Could not read the calendar. Outlook cannot open this item. The item may be damaged!

Somtimes, I could cheerfully dump my corporate laptop* and this week has been no exception with abysmally slow performance, new software installs that require reboots and then, after working well (so nothing to do with the Cisco unified communications integration components that I installed yesterday), Outlook decided that it didn’t like my calendar any more. Other people’s calendars were fine; other folders (Inbox, etc.) were fine; and the calendar data was fine, as long as I didn’t want a day/week/month view.

Could not read the calendar. Outlook cannot open this item. The item may be damaged.

OK, but which item? I could take a guess that this was something to do with a corrupted offline folders (.OST) file but a bit of Googling turned up a fix.  In a TechNet Forum post Exchange MVP Rich Matheisen suggests deleting the OST file (the location of this can be found from Outlook’s Account Settings), then running outlook /cleanfreebusy to create a new .OST and pull down the free/busy calendar information.

One slight snag was that I couldn’t rename/delete the existing Outlook.OST file because it was in use. This time, Windows was a little more helpful with its error reporting, telling me that the Microsoft Windows Search Protocol Host had the file open. The answer was to open services.msc, stop the Windows Search service, then work on the Outlook.OST file, before restarting the Windows Search service.

Outlook is now happy again, but I’m not convinced it would have been any quicker to go via the official support channels (probably would have necessitated a visit to the office for the deskside support guys to take a look) than to self-support… which makes me wonder if corporate IT budgets would be better spent on providing cross-platform technology services, rather than maintaining and supporting standard PC builds?

* I make no secret that I’m not a fan of standard operating environments (“gold brick” PC builds) with layers and layers of “security” software. Even though I spent many years implementing such solutions (and reaping the rewards in terms of reduced support costs, etc.), it’s an outdated model that has no place in an age of consumerisation (for many knowledge workers at least – of course, there are exceptions, e.g. in heavily regulated environments). There are many who will say, “so what do you suggest instead?”, to which my response is: a) read this post; b) think about how to secure your data, not your devices; c) empower users to choose their own devices/apps where they wish (accepting that a bring your own model is not for all, but it’s time to move away from a device/operating system centric model to one that focuses on data and applications).

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