Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Office 365 Suite Hangs or Freezes and general slow performance


Recently I had an issue in which multiple workstations at a site with the latest Office 2016 suite started having intermittent issues. Although all settings appeared to be correct, they would report, “Our Office 365 hangs or freezes!” Sometimes it would crash with only generic information in the event logs — not too helpful when you’re troubleshooting.

I thought maybe it was a corrupt installation, so I uninstalled and reinstalled with different methods, but that did not help. Even the Office 365 installation tool showed all was well. Other applications on the system also experienced general slowness. Adobe stopped allowing direct printing from Outlook. We had to save the file to the desktop first, then we could print it.

I checked all the usual suspects:

All malware scans were clear. There were no network issues. It was not a display driver or display setting issue. It was not an add-in, and I found no relevant Microsoft KB articles or fixes.

Adding resources wouldn’t do us any good; memory, processor, and disk were all within acceptable levels. Buying more hardware resources may have even muddied the waters of the true issue. Plus, no one wants to have spent an extra $300 on each workstation for no good reason.

Then I thought maybe it was a profile move issue from the domain migration, but a new employee with a new profile was not immune to these issues.

So, I turned to the registry, and I found a lot more old server references than expected. They had migrated to Office 365 about nine months ago and then to a new internal domain about three months after that, which caused a change to their My Documents redirection path to another server.

I confirmed there was a recent backup of the system and registry, and then I carefully started pruning. I deleted all the last file references to the old server and I deleted the whole branches within Outlook referencing the old Exchange server, old server printer references, old server share references, and so on. I changed any old My Documents reference paths to the new server path.

After restarting the computer, it was running normally. Office ran fine, direct printing of Adobe files from Outlook worked, and in general it ran like a new machine. I replicated the registry cleanup on all systems and the client has not had a single issue since.

This fix is not pretty. It takes some time per workstation, and can’t be automated, but it works. I must caution you when playing in the registry. If you get too excited pruning, you may kill your operating system or create other application issues. So, prune carefully and only if you know how. Most importantly, do this only after you confirm you have good, verified backups.

If you ever do a series of projects like an Exchange cutover to Office 365, then an internal domain migration and/or My Document redirection, you may have to follow up with some manual registry cleanup time if the systems are not performing normally.

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