Office 2013 error: “Sorry, we are having some temporary server issues” – fix it by clearing a key in the registry

Update 27/02/14: Microsoft have released Service Pack 1 for Office 2013, and still does not contain a fix for the below issue.

Recently we began using Office 365 accounts with the Office 2013 desktop suite, and during a roll-out session for staff, almost everyone in the room got this error message when trying to load the sign-in screen for their Office 365 account for the first time:

Sorry, we are having some temporary server issues. Try again. Cancel.

“Sorry, we are having some temporary server issues.”

The error occurred even before asking for any login details, and a quick check of our Internet access logs revealed that Word wasn’t even attempting to contact a server. I hadn’t seen this during testing, and we couldn’t work past the error when we encountered it, so the roll-out session was a bust. To say I was irritated is somewhat of an understatement.

After the session, I realised I had seen something very similar before, when a teacher reported about a month ago that a class full of pupils could not get get the Online Pictures button on the Insert ribbon to work. Lo and behold, the same thing was happening for the affected staff accounts:

Sorry, we are having some temporary server issues. You can work offline if you plan to insert pictures from your computer. Try again. Work offfline. Cancel.

“Sorry, we are having some temporary server issues. You can work offline if you plan to insert pictures from your computer.”

After a couple of hours in the office turning the air blue, I discovered 3 things:

  1. These problems are related,
  2. it’s not a server issue, and
  3. it’s not bloody temporary.

I didn’t find much useful online when searching for this error message, other than a few people having trouble activating the Office 365 Click-to-Run apps, and no-one knew how to fix it. Originally I found that uninstalling some of the Office 2013 updates helped (KB2768349, KB2767861, and KB2760624), but this turned out to be only a temporary workaround.

The root cause

When the problem came back again, I found I could also get rid of the problem by deleting the user’s roaming profile from the server, at which point I could sign in to Office 365 on the first computer they used (i.e. the one on which their new roaming profile was created), but the same user would then fail as soon as they used a different computer (with the same roaming profile).

That led me to suspect that Word was storing something outside the user’s roaming profile that it was relying on finding again later, but couldn’t find on a different machine because, well, it wasn’t in the roaming profile. I ran Procmon and looked for Word making any direct references to the user’s local copy of their roaming profile on the C:\ drive. Something quickly stood out:

AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com\config15--lcid=1033&syslcid=2057&uilcid=1033&build=15.0.4433&crev=10

I’ve looked at enough process traces over the years to know a dead giveaway when I see one. A direct reference to office15.microsoft.com in the user’s local AppData directory (which doesn’t roam), in a location that was retrieved immediately beforehand from the registry (which does roam). The offending registry value was:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Internet\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com\config15--lcid=1033&syslcid=2057&uilcid=1033&build=15.0.4433&crev=1\FilePath

Which referenced the following file location:

C:\Users\teststaff\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com\config15--lcid=1033&syslcid=2057&uilcid=1033&build=15.0.4433&crev=10

Because this file doesn’t roam, it was missing from any logon other than on the first computer the account was used on.

The exact key name may differ on your system, since it contains references to the Office and system locale IDs (1033 for English US and 2057 for English UK) and also the current build version of the MSO.DLL installed on your system. That version changes with each cumulative update for Office that is released on Windows update. Basically, look at everything under the office15client.microsoft.com key.

What fixed it

Deleting the offending key from the registry immediately fixed the problem, but only on that computer. If the user then went to a third computer that didn’t have the correct file in the local AppData, the problem would come right back.

I toyed with the idea of simply clearing the entire HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Internet\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com key at logon, since there appeared to be no side effects to doing so (other than that Office would actually bloody work properly), but that seemed like a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut. After all, the cache must be there for a reason, so why reset it when it works?

Instead, I deployed the below logon script to all my roaming profile users via Group Policy. The script enumerates every entry under the office15client.microsoft.com key and checks to see if the on-disk cache file is present. If it is, it leaves it alone. If the file is missing, it removes the registry entry that refers to it.

