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32-bit Outlook displays black boxes, white boxes and/or blank content

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May 2018 update: Microsoft has updated their blog to say that their current recommendation addresses the remaining 32-bit Outlook issues. The recommendation is to use the latest version of Office, which includes the Large Address Aware (LAA) feature. As before, customers may alternatively choose to use 64-bit Office.

Scenario

Some users of the 32-bit versions of Microsoft Office 2013 and 2016 (including the Office 365 versions) who are also on Windows 8 and above, are experiencing an issue where Outlook stops rendering properly, leading to a white screening or black screening effect where text and other graphical elements appear blank. One or more of the following may occur: 
  • ​Black boxes are displayed over Outlook buttons.
  • Sections of Outlook appear white.
  • The Navigation Pane fails to draw all folders properly.
  • Open emails display blank content.
  • Outlook crashes.
User-added image

Note: This image is just one example. The black boxes may appear anywhere in Outlook.

The issue occurs intermittently. It remains until Outlook is restarted.

As diagnosed by Microsoft, this is a rendering failure caused by memory pressure within the 32-bit Outlook process. Memory fragmentation means that Outlook is running out of space for memory allocations within its virtual address space.

Microsoft's recommendations

​1. Update 32-bit Office to get the Large Address Aware (LAA) feature 

Microsoft recommends updating to the latest version of Office to ensure you’re using a version with the LAA feature.

Note: The introduction of the LAA feature first appears in the May 1, 2018 updates for 32-bit Office (KB4018372 for Outlook 2016; KB4018376 for Outlook 2013). These changes have been available in Office 365 since version 1709, build 8528.2147

Microsoft has two notes about this recommendation. 

  • First, some of their customers have indicated the rendering problems do continue after using this option, but they occur with a low enough frequency that their help desks are hardly impacted. Should your help desks continue to be impacted, you must plan for a move to 64-bit Office.
  • Second, this option relies on hardware graphics acceleration, which is not supported on many popular virtualization solutions. If you’re using a virtualization solution, you should ensure it supports hardware graphics acceleration before trying this option.

To check whether you’re currently using a version of Office that supports the LAA feature, follow these steps: 

  1. Download the ZIP folder attached to the bottom of this article called ConfirmLAA.zip.
  2. Create a new folder in a location you'll remember (e.g. your desktop), and extract the files from ConfirmLAA.zip to the new folder.
  3. Open the Command Prompt (Start > run > cmd).
  4. In the Command Prompt, navigate to the folder with the extracted files.
  5. Run the dumpbin command on Outlook's path:
  • Outlook 2013 (Office 365): 
dumpbin /headers "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\Outlook.exe" | more
  • Outlook 2016 (Office 365): 
dumpbin /headers "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\Outlook.exe" | more

Note: If you're using Office 365, add "\root" to the directory path after "\Microsoft Office". E.g. "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\Outlook.exe" 

  1. Run a break command to avoid displaying unneeded output: Ctrl + C
  2. In the output generated from the dumpbin command, look under "FILE HEADER VALUES" for the line "Application can handle large (>2GB) addresses". This line confirms LAA is in use.
 User-added image

2. Use 64-bit Office 

Microsoft strongly recommends that customers upgrade to 64-bit Office. This version of Office provides the ability for add-ins to use up to 128GB of physical memory (assuming the machine provides that much memory), which is substantially more than what’s possible with 32-bit Office and means that the issue is highly unlikely to occur again.

If you choose to upgrade to 64-bit Office, you must also use the 64-bit version of Workshare, which you can get for free. See the system requirements and download instructions in Important information for 64-bit download.

Additional mitigations

If you're unable to use one of Microsoft's recommendations, there are several mitigations you can take to decrease the frequency of the issue.

​Update all COM add-ins

Any COM add-in used with Outlook may be affecting the rendering issue and, as such, the issue has been to reported many of our technology partners. You should update all your COM add-ins to ensure you're using the latest technology available.

To see which COM add-ins you're using, in Outlook, go to File Options > Add-Ins, then ensure the Manage field is set to COM Add-ins and click Go.

Restart Outlook

The rendering failures occur when Outlook runs out space for memory allocations within its virtual memory space. When Outlook is restarted, its virtual memory allocations are reset so the issue is temporarily resolved until the virtual memory allocations are depleted again.

