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8. Web Services XML information

Web Services XML information

If you get a certifcate error, you will need a valid certificate that is not self-signed on the server that hosts the Exchange Client Access service server role.

For more information about resolving issues that involve the Availability Service or Autodiscover, see the white paper “Exchange 2007 Autodiscover Service”.

This is used only for Exchange 2007 servers. If you have Exchange 2003, the free/busy information is found in the system public folder Schedule+. Exchange 2007 can use public folders too if you have that set up, but that information is out of the scope of this article.

Step 4: Clean Your Exchange Free/Busy

If for some reason you think that your free/busy information is corrupted on the server, you can try the following command line switch to clean your free/busy information:

outlook.exe /cleanfreebusy

Open a command prompt and change the directory to the outlook.exe location as shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9. Command line switch for cleaning free/busy information

Command line switch

For additional information about this switch, see “Command-line switches for Microsoft Office Outlook 2007”.


Cleaning the free/busy information by using this switch could remove all meetings and entries on your calendar.

Using Log Files

In this section I explain log files and what is important to look for when troubleshooting presence issues. You will use this information mainly to verify that your settings are taking effect and that Outlook and Communicator are integrating correctly.

For information about how to enable Communicator logging, see Client Logging in Communicator.

Communicator uccapilog Showing Free/Busy Publishing

Publishing free/busy information is a SIP service request that has the following content type: application/msrtc-category-publish+xml as shown in the following sample log file in Figure 10.


You can open up the uccapilog UCCaplilog file by using the Snooper.exe tool that is found in the Resource Kit or by using Notepad and searching for a service that has the following content type: application/msrtc-category-publish+xml.

Figure 10. Sample uccapilog log file

Sample uccapilog log file


The granularity=”PT15M” shows that Outlook is publishing this information every 15 minutes. You can change this setting by modifying the group policy shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Modifying the CalendarStatePublicationInterval policy

Policy Name Setting Name in Group Policy Editor Description Type Values (default value listed first)


Time interval to publish calendar data to presence

Governs how frequently (in minutes) data loaded from the Outlook calendar is published


If not present, the default value is 15.

Min = 5

Max = 480

Outlook and Communicator Integration Logging

Setting this registry data enables logging for the presence features that integrate between Outlook and Communicator, and shows additional information in Outlook and Communicator.

To set this registry key, do the following:

  1. Click Start, and then click Run.

  2. In the Open box, type REGEDIT, and then click OK to start Registry Editor.

  3. Navigate to key:  HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\IM Providers.

  4. Create DWORD: OfficePresenceLogging with Value: 1

The log file is created in the %userprofile%\Tracing folder and the file name is OfficePresence-#.log (where # is an integer).


This setting is available only for Outlook 2007. It will show Outlook and Communicator integration information.


Incorrectly editing the registry can cause serious problems that may require you to reinstall your operating system. Problems resulting from editing the registry incorrectly may not be able to be resolved. Before editing the registry, back up any valuable data.


Hopefully this article has given you a better understanding of how Communicator updates presence based on the Exchange free/busy information and how to use some basic and advanced troubleshooting steps. While not every troubleshooting step is covered, this should be enough information to get you headed in the right direction.

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