Outlook has Blank Emails in the PersonMetadata Folder

Update 4th June 2020

This is a known issue with Microsoft’s guidance on it available here

Original post

If you use the Outlook client and have a mailbox located in Exchange Online, you might discover mystery blank emails located in a folder called ‘PersonMetadata’. They’re unread, with a blank from/to/subject field and no contents visible, with a size of 2KB. Trying to open them results in opening a blank new email.

They don’t turn up in a normal Outlook search, but will show if you create a Search Folder, and you’ll see a lot of them. The folder itself is hidden by default, and you could use MFCMapi to see the folder in someone’s mailbox.

According to this Microsoft Support article, they’re objects used for Outlook Customer Manager, which actually sounds like a pretty useful set of features around tracking customer relationships and sharing contacts.

I logged a case with Microsoft to try and find out more, and see if this could be disabled. I was told that Outlook Customer Manager is actually enabled in all tenants and mailboxes, regardless if the feature is being used or even ‘on’. There are some forums talking about turning this feature off, but the licensing option is only in some tenants (from what I can tell, Business customers) and not an option at all for Enterprise customers. Too bad if you don’t want this feature!

It’s also recommended by support to not delete these items – and more will just turn up anyway don’t waste your time doing that.

There is also possibly a future patch to Outlook to hide these results, but at the time of writing it was only stated as a possibility with no confirmation or ETA.

I did work out a workaround though – adding an extra filter to the Search Folder:

  • Find the Search Folder in Outlook and right click > ‘Customize this search folder’
  • Click the Criteria button.
  • Click the ‘Advanced’ tab and from the ‘Field’ dropdown menu, choose ‘Frequently-used fields’ and then ‘To’.
  • Type ‘@’ into the Value field and press the ‘Add to List’ button.

Your screen should look like this, and press OK. Because the empty looking mail objects have no To or From field, but any normal email will have to have an ‘@’ in the email address, the results you now see for the Search Folder won’t include the blank objects.

For those who use Search Folders, this is a reasonable workaround but let’s hope it gets fixed properly.

Update 7th May 2020

I’ve had a lot of people visit this blog recently, so I’m guessing something more drastic has broken. If you’re using an inbuilt Search Folder, then the ‘Criteria’ button may be greyed out. You can instead create a new Search Folder by right clicking ‘Search Folders’ and choosing ‘New Search Folder’:

From this New Search Folder window, scroll to the bottom and choose ‘Create a custom Search Folder’. Then press the ‘Choose’ button, which should have the ‘Criteria’ button available.

20 thoughts on “Outlook has Blank Emails in the PersonMetadata Folder

  1. Thanks, this led me on a suitable path for a fix.

    Our company uses mailgroups and aliases internally. Therefore not all valid mail addresses contain @. But i set as criteria that the To-field should not be empty.

    1. Ah nice, thanks for sharing Rolf – any way to filter out those blank emails such as you mentioned, as long as it doesn’t filter anything else will do the trick.

  2. This workaround didn`t work for me. because my company colleagues are just referred as “Firstname Lastname” without an @ in the “to” field.
    “From is not empty” works (at least as far as I can see).
    Thanks for the tip though. This issue is really annoying.

    1. @caryxander Then you’re probably looking at one of the prebuilt Search Folders (e.g. For Follow Up, Missed Calls). It has to be a custom search. If that’s not the problem then your administrator has locked down editing.

  3. Criteria Button is greyed out for me as well, also on default “unread mail” search folder. Shame because thats what i use as an indication of unread mail, and i don;t want to mark all as unread since there’s about 5 things that are supposed to remain unread for now. I guess i have to manually mark 1443 items as read. This started when I downlaoded Teams.

    1. OK, had a look. If you’ve chosen an inbuilt Search Folder then it will be greyed out. Instead, right click on the top level Search Folders option, choose ‘New Search Folder’ and then from the list scroll to the bottom and choose ‘Create a custom Search Folder’. I’ll update the blog post.

  4. I had a user with this issue and found the below page before I found yours that seemed to resolve the issue:

    https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/troubleshoot/search/personmetadata-items

    Because I had never heard of Outlook Customer Manager (OCM), I clicked on the hotlink for more information and noted that Microsoft is “retiring” OCM in June 2020. I guess this means the “permanent fix” you were hoping for is just to do away with OCM all together.

  5. Thank you so much. Today, I received this same issue from a customer and your article resolved the issue.

  6. In my case, the reason I came here was that my Unread folder wasn’t zero. It showed I had one PersonMetaData e-mail to read, which only appeared after I “at-mentioned” someone in a reply to another e-mail. I simply “read” the blank e-mail, and my count is zero again.

  7. I tried this process with a new search folder, and the Criteria button is greyed out there as well.
    The other workaround mentioned, which involves:
    a) Right-click the Search Folder, and click Customize This Search Folder.
    b) Click Browse, and deselect the Search Subfolders option.
    c) Manually select the folders you wish to include.
    Is a real pain, because 1) you have to expand and click a lot of stuff (so if you have well-organized email you get punished for that), and 2) any new folder you create thereafter is left out of the search (unless you remember to go back into all your searches and enable searching in that folder as well).

    1. As you say, something has changed, for me just this morning.
      I found that the “@” filter only returned a couple of read items, but this one, from https://github.com/MicrosoftDocs/OfficeDocs-Support/issues/24 did what I needed it to:

      Better: If you right-click the Search Folder, click Customize This Search Folder, click Criteria, then the Advanced tab. Click the Fields button, and select “In Folder” from the “All mail fields” flyout. Set the criteria to “doesn’t contain” and enter PersonMetadata in the value field. This will retain your search folders will avoid listing the ‘blank emails’.

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