Enable hardware graphics acceleration

To enable this option, in Outlook, go to File Options > Advanced and deselect Disable hardware graphics acceleration.

User-added image

Disable animations when expanding conversations and groups

By default, Outlook displays a brief animation while expanding message conversations or groups. This animation can reproduce a rendering issue where black or white boxes are displayed in Outlook, which, at first glance, appears to be the virtual memory fragmentation issue. However, this is actually a separate issue which affects both 32-bit and 64-bit Office.

You can reduce the frequency of this issue by disabling the animation. To turn the animation option off, in Outlook, go to File > Options > Advanced and deselect Use animations when expanding conversations and groups.

If you're uncertain whether you're experiencing the animations issue or the memory fragmentation issue, try turning animations off and see if the issue subsides. It it does, it was likely the source of the problem.

Use Workshare's latest metadata cleaning process

Workshare has changed the way it cleans metadata. The new method no longer resides in the Outlook process, which reduces the amount of virtual memory required to the absolute minimum. This new cleaning process may decrease the frequency of the issue.

Upgrade to the latest version of Workshare and run a REG key to enable the new metadata cleaning process

Note 1: This functionality was first introduced with Workshare 9.5.2.
Note 2: These steps involve modifying the Registry. The Registry is not backed up automatically so changes to the Registry cannot be undone. If you're not familiar with the Registry or you'd like assistance, please contact Workshare Support.
  1. Go to the Workshare Download Center.
  2. Click Download for Windows. Workshare.Professional.Bundle.exe downloads.
  3. Install Workshare.Professional.Bundle.exe.
  1. Make a backup of the ProtectAdmin key:
    1. Open the Registry Editor (Start > regedit.exe).
    2. Browse to the ProtectAdmin key:
      • If you'll be deploying the new key to the current user: 
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Workshare\Options\9.05\Protect\ProtectAdmin
  • If you'll be deploying the new key to the local machine: 
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Workshare\Options\9.05\Protect\ProtectAdmin
  1. ​Right click the ProtectAdmin key and select Export.
  2. Choose a save location.
  1. Download the ZIP folder attached to the bottom of this article called WS9.5_RegKeys_Clean.zip.
  2. Create a new folder in a location you'll remember (e.g. your desktop), and extract the files from WS9.5_RegKeys_Clean.zip to the new folder.
  3. From the extracted files, double-click a REG key to install it:
    • To deploy to the current user: HKCU_ForceCleanOutOfProcess.reg
    • To deploy to the local machine: HKLM_ForceCleanOutOfProcess.reg

If you're on Workshare 9.5 or Workshare 9.5.1 and you're unable to upgrade

You can get a patch for Workshare 9.5 and Workshare 9.5.1 that includes this updated cleaning process. Please raise a case to Workshare Support and request patch CR01111190.

Note: The patch deploys the registry key required to enable the new metadata cleaning process.

Summary

Microsoft has acknowledged that the issue seems to surface most frequently on high-resolution monitors and multi-monitor configurations.

Workshare has conducted an in-depth investigation to confirm how much memory is used by the Workshare COM add-in. The investigation has concluded that it consumes very little memory. If you're concerned, you can update to Workshare's latest metadata cleaning process, which takes the processing out of Outlook entirely (see the Mitigations section of this article). 

Test the issue

If you'd like to validate whether you're experiencing the virtual memory issue described in this article, you can collect a log of the activity that occurs at the time of the problem and send it to us.

Note: Restarting Outlook temporarily resolves the issue, so if you're experiencing the issue at the time of reading this, avoid restarting Outlook before following the steps.

This issue has very similar symptoms to an issue with the brief animations Outlook displays when expanding message conversations or groups. Because the animation issue is easy to test, Workshare recommends you first try turning animations off.

  1. In Outlook, go to File > Options > Advanced.
  2. Deselect Use animations when expanding conversations and groups.

If the issue persists, follow these steps to capture a log:

  1. Download VMMAP, which is used to capture logs.
  2. Extract VMMAP.zip to a location you'll remember.
  3. From the extracted files, run vmmap.exe.
  4. Ensure that Outlook is running and is currently exhibiting the problem.
  5. Click the View a running process tab.
  6. Select Outlook.exe and click OK.
  7. Click File > Save as and choose a save location for the log file. Ensure that the Save as type is .mmp.
  8. Close VMMAP.
  9. Rase a Support case and attach the log file.
Attachment
Attachment 
Attachment 
Attachment 
May 2018 update: Microsoft has updated their blog to say that their current recommendation addresses the remaining 32-bit Outlook issues. The recommendation is to use the latest version of Office, which includes the Large Address Aware (LAA) feature. As before, customers may alternatively choose to use 64-bit Office.

