Why Isn’t My Office Communicator Address Book Updating?

A very common scenario in OCS 2007 and 2007 R2 is that client computers do not get updates to the Address Book right away. I know that this has been blogged about by many people that are more knowledgeable about OCS than I am, but I still think it needs additional visibility.

There are many times when we need to update the Address Book before the next automated update. For example, if I add a couple of hundred users, and I want my existing clients to be able to search for them by using their Address Book, I need to take a couple of steps.

First, I need to synch my Active Directory changes (the new accounts or the newly OCS enabled accounts) to the address book by updating the files in the address book shared location that is published by IIS. We generally use abserver.exe –syncnow to force the changes (and only the changes) in AD to propagate to OCS.

Second, we need to get our clients to get the updates. Normally, the Communicator client will update itself from the Address Book files location when Communicator client is started. However, it will perform the update at a random time between 0 and 60 minutes. This can cause unpredictable behaviors when there are updates that need to be downloaded and applied. Some users will immediately see the changes, while others will not see changes for a much longer time.

The issue here is that these differences between what users see can generate calls to the help desk that really are not required. Time will pass and eventually everyone will get the update. Of course, there is good reason for this behavior. If everyone logs in around the same time every day (the start of business), then an excessive load will be placed on the environment and it will even cause performance problems.

So, what is my point? It is simply that it might be a great idea to have the random offset of 0-60 minutes, but there are some individuals where this just isn’t acceptable. For example, if I am an administrator and I get calls saying that the Address Book search is not finding somebody, and the calls are from VIPs in the company, I really need a way to test to make sure that the names can be found. I need a way to verify that the Address Book is really updated, but I can’t do that if I am also impacted by the 0-60 minute offset. The answer is simple, we need to implement a registry hack.

  1. Open the Registry Editor
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Communicator (Note: The Communicator key might need to be created)
  3. Create a  DWORD Value for GalDownloadInitialDelay with a value of 0 and then click OK and close the Registry Editor.

Elan Shudnow’s blog discusses this same scenario, but Elan also includes the settings to make this all work when running on a x64 version of the client operating system.

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