Result? All users can now log on to any computer and use Office 365 successfully.

Const HKEY_CURRENT_USER = &H80000001

Set oReg = GetObject("winmgmts:{impersonationLevel=impersonate}!\\.\root\default:StdRegProv")
Set oFS = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")

'Location of Office 2013 Web Service Cache data
sCacheKeyPath = "Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Internet\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com"
oReg.EnumKey HKEY_CURRENT_USER, sCacheKeyPath, arrsubKeys

'Check each cache
If IsArray(arrsubKeys) Then
	For Each subKey In arrsubKeys
		sServiceKeyPath = sCacheKeyPath & "\" & subKey
		sKeyPath = sServiceKeyPath & "\0"
		'Find where the on-disk cache data is supposed to be
		oReg.GetStringValue HKEY_CURRENT_USER, sKeyPath, "FilePath", sValue

		'If we got the location from the registry
		If Not IsNull(sValue) Then
			'Check it exists
			If Not oFS.FileExists(sValue) Then
				'Delete the cache location from the registry if the on-disk file is not there.
				oReg.DeleteKey HKEY_CURRENT_USER, sKeyPath
				oReg.DeleteKey HKEY_CURRENT_USER, sServiceKeyPath
			End If
		End If
	Next
End If

Note: There are other things that could cause this error message

As you may have gathered, this error message is pretty vague, and the problem outlined above with roaming profiles is not the only thing that can cause this error. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to fix any other cause of this error, so if you aren’t using roaming profiles the above may not work for you. The only other suggestion I’ve seen that works for other causes is to create the user profile entirely, which is pretty drastic.

Conclusion

At least in our case, the problem seems to be triggered by a roaming profile user who first uses Office 2013 on one computer, then logs onto a different computer that they have not used before. Then, instead of realising the cache file it is looking for is missing and recreating it, Office throws an utterly false and misleading error message.

How this bug made it into production is beyond me; I can only speculate that Microsoft’s new-found love for BYOD means they have simply stopped properly testing roaming profile scenarios, which means we can look forward to a lot more of these sorts of bugs in future. Hopefully at some point they’ll fix this one, but until then, enjoy the above script as a workaround.

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About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

45 responses to “Office 2013 error: “Sorry, we are having some temporary server issues” – fix it by clearing a key in the registry”

  1. Dave Clark says :

    Good work. Nice to see you channelling that anger into results!

  2. Balasubramanian says :

    I did the same, but the problem still exists. What is the alternative?

    • The Angry Technician says :

      If you are still getting the message then you have a different problem – and I haven’t seen any other solutions.

      • GPB says :

        Clearing reg key wasn’t the whole solution for me. Discovered disabling IPv6 by GPO (http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/5927.how-to-disable-ipv6-through-group-policy.aspx) and ensuring a new user with a fresh roaming profile had already used Internet Explorer. (Win 8, IE 10)

      • Joyce H. says :

        Actually, I went through a certain cycle of debugging this same problem. I have to agree with Angry Technician that this seems to be a catchall error message. The things I learned through my experimentation:

        1. There seems to be a connection between Office 2013 and Internet Explorer. I went to Internet options and reset IE via the Advanced tab.
        2. You don’t have to be logged on in order to Insert Online pictures but of this function is not working properly it will give the same server issues error message used by the sign on failure process.
        3. If you do use the IE reset solution, be prepared to manually tinker to the options to make other software work. I ended up having to enable a Java option that got disabled by the reset.

        Happy Computing Folks!

        Joyce

  3. Jason says :

    Thanks man same issue, deploying thick image with Office 2013. Running reg fix on image before deploying.

  4. Kevin says :

    Wrote a simple solution in PowerShell. We wipe local profiles on log off, so I just opted to delete the entire SubTree. Office recreates the whole thing on startup.