Scenario

Some users of the 32-bit versions of Microsoft Office 2013 and 2016 (including the Office 365 versions) who are also on Windows 8 and above, are experiencing an issue where Outlook stops rendering properly, leading to a white screening or black screening effect where text and other graphical elements appear blank. One or more of the following may occur: 
  • ​Black boxes are displayed over Outlook buttons.
  • Sections of Outlook appear white.
  • The Navigation Pane fails to draw all folders properly.
  • Open emails display blank content.
  • Outlook crashes.
User-added image

Note: This image is just one example. The black boxes may appear anywhere in Outlook.

The issue occurs intermittently. It remains until Outlook is restarted.

As diagnosed by Microsoft, this is a rendering failure caused by memory pressure within the 32-bit Outlook process. Memory fragmentation means that Outlook is running out of space for memory allocations within its virtual address space.

Microsoft's recommendations

​1. Update 32-bit Office to get the Large Address Aware (LAA) feature 

Microsoft recommends updating to the latest version of Office to ensure you’re using a version with the LAA feature.

Note: The introduction of the LAA feature first appears in the May 1, 2018 updates for 32-bit Office (KB4018372 for Outlook 2016; KB4018376 for Outlook 2013). These changes have been available in Office 365 since version 1709, build 8528.2147

Microsoft has two notes about this recommendation. 

  • First, some of their customers have indicated the rendering problems do continue after using this option, but they occur with a low enough frequency that their help desks are hardly impacted. Should your help desks continue to be impacted, you must plan for a move to 64-bit Office.
  • Second, this option relies on hardware graphics acceleration, which is not supported on many popular virtualization solutions. If you’re using a virtualization solution, you should ensure it supports hardware graphics acceleration before trying this option.

To check whether you’re currently using a version of Office that supports the LAA feature, follow these steps: 

  1. Download the ZIP folder attached to the bottom of this article called ConfirmLAA.zip.
  2. Create a new folder in a location you'll remember (e.g. your desktop), and extract the files from ConfirmLAA.zip to the new folder.
  3. Open the Command Prompt (Start > run > cmd).
  4. In the Command Prompt, navigate to the folder with the extracted files.
  5. Run the dumpbin command on Outlook's path:
  • Outlook 2013 (Office 365): 
dumpbin /headers "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office15\Outlook.exe" | more
  • Outlook 2016 (Office 365): 
dumpbin /headers "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office16\Outlook.exe" | more

Note: If you're using Office 365, add "\root" to the directory path after "\Microsoft Office". E.g. "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\Outlook.exe" 

  1. Run a break command to avoid displaying unneeded output: Ctrl + C
  2. In the output generated from the dumpbin command, look under "FILE HEADER VALUES" for the line "Application can handle large (>2GB) addresses". This line confirms LAA is in use.
 User-added image

2. Use 64-bit Office 

Microsoft strongly recommends that customers upgrade to 64-bit Office. This version of Office provides the ability for add-ins to use up to 128GB of physical memory (assuming the machine provides that much memory), which is substantially more than what’s possible with 32-bit Office and means that the issue is highly unlikely to occur again.

If you choose to upgrade to 64-bit Office, you must also use the 64-bit version of Workshare, which you can get for free. See the system requirements and download instructions in Important information for 64-bit download.

Additional mitigations

If you're unable to use one of Microsoft's recommendations, there are several mitigations you can take to decrease the frequency of the issue.

​Update all COM add-ins

Any COM add-in used with Outlook may be affecting the rendering issue and, as such, the issue has been to reported many of our technology partners. You should update all your COM add-ins to ensure you're using the latest technology available.

To see which COM add-ins you're using, in Outlook, go to File Options > Add-Ins, then ensure the Manage field is set to COM Add-ins and click Go.

Restart Outlook

The rendering failures occur when Outlook runs out space for memory allocations within its virtual memory space. When Outlook is restarted, its virtual memory allocations are reset so the issue is temporarily resolved until the virtual memory allocations are depleted again.

