Update 4th June 2020
This is a known issue with Microsoft’s guidance on it available here
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.