The connection to Microsoft Exchange is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete – Cant add Outlook accounts…

How I recently fixed one hell of an Outlook 2007 to Exchange 2003 connection problem.

This occurred on brand new Windows 7 Enterprise AND brand new Windows XP workstations while trying to configure the Outlook clients to connect to our Exchange 2003 server.

The actual error is:
"The connection to Microsoft Exchange is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete – Cant add Outlook accounts.."

Worse still is that this problem did not occur one every new workstation! Windows XP or Windows 7 – only some random ones.

I checked all network/connectivity parameters I could – DNS, LDAP, RPC, TCP/IP etc., and otherwise checked routing and name resolution ad nauseum. And all checked out.
I had this problem a year or so ago but could not find any of my notes! Aggravating to no end. So I swore I would make sure to document my fix when I found one.
So Google here I come….

One of the first things I did then was this:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/913843/en-us

I checked that the ‘Attendant’ service was running on Exchange; it has been for a few years.

And virtually everything mentioned in every article I could find – 5 days of searching and hundreds of pages!!
Like:
http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/exchangesvrclients/thread/44a24ec6-33b5-4b66-9fdb-2318b4874fbc

and

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/exchangesvrclients/thread/1227b956-c533-4c08-b56d-150ad8486b4c

I also tried importing the Outlook registry keys from machines (both Windows 7 and Windows XP) that do work – still no joy.

I literally went 11 pages deep on Google http://goo.gl/EddW9 and many, many more deep from each of those, looking for a fix!

I read deep somewhere in one post that someone mentioned running ‘Outlook rpcdiag’ – I don’t remember that switch. I checked RPC on the machine(s) and it showed no errors already right..

But since this was a specific ‘Outlook’ switch I though what the hell.
So…
I ran:
"outlook /rpcdiag" from the command line.

It tried to ‘find connections error’ but did not report anything. Damn..
Then it just closed after it could not really start.

Then I started Outlook in Safemode (I was prompted to upon launching Outlook, but it can be run "outlook /safe").

I was then able to add and configure the Exchange account and get connected!!
I waited until it updated the mailbox completely.
Then I restarted Outlook normally and IT WORKS NOW on all of the affected boxes!

I am not sure if all of these steps need to be taken but I now have a plan to follow.

I hope this may help someone, because from most of the posts I read it is a MAJOR issue and MS is not doing much about it! At least I’ll have my notes.

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