I use the Outlook Connector for MSN to access my MSN mail, calendar and contacts in Outlook 2010. I also have a separate SMTP/POP account for my business which I read in Outlook. It’s nice to have all the email in one place so I don’t miss things. Windows Live Mail is a good program and lets you do something similar, but it segregates the accounts so you have to remember to read two different Inboxes which I don’t like as much.
However, for a while I get intermittent errors from Outlook that it couldn’t sync with my MSN mail and the error codes are the always oh-so-helpful 80004005 (which if you track it down has the symbolic code E_FAIL and means in English “tough luck – something went wrong. Can’t say anything more.”) Fortunately, Connector gets some sort of secondary error code and that was usually 4350, although I’ve also seen 4401.
The advice in the error message – “please verify your account is configured correctly by first accessing your mail on the web” probably applies in some number of cases but not in mine. I was of course able to read mail through the web interface to MSN/Hotmail just fine. What’s wierder is that this error didn’t seem to actually cause any badness – i.e. MSN mail seemed to still come in and leave just fine. So that made it possible to do the irresponsible thing and ignore this error for longer than I should have – one of the screen shots above was taken a month ago, and I never bothered to make the time to deal with it then.
Today, I finally contacted Microsoft support. It’s a bit of a windy road to get there, but it was a free online chat and I have to say the guy I talked with (Ashutosh) knew what he was doing. His approach (which makes total sense in retrospect) was to do the soft equivalent of reinstall – he created a new Outlook profile, connected to my MSN Hotmail account, and booted Outlook with that profile. He also advised that my approach of having the SMTP account deliver mail to the same Inbox as the MAPI MSN account was not a good idea – apparently these protocols don’t play well together when they’re in the same inbox folder, especially when there is a lot of mail items – is 27,450 a lot? There is some advice on the web that some Outlook Connector errors can be caused by corrupted items in the Safe Senders or Blocked Senders list. The advice there is to use the Web interface to Hotmail to delete all those, but that seems overkill to me – instead, I logged on to Hotmail using the web interface and just reviewed the list, clearing out things that seemed like I no longer needed and finding a couple that were really long email addresses that I deleted on the hunch that those could be causing some problem.
So for anyone else who runs into this,
a. You can contact support at http://support.microsoft.com – for me at least it was no charge and pretty quick.
b. You can try to create a new profile yourself – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/829918 describes how. Don’t delete the old profile until all the mail items, calendar, etc. are visible when you boot Outlook with the new profile. Then you can use the Mail control panel to delete the old profile and remove the associated local storage since it’s now duplicated in the new profile. Be aware that downloading a lot of Hotmail items can take a very long time – hours.
c. If you add a second account to the profile (e.g. an SMTP account) have it deliver to somewhere other than the same Inbox as the MSN/Hotmail account (e.g. “Work Inbox”). You can then create an Outlook Search Folder to consolidate mail from the two separate delivery folders. By isolating the SMTP inbox from the MAPI inbox that MSN/Hotmail is using, you apparently work around a problem that can lead to this problem.
UPDATE – June 30, 2010
After doing this and having it work for a few days, I tried to sync with my Windows Mobile phone (a Samsung Blackjack II). I found that Calendar and Contact items weren’t syncing – no errors, but updates on the phone weren’t reflected in Outlook and updates in Outlook weren’t showing up on the phone. After contacting MS support again, they suggested ending the “partnership” in Windows Mobile Device Center and re-establishing it – apparently there is some link to the Outlook profile in there. I did that, and synced again – and now all my Contacts and Calendar items were gone from the phone!
After contacting MS support again and this time talking with Dinker, we figured it out. When creating a new profile, Outlook has a setting that (in Outlook 2010) you access through File / Account Settings in Outlook 2010:
There you’ll find a tab for “Data Files”. Windows Mobile Device Center syncs items in the default data file; below I have the dialog as it appears after I set the MSN data file as the default one, not the Outlook Data File:
Before I did this, “Outlook Data File” was set as the default data file so WMDC was syncing calendar and contact items from there. Note that this shows up in Outlook as separate calendars (“My Calendar” is the one syncing to Windows Live Calendar):
and as separate Contacts lists as well (obviously, “Contacts – email@example.com” is the one synced with Windows Live):
Changing the default caused the WMDC to correctly sync.