Office Support and Recovery Assistant Tool

I was just made aware of this useful tool by Microsoft Support – the Microsoft Support and Recovery Assistant for Office 365 (also known as ‘SaRA’).

Even better, it’s not just for Office 365, other Office products can be scanned using this tool such as Outlook in Office 2010, 2013 and 2016.

The article above has a step by step guide for scanning Outlook for problems. It takes a few minutes to run, but will identify a bunch of possible issues you may have. But, from the results I see, I’d say everyone should run this tool regardless!

For example, my scan came up with this as one of the issues found:

The link goes here which then goes into details about the problem. I had noticed in Outlook 2016 by default, that users had sometimes mentioned they could no longer delete items from mailboxes they only had Inbox access to, and I assumed this was a change in behavior from Outlook 2010. This tells you how to toggle that setting if you’d rather the deleted items go to the other person’s mailbox, which removes the need for the delegate to have access to someone else’s deleted items.

If I’d run this at the start of the Office 2016 deployment during testing, it would have given me a better idea of potential issues that might come up. Here’s another one:

That’s not ideal at all! Again the link goes into more detail and this one seems really important –

Since it was patched in 2010 and 2013, but 2016 needs a registry change to fix it (why would they not just change the registry value in 2016 with an update?). This is something that may never get picked up without running this utility.
I’ve now got some work ahead of me to go through the rest of the issues from my scan, do testing and hopefully improve things. I’ve only looked at the Outlook component so far, and there’s other scans I’ll also need to try. Check it out and hopefully it’ll help you too.

Microsoft MVP 2018-2019

Hi Everyone,

I’m very happy to share the news that I’ve been renewed as a Microsoft MVP for Cloud and Datacenter Management (yes, I have to use the U.S. spelling ;) ) for the 2018-2019!

This is my first renewal, where I received the award at the start of 2017. Microsoft changed it’s methods, so I lasted 1 1/2 years before being re-assesed, along with the rest of the world’s MVPs.  If you want to get an idea on how happy people are about being re-awarded, check out the Twitter hashtag #MVPBuzz! Also a great way to find people to follow, as they’ll generally be sharing lots of interesting and helpful information for those who care about Microsoft technologies.

I figure it’s worth rehashing the two main questions people have about Microsoft MVPs:

 

What I do to be a MVP:

Becoming and staying as a MVP has some extra work involved. We have to log all our community actions (all of which can’t be for paid work) which takes some time.

For me, my biggest areas of work are:

Twitter – Where I share news, help and engage with others around Microsoft technologies

Adelaide Microsoft IT Pro Community – Where I co-host and sometimes present a monthly user group that covers a variety of topics

AdamFowlerIT.com – Where I write about things I’m working on, tutorials and sharing interesting discoveries I find

I’d be doing these things anyway without the MVP award.

 

What I get out of being a MVP:

Recognition – this is probably the biggest benefit!

Access to others MVPs and Microsoft staff through various forums and email distribution lists – a very close second biggest benefit!

A MSDN subscription

An Office 365 subscription

An invite to the Global MVP Summit 

 

A big thanks to everyone I communicate with – in Microsoft, MVPs, and everyone else who engages with me in any way. Talking into the void and hearing something back is what keeps me going.

 

Clipboard History Is Coming In Windows 10

I play with and use Windows 10 Insider builds but don’t often blog about them – there’s plenty of other people that do that already. However, I saw this notification come up which seemed very useful; Clipboard History!

 

Something I’ve been wanting for many years. I currently use Ditto which I recommended in another writeup of free sysadmin tools for TechTarget. However, if a native solution does enough for me I’d rather use that – I’m on that many different systems and devices, having non-native apps is a pain that I’m not going to bother with.

I might be a bit late to the party – on May 9th 2018, Build 17666 was announced with this feature. I’ve had a quick play and like it… so how does it work?

First, go into Settings > System > Clipboard. You’ll need to toggle the ‘Save multiple items’ to ‘On’. This is probably good being off by default, I can imagine complaints about Microsoft tracking what people do or someone finding something in the history that another person did.

Once that option is on, you can use Windows Key + V to bring up the clipboard history window:

It will be blank at the start, unless you’ve used the clipboard since enabling the feature. Text and images are both supported which is great! Selecting the history item will immediately paste it as well as put it onto your clipboard. It’s basic but does the job

On top of this, there’s also a ‘Sync across devices’ option for the clipboard history. You can enable that in the same settings area, and your clipboard will be available from all devices that support it. Right now that seems to only be Windows 10 on this insider build or newer, but I’d expect it to go further to mobile devices when released properly. This is a great way to send a small bit of information such as a long URL from one device to another.

However, if you use a password manager where you copy and paste usernames and passwords from, they’ll get added to this history also. If someone were able to gain access to this history, it could be a quick gateway to accessing a lot of your other stuff – so use multi-factor authentication wherever you can.

Still, it’s a great feature albeit simple – it’s nice to see Windows 10 getting loaded with different mini-utilities that add to it’s usefulness, while leveraging a centralised Microsoft account to keep and sync information.

 

SQL Server Configuration Manager Aliases

I don’t do too much with SQL, but this one got me for a while, so here’s my story on SQL Server Configuration Manager Aliases.

I had a particular server that couldn’t connect to a specific instance on SQL on another box. Other servers appeared to be fine, but each time SQL Server Management Studio was run and attempted to connect to servername\instancename, it would instead connect to the default instance.

It didn’t matter who logged onto the server either. It would never connect to that secondary instance and I couldn’t work out why.

After much digging and testing, I resorted to reading through forum threads on Google searches, hoping for an idea. What I eventually found was the existence of SQL Client Aliases. These are like hosts file records – hard coded results for connecting to a specific server:

In Sql Server Configuration Manager, you can define an alias for what you’re connecting to. Servername\instancename could map to serverb\instancename or servername\instance2 – this is great when doing testing and wanting to point a server at a different SQL database or instance without changing a bunch of settings.

However, the other catch is the port specified. In the above example, the default SQL port 1433 is used. Makes sense, but each instance uses it’s own port, or uses a dynamic port. I soon discovered that if you try to connect to a SQL instance and have a port defined, the SQL instance you actually connect to is whatever is listening on that defined port.

An easy thing to find if you know where to look for it, and now I do. Hopefully this helps others who come across a similar scenario!

Conditional Access Stuck on “Loading…”

There’s currently an issue with configuring Conditional Access via Azure Active Directory. There’s an open ticket with Microsoft Support, with no ETA at the time of writing.

The issue:  When trying to configure a new policy for Conditional Access against an Azure Active Directory application, the ‘New’ page gets stuck loading. I’ve tested this on multiple browsers, tenants, internet connections, computers, and had Microsoft support confirm.

The path to doing this is from the Azure portal – Azure Active Directory > Enterprise Applications > choose your application > Conditional Access > New policy:

The Workaround: Thankfully it’s not a showstopper, as there’s another way to get to Conditional Access and it works fine. Instead of going via a specific app first, you can just go via Azure Active Directory > Conditional Access > New policy. Also Azure Active Directory > Enterprise Applications > Conditional Access > New policy works, it’s just an extra click to the same screen.

Points to take note of – if something’s broken, try accessing the same function from a different route of click-through links and it might work another way. Also, log these issues with Microsoft Support as overall the support is pretty good and often the issue won’t be anything to do with you. Test different scenarios wherever possible too, and also asking the question on Twitter can get some extra attention!