Thursday, July 28, 2011

Excel 2003 Slow to Open Network Files After File Validation Update Installed

We've mostly completed the cut-over to Windows 7 and Office 2010 where I work. That said there are a few PC's with more 'complicated' configurations we have delayed updating that still run Windows XP and Office 2003. So accordingly we have maintained our WSUS environment to keep Office 2003 updates coming through.

In our last round of monthly PC patching, the update addressing KB2501584 was approved for PCs to install. Shortly afterwards reports started coming in from the few XP/Office 2003 computers in service, that Excel was hanging up when trying to open Excel shortcuts pointing out to files on the network - hmm. The long and short of the story is this MS article explaining how the Office File Validation function slows down opening network files in Excel 2003.

Two of the article's provided solutions I found to be "corporate unfriendly": either copy the file to the local disk first, or upgrade to Office 2007 or 2010. The third option was split into two paths: A) to use a MS Fix IT installer (normal users cannot do this), or B) Create a registry entry to disable OFV in Excel(again most users cannot / are not capable of doing this). Option 3 fix regardless of how it was done created a HKCU registry key - so now we have a per user, per computer situation to remedy - no "PC-wide" fix option.

Thankfully we already push out a few user scope registry entries via a custom Active Directory Group Policy, so we had a familiar delivery mechanism available to us. After some updating to that custom .ADM file and some testing we finally had a corporate quality fix for the issue.

Why didn't we just uninstall the OFV update? Removing security features isn't really a path we prefer to take. Yes - we have effectively disabled it for Excel, but the other Office application are still protected and didn't suffer the same problem that Excel did. One of the many usability versus security trade offs.

There are lots of great resources out there for making your own ADM files for use in Group Policies. If you work with AD / Group Policies it is a great skill to have in you toolbox.

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jaymcjay said...

Why not just use Group Policy Preferences? You can add registry values (even HKCU) into a GPO affecting those users. Creating custom ADM templates is unnecessary work, IMHO.

JeffHengesbach said...

@jaymcjay - Thanks for pointing out the Preferences option! We're not fully on top of all the 2008 features yet.