Enable hardware graphics acceleration

To enable this option, in Outlook, go to File Options > Advanced and deselect Disable hardware graphics acceleration.

User-added image

Disable animations when expanding conversations and groups

By default, Outlook displays a brief animation while expanding message conversations or groups. This animation can reproduce a rendering issue where black or white boxes are displayed in Outlook, which, at first glance, appears to be the virtual memory fragmentation issue. However, this is actually a separate issue which affects both 32-bit and 64-bit Office.

You can reduce the frequency of this issue by disabling the animation. To turn the animation option off, in Outlook, go to File > Options > Advanced and deselect Use animations when expanding conversations and groups.

If you're uncertain whether you're experiencing the animations issue or the memory fragmentation issue, try turning animations off and see if the issue subsides. It it does, it was likely the source of the problem.

Use Workshare's latest metadata cleaning process

Workshare has changed the way it cleans metadata. The new method no longer resides in the Outlook process, which reduces the amount of virtual memory required to the absolute minimum. This new cleaning process may decrease the frequency of the issue.

Upgrade to the latest version of Workshare and run a REG key to enable the new metadata cleaning process

Note 1: This functionality was first introduced with Workshare 9.5.2.
Note 2: These steps involve modifying the Registry. The Registry is not backed up automatically so changes to the Registry cannot be undone. If you're not familiar with the Registry or you'd like assistance, please contact Workshare Support.
  1. Go to the Workshare Download Center.
  2. Click Download for Windows. Workshare.Professional.Bundle.exe downloads.
  3. Install Workshare.Professional.Bundle.exe.
  1. Make a backup of the ProtectAdmin key:
    1. Open the Registry Editor (Start > regedit.exe).
    2. Browse to the ProtectAdmin key:
      • If you'll be deploying the new key to the current user: 
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Workshare\Options\9.05\Protect\ProtectAdmin
  • If you'll be deploying the new key to the local machine: 
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Workshare\Options\9.05\Protect\ProtectAdmin
  1. ​Right click the ProtectAdmin key and select Export.
  2. Choose a save location.
  1. Download the ZIP folder attached to the bottom of this article called WS9.5_RegKeys_Clean.zip.
  2. Create a new folder in a location you'll remember (e.g. your desktop), and extract the files from WS9.5_RegKeys_Clean.zip to the new folder.
  3. From the extracted files, double-click a REG key to install it:
    • To deploy to the current user: HKCU_ForceCleanOutOfProcess.reg
    • To deploy to the local machine: HKLM_ForceCleanOutOfProcess.reg

If you're on Workshare 9.5 or Workshare 9.5.1 and you're unable to upgrade

You can get a patch for Workshare 9.5 and Workshare 9.5.1 that includes this updated cleaning process. Please raise a case to Workshare Support and request patch CR01111190.

Note: The patch deploys the registry key required to enable the new metadata cleaning process.

Summary

Microsoft has acknowledged that the issue seems to surface most frequently on high-resolution monitors and multi-monitor configurations.

Workshare has conducted an in-depth investigation to confirm how much memory is used by the Workshare COM add-in. The investigation has concluded that it consumes very little memory. If you're concerned, you can update to Workshare's latest metadata cleaning process, which takes the processing out of Outlook entirely (see the Mitigations section of this article). 

Test the issue

If you'd like to validate whether you're experiencing the virtual memory issue described in this article, you can collect a log of the activity that occurs at the time of the problem and send it to us.

Note: Restarting Outlook temporarily resolves the issue, so if you're experiencing the issue at the time of reading this, avoid restarting Outlook before following the steps.

This issue has very similar symptoms to an issue with the brief animations Outlook displays when expanding message conversations or groups. Because the animation issue is easy to test, Workshare recommends you first try turning animations off.

  1. In Outlook, go to File > Options > Advanced.
  2. Deselect Use animations when expanding conversations and groups.

If the issue persists, follow these steps to capture a log:

  1. Download VMMAP, which is used to capture logs.
  2. Extract VMMAP.zip to a location you'll remember.
  3. From the extracted files, run vmmap.exe.
  4. Ensure that Outlook is running and is currently exhibiting the problem.
  5. Click the View a running process tab.
  6. Select Outlook.exe and click OK.
  7. Click File > Save as and choose a save location for the log file. Ensure that the Save as type is .mmp.
  8. Close VMMAP.
  9. Rase a Support case and attach the log file.

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