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  1. #1
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    Excel Filelocking Failure (Excel 2000 SP3)

    Please, please help me, for I am deeply confused....!

    I've been using Excel for years over an NT, and then a Windows 2003 network. It has always worked seemlessly, but recently we put in a new server, running SBS2003 R2 and I think that the strange behaviour I have recently been experiencing co-incided with this move.

    I work in a small accounts office, as one of 4 users. There are a small number of Excel files which we all use and update. Previously, when one person tried to enter a file that another person was using, Excel would display a message saying that the file was in use by X-person, and did you want to open a read only copy, or a notify option.

    This worked fine, and meant that only one person was ever able to update the file.

    To be honest, I had always assumed that this sort of filelocking was basic network functionality, handled by the network operating system, but my IT manager is now telling me that this is actually handled by the application.

    A few weeks ago, we started to loose information in these files. The first couple of times it happened, I just put it down to user error - exiting the program in a hurry and failing to save the changes made to a file.

    But after I lost a whole day's work, 2 days before I was due to go on holiday, I became a bit more focussed on the issue!

    The first time I suspected something was wrong was when a colleague asked if they could update a file in a particular way. "No problem", I replied, "but are you in that file, and if so, how have you been able to open it, because I have the file open on my machine, where I had been working on it earlier today?"

    We have now spent a lot of time attempting to replicate this "bug" and researching possible causes.

    My IT manager has been using the Computer Management functionality to track the Shared Files and Open Sessions on the server, and has discovered that the server is loosing the connection with the open file after a time.

    Once this has happened, another user is able to open the same file with no warning message whatsoever, and when they save their work, it will overwrite the earlier changes made by the first user to open the file....

    My IT-Manager's latest theory is that the network connection is effectively timing out, after a period of inactivity (ie. if a file remains open, but hasn't been updated) and once this has happened, another user can open the file "unchallenged". He has also found Microsoft Article ID 297684 "Mapped Drive Connection to Network Share May Be Lost" (sorry - I don' t know to post a link) and thinks this may be relevant.

    We have also run tests where User 1 opens a file and makes updates, sometime later User 2 opens the same file "unchallenged". User 2 saves her changes without a problem. User 1 then saves his changes. This is also apparenty successful, albeit it takes somewhat longer. But after the save, a message saying that the file has been successfully saved, but is not then being restored due to lack of memory. (This is a complete red herring - our network is modern and has copious spare memory available at all points). User 1 then closes Excel, but on trying to re-open it, gets the message File cannot be entered because it is locked for editing by User 1. (Yes, I do mean User 1, even though User 1 isn't in the file at all, because they have just closed it and exited Excel!!!).

    But what is really confusing me is that my IT manager is now saying that he thinks this "rogue behaviour" may actually be intended - ie. designed in.

    Frankly, this I cannot accept!!

    For years and years I have used Excel over a network and have never previously encountered a situation where someone can unknowingly overwrite someone else's work. But suddenly this seems to be happening everywhere.

    Please help. What on earth is going on...?

    Thanks in anticipation.

    Neil

  2. #2
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    Re: Excel Filelocking Failure (Excel 2000 SP3)

    Everything you describe points to a problem with the network, not with Excel itself. As MSKB article Mapped Drive Connection to Network Share May Be Lost points out that the network connection may be dropped if there is no activity. The default is 10 minutes. I suspect that your old server was somehow configured not to do this, but that the new one does. This is not something you can change from within Excel, your network admin is responsible for configuring the server correctly. The article describes several methods to change the timeout.

    Note: see <!help=19>Help 19<!/help> for information on how to insert links to web pages etc.

  3. #3
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    Re: Excel Filelocking Failure (Excel 2000 SP3)

    Hans

    Thank you for your reply (and apologies for the length of my opening post).

    Can you clarify one point for me, please?

    Given that the "time out" symptom is (apparently) to save network resources - which is presumably a good thing (and intentional functionality on the part of Microsoft) - is there something fundamentally different in the way we are using Excel?

    Ie. is it reasonable for me to assume that I should not be able to get into a file in full edit mode, if someone else already has that file open; or do most other network users cope with this potential conflict in other ways (and if so, can you briefly elaborate how others do it?).

    I'm genuinely puzzled as to why other Companies are not loosing (or inadvertantly overwriting) data in the way we did, and if they are, why there hasn't been an outcry about this!

    Thank you.

    Neil

  4. #4
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    Re: Excel Filelocking Failure (Excel 2000 SP3)

    Neil,

    Yes, the 'normal' behavior for Excel is not to allow two users to edit the same workbook at the same time. First user in is allowed to edit freely, the next one who tries to open it gets a warning with options Read-Only, Notify and Cancel.
    I have never seen the problem you describe in the more than ten years that I've been using Excel on various networks, so I can only assume that something has been configured incorrectly on your new server. But I'm not a network guy, I only do application software, so I'm as much in the dark as you are. A network specialist should look at this.

  5. #5
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    Re: Excel Filelocking Failure (Excel 2000 SP3)

    Thanks for that Hans.

    I am re-assured that I did not have unrealistic expectations of Excel!

    I might try posting this exchange (or a link to it) to the Windows 2003 board, to see if anyone can shed any further light.

    Thanks

    Neil

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