    $base = “HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Internet\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com”
    $key = Get-Item -Path $base

    $subkeys = $key.GetSubKeyNames();

    foreach($sub in $subkeys)
    {
    $path = “$base\$sub”
    Remove-Item -Path $path -Recurse -Force
    }

  5. David says :

    Thank you VERY much, helped my solve my issue!

  6. Eldemar says :

    I dont have the folder

    Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common\Internet\WebServiceCache

    inside the ‘\Internet’ folder there are just some files and no other folders
    is that possible?

    office 365 just installed on a win7 64bit machine

    • The Angry Technician says :

      Then you have a different problem. If you have never been able to sign in then the folder would never be populated, which could explain why it is empty. I suspect it is a symptom though, not a cause.

      This error message is very vague and can be displayed as a result of several different problems in different circumstances. I only know how to fix it in the specific case above that involves roaming profiles.

      • Eldemar says :

        Thanks for the quickly reply, I’ll try to solve it someway and if I solve it I’ll post here how to get there

  7. UsersWillKillMe says :

    i just had this same issue on a standalone laptop, no roaming profiles nothing. The laptop had just been restored using the restoration partition and office was the first thing i installed (after uninstalling all the crap that comes with a new laptop these days)

    removing the registry keys did not resolve my issue, but i decided to create a new profile on the laptop and login as that new profile and viola, it worked.

    crazy issue to receive, and zero work around in office 2013 either, if they don’t think you can connect to the activation server, its literally tough luck!

  8. Ziad says :

    Guys, non of the above worked. any other options? it is really frustrating?

  9. Aftab A Ansari says :

    So these activation problems have existed for several months, but Microsoft has not come up with a fix?

  10. Ralph J. says :

    We are working with roaming profiles and your solution did the trick for us. Thank you very much.
    Also, I suppose you are right – M$ seems to be totally on BYOD and not care about caring about their users’ tried & trusted environments. On M$’s German help boards the admins are totally clueless about this issue.

  11. McKensie Mack says :

    Angry Technician, I am in love with you!. I just encountered this issue today and am admittedly not the most tech savvy person I know. After hours of searching through Microsoft community forums, I found you. Happily, I was able to follow the instructions you provided, and the issue is now solved! Thanks so much! So happy I can get back to work.

  12. anil says :

    hell! i bought HUP license of MS office 2013 pro… getting same error. Similar to Eldemar. After HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\Common, can’t find other folders. Seems dont have roaming profile problem

    • Aftab A Ansari says :

      I called Microsoft Tech support. They fixed it in minutes!

      • Eldemar says :

        I’m gonna call them when I get back to the computer with this issue (this monday at my job)

        do you have any idea about what they did to solve the issue?

        it’s frustrating when you buy something and it has this kind of issue even before you start to use it, I’m pretty sure Microsoft can be more efficient than this…

  13. Fata Cowa says :

    First, thank you, Angry Tech — great website. After implementing the described solution, i still had trouble. Bottom line is, i needed to get the MS Office product key entered somehow. Since the proposed solutions across the web all seem profile related, I tried creating a brand-new user on my system — you know: username, password. Anyway, went into this bare-bones account and opened Excel. Miracle! This time, no “server” message. Instead it prompted me to type in my product key! Yay, I have my life back! Note that i tried using all existing users on my system and got nowhere. Only one of the user accounts had a key in
    C:\Users\\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com
    I don’t know what the technicals of this solution are, but it worked. My other user IDs are old and ugly from a decade of use, so i’m sure some hidden conflicts lurk. Fresh and clean might work for you, too, i hope. Once i got the product key entered, i could delete the dummy profile and use Office from the old user accounts.

