Offline Files Service Crashing/Unavailable

by Ed Sparks

A common scenario that bites many a company that extensively uses Windows imaging for deployments, is that Offline Files completely melts down after a newly imaged system is setup.

This will show up in the event logs as the Offline Files service being unable to start, Folder Redirection breaking etc.  The first sign is usually a system event log error like

Windows could not start the Offline Files service.
Error 3: The system cannot find the path specified.

The best resolution is to make sure the reference system (where you took the image from) always has Offline Files disabled before the image is taken, in addition to Sysprep being run.

However, if you've already taken an and applied an image and have a broken system, then thankfully the fix is simple.  Just set a registry key to reset ("Format") the Offline Files ("Client side cache") database.  On Windows 7 and 8, this can be easily done by running the following from an Administrative command line:

REG ADD "HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters" /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f

Reboot the computer, and the Offline Files database will be reset and recreated.  Offline Files should start normally, and things like Folder Redirection and the like will follow.


Offline Files, Folder Redirection and DFS are some of the most complex to configure Microsoft technologies with an enormous amount of gotchas and hotfixes.  It's one of our most frequently requested support items from customers.   We've developed a great deal of expertise and best practices around these and will be posting an article soon detailing our findings.

In the meantime, why not contact us to help today!