Outlook 365 Message Blank or Text Not Showing Correctly

Outlook 365 Message Blank or Text Not Showing Correctly

Jump to workarounds at the bottom

Tonight my wife asked me to take a look at her Outlook client as it was “being weird” with all her email messages either showing as blank or flashing up for a moment and then disappearing.  We knew the emails were fine because they displayed ok on the mobile client and on Outlook Web Access.

After the usual steps I turned to Google and all I could fine were old references to a problem with AVG, that is until I happened upon this thread where I spotted that the thread and all the posts were very recent.  Well actually, in the future (yep you read it right – its a New Zealand website so about 12 hours head of me).

Scope of the Issue

Some clarity on the scope:

This appears to affect all “Click to run” versions of Office (2016/2019/CSP/365) but not volume License versions of office that are MSI installed (2016 and below)

Microsoft have blocked the latest update from being applied to affected versions so hopefully this will be in time to stop the worst of the issue.

Microsoft Responses

A poster referenced an initial response from Microsoft that said:

Incident information
Title: We’re looking into a potential problem affecting email content within Outlook
ID: EX255650

Status
Investigating

Details
Title: We’re looking into a potential problem affecting email content within Outlook

User Impact: Users may be unable to view email message content within Outlook.
More info: Initial reports indicate that Outlook on the web is unaffected and users with access to Outlook on the web can view email messages there while we work on a solution.
Current status: We’re investigating a potential issue affecting users’ ability to view email message in Outlook. We’ll provide an update in 30 minutes.
Scope of impact: This issue could affect any user attempting to view an email message in Outlook.

And then a further update:

Current status: We’re gathering and analyzing data in an effort to isolate the cause of impact. Initial reports indicate that impact is specific to the Outlook client and users with access to other protocols, such as Outlook on the web or the Outlook mobile app, can view message content in those platforms as a potential workaround.
Scope of impact: This issue could affect any user attempting to view an email message in the Outlook client.

An update later at around 11pm GMT:

Title: Issue affecting viewing email content in Outlook

User Impact: Users may be unable to view email message content within Outlook.

More info: Impact is specific to the Outlook client and users with access to other protocols, such as Outlook on the web or the Outlook mobile app, can view message content in those platforms as a potential workaround while our fix is applied.

Current status: We’ve identified the underlying cause of impact and are applying a fix. This fix will reach all affected users incrementally over the course of the next four-to-five hours. Once users receive the fix, they will need to restart their email client to apply the fix. In some circumstances, users may need to restart their client a second time for the changes to take effect. We expect to complete this process and restore service for all affected users by May 12, 2021, at 3:00 AM UTC.

We encourage affected users who are able to do so to leverage the workarounds described above in the “more info” section of this post while we complete the process of fixing this problem.

Scope of impact: This issue could affect any user attempting to view an email message in the Outlook client.

Root cause: A recent change to systems that facilitate text display management for content within the Outlook client caused impact.

Next update by: Wednesday, May 12, 2021, 3:00 PM (3:00 AM UTC)

The final update from Microsoft

It looks like someone really did drop a whoopsey!

Final status: We’ve confirmed that the fix successfully resolved the issue, though some users will be required to restart their email client for the change to take effect. In some circumstances, a second restart may be necessary.

Scope of impact: This issue could have affected any user attempting to view an email message in the Outlook client.

Start time: Tuesday, May 11, 2021, at 6:24 PM UTC

End time: Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at 2:00 AM UTC

Preliminary root cause: A recent change to systems that facilitate text display management for content within the Outlook client caused impact. A full root cause analysis is being performed and additional details will be provided in the PIR.

Next steps:

– We’re performing an extensive review of our coding to understand how the issue occurred and why it was missed during the testing and early deployment cycle.

We’ll publish a post-incident report within five business days.

Workarounds

The simplest and low risk workaround is to use Outlook Web Access or your email providers webmail until Microsoft issue an approved fix.

A few posters online found that rolling back Outlook to a specific version provided a fix.  This is done by running the following command in a Windows Command Prompt (Windows Key > cmd > enter). I can confirm this resolved the issue on my wife’s laptop but the usual caveat applies of using it at your own risk:

"C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\ClickToRun\officec2rclient.exe" /update user updatetoversion=16.0.13901.20462

A dialog box appears confirming an update is being applied.

Hope this helps!

Bob McKay

About Bob McKay

Bob is Director of Operations at Perfect Image, a full time father and husband, part-time tinkerer-with-wires, coder, Muay Thai practitioner, builder and cook. Loves love, tolerance and co-existance. Hates hate. Is aware of the irony of hating hate.

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