    • Zimarie says :

      Fata Cowa,

      How you did it? Can you explain how to create different account and password? (What kind of account)

      • Fata Cowa says :

        hi Zimarie,
        Here are the detailed steps to create the bare-bones Windows8 user to activate your MS Office 2013

        1. Log in using the PC administrator user account (the only user who can add new users)
        2. Go to the start screen for Windows 8.
        3. Mouse to upper or lower right corner to get the icons to appear on the right side of the screen
        4. Click on the one that looks like a gear (Settings). At the bottom right of the screen there should now be a text label. “Change PC settings”
        5. Click on “Change PC settings”. This should bring up the “PC settings” screen.
        6. If “Users” is not already highlighted, click on it.
        7. In the lower middle part of the screen, you should see “Add a user”. Click on that.
        8. A new screen should come up prompting for an email address, but skip all that becuz we want to create a minimal dummy profile only.
        9. Do “Sign in without a Microsoft account”. At the next screen, click the middle button “Local Account”.
        10. Finally you should be at the screen where you can set up the new user. I set username to “username”, password to “password”, and hint to “hint”. Once the MS Office activation is done, you can delete this dummy user.
        11. Click “Next”, then “Finish”.
        12. From here, you can go back to the Windows start screen (mouse to lower left corner) and logout.
        13. I did a total Windows restart, just to be sure, and then logged in with the new dummy user account.
        ******Do not do any setup whatsoever for this user! Only open MS Office from the Windows start screen. Don’t open Internet Explorer or anything else that might damage your nice clean dummy user.
        14. Once MS Office opens, it should automatically prompt you to do the activation. If not, navigate to it. At this point, you should notice the “Sorry, we are having…” message is gone and you can type your activation code.
        15. Hopefully, it worked for you. Now you can log out of the dummy user, log back in as the admin user, test MS Office, then delete the dummy profile. To delete it, you have to open the Control Panel, click “User Accounts and Family Safety”, click “Remove User Accounts”. Select the dummy user and remove.

        • rae says :

          thank you
          after getting server error message all day, i followed your advice and created a new user account.
          IT WORKED FIRST TIME
          i’m now up and running :)

  14. Senthil Nathan says :

    I had the same problem, looked up the internet for almost a day then finally found this site but found the solution to be difficult than the problem, so just trying my luck clicked Setup file of Office again there it asked me for a product key just entered that and got my office up and running. For those who still facee the problem just try this and if it still not works follow instruction above :)

    • Tiffany says :

      THANK YOU SO MUCH! I just got the Microsoft Word 2013 for free from my district and I’ve been trying to get it up and working all day! I tried what Fata Cowa said and it did get me past the error message, but all the other click-able icons were inactive! This solved my problem right away! Thank you!

  15. Roger says :

    I had the same issue, but all I had to do to clear it was to Reset my IE to remove my Personal Settings (tip from another blog)

  16. Tim says :

    WORKED FOR ME:

    I followed Fata’s solution above and it worked for me:
    1. Created a NEW User Account, Admin privileges;
    2. Logged out of the old account, Logged into the new account;
    3. Started Word (or any Office program, I guess), and logged into my
    Office 365 account
    4. Copied the “office15client.microsoft.com” folder from the new account
    to the old account
    C:\Users\TimHatesMS\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com
    –to–
    C:\Users\Tim\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Office\15.0\WebServiceCache\AllUsers\office15client.microsoft.com

    5. Logged into the old account, opened Word and logged into 365 account
    6. Deleted new account

    Worked like a charm.

    • Ashish says :

      I made a new account to activate it but realized that back in my old account while it stayed activated, I still couldn’t get Office to connect to my Skydrive due to the server connection issue.

      Resetting the IE settings resolved the server connection issue though :
      http://support.microsoft.com/kb/923737

      • Hannes says :

        I want to back up Ashish’s version/solution.

        Tried some of the suggested solutions here (except the original one, because unfortunately I have no clue where to “deploy the logon script”…). The new user workaround didn’t work for me.

        Resetting the Internet settings worked, finally! Although I didn’t do it as explained in the knowledge base article, I just went through the control panel without the detour via the Internet Explorer (which isn’t even installed on my system anymore).

        Good luck to everyone else facing this problem!

