“Failed to Update Headers” IMAP on Exchange

I had this issue for a long time with an Exchange account I was using on IMAP. I searched a ton of forums and couldn’t find a solution, but finally found something on TechNet. I wanted to re-post what I found there in case it is of use to anyone else out there.

The error you may receive is: Failed to update headers.
Details: An IMAP command failed.
Protocol: IMAP
Server: mail.[domain].com
Port: 143

This error for me occurred any time I tried to do anything in the inbox. Every time I received a new message, etc. According to the technet forum post, it will occur on any client (Thunderbird, Fetchmail, etc).

Unfortunately, what I have is not a solution as this appears to be an MS issue that is as yet unsolved. But, at least it is a way of dealing with it.

IN SHORT, THE WORKAROUND IS: To open your e-mail in Outlook Web Access (OWA), or via Exchange, and delete any meeting requests in your inbox.

From: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/forums/en-US/exchangesvradmin/thread/c63b8713-9ef9-4076-a11b-5db08255689b/

Buddha377 states:

It has nothing to do with your client, or hot fixes, or your firewall or your antivirus.  All the results you will find on Google to this question are bogus, except for this one now.  This is an Exchange problem.  The “workarounds” are useless and do not solve anything.  You also can’t search the message in the Exchange trace tool by the id listed in the Event log.  Awesome!

A client of mine was using using Outlook 2007 connecting to an SBS 2003 server will all service packs.  It got the error message “failed to update headers”.  I got a similiar error messages when using Thunderbird to connect.  On my SBS server the event log was filling up like crazy with Error 1023 every time my user connected, which indicated a server problem.  She also could not purge deleted messages.  They just stayed in her inbox with a line through them.

As stated by Mike Shen, the problem is caused by Exchange server failing to render the message according to the RFC822 standard.  This is your main clue.  Howerver, the solution proposed on this forum was overly complicated, dangerous (as it requires you to mess with the delicate Exchange message store) and does not work with SBS, as another poster noted.  I needed a simpler solution and found it!

The answer is quite simple:

Dump your entire inbox and all subfolders to a pst, so you have a backup.  Then set up the user’s account as an Exchange connection on another computer (my client can’t connect to exchange via MAPI, which is why she is IMAP, so I had to use a different machine and a different Outlook).  You could probably also use OWA.  I then DELETED every mail in her inbox via the MAPI connection (OWA would probably work too).  I then went back to her computer, opened her Outlook and voila, no errors!  I then opened backup PST so she could see her old mail.  In this case it will act just like an Archive folder.  I did not reimport the mail, as I was afraid the errors would reoccur.

Problem solved.

The horrible irony of this is that the offending messages were Outlook meeting requests!  In other words, Exchange can’t render email properly from it’s own client!  YEAH!  How do I know this?  I know this because I tried to purge all of her messages via IMAP, to no avail.  They just stayed in her inbox with a line through them.  Well apparently, even though the messages stayed in outlook crossed out, they WERE deleted on the server.  When I logged in via the Exchange configured Outlook client, only the two offending messages remained.  And both of them were unaccepted meeting requests.  Yeah MS!  You outdid yourself on this one. 🙂



Also, another workaround as per gogilamonster:

“Same here started when I upgraded all my users to Outlook 2007. My Unix users using evolution client configured for IMAP are the most affected when they get a meeting invite it get stuck while downloading emails. My work around was have a server-based rules for affected users to move the calendar invites to a different folder other than the inbox and un-subscribe it from the IMAP folder list. They use OWA to deal with the invites but its a hassle.”


19 thoughts on ““Failed to Update Headers” IMAP on Exchange

  1. Pingback: Software Outlook 2007 IMAP Probleem - 9lives

  2. We are having the problem but we do not use Exchange. We use IMAP with a Gmail account. The problem may still be related to meeting invites, but we think it may have to do with emails requesting a read receipt.

  3. I should probably add that one of the symptoms is that certain people are receiving reply emails that their email was not read, and they receive the replies many times over for the same email. This is why we think it may be related to read receipts. It could be meeting requests as well.

  4. Hotfix applied, unfortunately bug persists. I have tried to move user’s mailbox from Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2007 and then back to Exchange 2010. IMAP account was deleted in WLM and created again.

    No new incoming or sent mails appear in user’s IMAP folders until the content of inbox (or sent items) is moved to the newly created subfolder and back.

  5. I’m not really sure the hotfix solves the initial problem that this post was about. Can anyone verify that? I’m not using Exchange 2010

  6. As I said in my post, we are not using Exchange, so I don’t think the bug is in Exchange. I think it’s a problem with Outlook, and the way it handles meeting invites or read receipts. The only fix for us was to use web mail and find the erring emails and delete them.

  7. I am also using gmail IMAP, not exchange, and having exactly this problem so I do not think it is Exchange. My error message is “almost” identical:

    The TCP/IP connection was unexpectedly terminated by the server.
    Protocol: IMAP
    Server: imap.gmail.com
    Port: 993

    Deleting invites alone did solve the problem TEMPORARILY (about a week). (It also did rip through mobile me and delete many archived meetings in other apps, though!). One of the blogs I read mentioned the issue could be virus software, but turning Kaspersky off on email did not solve the problem.

    The MS hotfix didn’t do anything.

    I am also using Mobile Me to synch between Apple apps and Outlook. I am running Outlook 2007 on XP on Parallels 5.0 on an iMac with Kaspersky virus checking.

  8. Definitely sounds like a different problem since your error message is different and you’re not on Exchange. I would suggest searching on some tech forums such as experts-exchange.

  9. I’m having the exact same problem as Markus. I’m using Outlook 2007 with Windows 7 and accessing my gmail account through Outlook using MAPI. I also have a Mac that’s accessing the same gmail account. I’m only getting error messages on the PC, not on the Mac.

    I don’t have any meeting invitations in my Inbox. The only thing that I can think of was a request to confirm a dentist appointment by clicking in an e-mail, which I deleted.

    I tried repairing the pst files, but that hasn’t worked.

    Any help on this problem would be appreciated, because I can’t find anything online that has worked.

  10. You are all overthinking and over high teching the situation. I had the problem on Outlook 2010 and fixed it the easy way. Go into accounts, dlete the account with the problem ( don’t worry the PST files stay in Docs and Settings so the e-mails are still in your computer), then add a new account (same e-mail account) and it should reload and work happily ever after.

  11. Doug, you might have a different issue that you were able to solve with deleting and re-adding the account. I tried this and it did nothing for my problem. I even re-installed Outlook completely and the same thing happened. Actually, the same thing happened on 2 different computers.

    Only solution that worked for me is the one I posted.

  12. Thank you for the post! This has been driving me nuts, and the fix you suggested (going into through OWA and deleting meeting invites) finally fixed the problem!

  13. I have exactly the same problem as described in the original post by Aurelius, although I use Outlook 2010 and e-mai service of some ISP. Its therefor questionable if Microsoft Exhange server has anything to do with it since my ISP does not use Exchange.

    I solved it through deletion of the meeting request I had in my inbox (through webmail), followed by deletion of the IMAP account in Outlook, and then adding the same account again. This resulted in rebuilding/resyncing of the inbox and solved it. Moving all e-mails to another folder (using webmail), and putting them back again after that also worked.

  14. Pingback: Avast Internet Hotfix | Bevel Reports

  15. Can a “failure to update headers mesaage” be a result of spying via email or forwarding or some other hacking attempt in outlook?

  16. Derrick, I don’t believe this is possible. It more has to do with what is described in this article. Of course, I am not a spy nor a hacker, so I can’t say for sure.

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