      • rdcnetworks says :

        Ashish was 100% right – after trying everything else under the sun, a Reset of IE fixed it! 30 seconds and you’re done

  17. JohanH says :

    Hi everyone,

    just wanted to let everyone know.
    i am on an proplus enterprise plan, and I am limited to online activations.
    There are no product keys for my situation.

    I have tried the solutions offered here, and none would work for me, until I clicked the setup button from the microsoftonline portal to reinstall via streaming download, when it reported that my browsers TLS settings where off.

    Once the TLS settings were activated, everything worked fine.

    Just one more thing to look at when installing

  18. Graeme Davie says :

    Hi AT,

    I have exactly the same problem….I delete the reg key and ‘bingo’ it works. When i try and run the script at logon through a group policy it doesn’t seem to clear the error, I tested in my lab as and as the error would not recreate thought it had done the trick. so I rolled it out to the ICT suite 25pc’s but when I was testing the error re-occoured. now I’m not sure if the script is working or not. but when I delete the reg key it works again.

    Can you advise if I’m doing something wrong.

    Thanks
    GrazyD

    • The Angry Technician says :

      Are you running it as a Logon script in the User section of the GPO or the Computer section? It needs to be in the User section.

      • Graeme Davie says :

        I was using it under the user section but I have since fixed the issue by adding a simple batch file to delete the reg key that runs when the users logon, a sledge hammer to crack a nut as you said earlier, but it works for me. Thanks for the poast by they way.

  19. Rob Welsh says :

    Google Apps anyone?

  20. Robinson says :

    Go to Internet Explorer Options and in the Advanced tab click to Reset Internet Explorer Settings. Close and restart IE and verify it loads webpages. Test Office again and you should see it working.

  21. Tim says :

    Thanks so much for sharing this registry key fixed. It solved a lot of angst (and a broken Office 365) for me!!

  22. Ben says :

    Sir you are a genius and have saved me from raging anymore (at least at this particular problem!) Thank you! :)

  23. Steve says :

    A massive thank-you for the solution to this problem. I shudder to think how much this would have challenged my sanity if I’d had to go through MS tech support to resolve this.
    Given that you took the time to write up such an excellent blog, I thought I should also take the time to write-up my details in the hope that they might also help someone, somewhere …
    This issue hit me when installing OneDrive for Business. I split my time between a laptop and a desktop and as I’ve started to move things into the cloud I seem to have settled on Microsoft’s product suite. (Given this blog post, whether this turns out to be a good decision or not only time will tell).
    I don’t yet run Office 365. My cloud presence so far only includes two Exchange Online mailboxes. OneDrive for business was my next cloud app of choice to provide for some shared storage between my laptop and desktop.
    The installation of OneDrive for Business went perfectly on my laptop. I barely even noticed it. it’s exactly how computers should work. I even thought to myself, blimey, that’s properly good. Then a couple of days later when I came to install OneDrive on my desktop I hit this exact issue.
    Google’ing for the answer is not easy as the error message is pretty generic. I’m also very reluctant to go mauling with my registry. I rely on the technology being stable far too much for that.
    This blog post demonstrated such a depth of understanding of what was going on (tips hat to The Angry Technician here as someone who appears to be truly at the top of their game) that I gave it a try.
    And this fix worked perfectly for me.
    When I next launched OneDrive it spotted that something was wrong, asked me to sign-in, and from there onwards it seems to have worked fine.
    To be safe I didn’t delete the registry key completely, instead I renamed it. Something I would recommend to anyone about to try anything that mauls with the registry.
    Now that OneDrive is up and running it seems to have put that registry key back in place for me. Both the FilePath and Url entries under the new registry key seem exactly the same as they were under the old registry key.
    So it seems then that this is some really sloppy programming on the part of whoever developed it; to just die horribly if it doesn’t find a cached file (which feels like it is part of the sign-on and authentication system). And it seems that it’s also some really sloppy testing on the part of whoever tested it.
    And per The Angry Technician’s update of 27-02-14 that Microsoft have not fixed this bug in Office 2013 SP1. That’s indefensible. Come on Microsoft. You should be better than this!

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