Here is the scenario:
There are multiple users editing a file on a windows share which is accessed from multiple locations over VPN.
Occasionally (or rather sporadically, intermittently if you will) users open the Microsoft Office file (Excel, Word, etc…) and get the message:
... file is locked for editing by 'Samantha'
They call or IM Samantha and tell her to close the file. She does.
Now, they get a message saying:
... file is locked for editing by 'another user'
They look for ‘another user’ on their speed dial… nothing. Obviously the frustration gets compounded when there’s a Jim, Sally, Tom, and Nancy involved. Once everyone is contacted, and it is established that everyone has the file closed, the rage accumulates.
So, the common troubleshooting steps:
- Make sure everyone closes the file correctly. If office does not terminate correctly (ie. laptop cover shut), it keeps lingering ~TMP files around, and that can cause the issue.
- Delete the ~TMP files of the same file name in the same directory, releasing file lock.
- Check that Windows Server is configured to release file locks and handles after X idle time (usually 10-15 minutes)
- Make sure everyone’s name is set correctly in Word, Excel, etc…: this is the name that shows in the message
Unfortunately, this is not always enough. Windows is a wanton mistress with many needs, it seems.
Here is one more hidden culprit, and if I may add, I consider this insight the pinnacle achievement of my IT career:
Windows Preview Pane.
That’s right: Windows. Preview. Pane.
When a user goes into a folder and selects a file, sometimes, for some users, the preview pane comes up. Windows server interprets this as a regular file handle with R/W access, so the file is taken to be in use, by none other than ‘unknown user’, since Office has not been launched to fill in the name. This only needs to happen on one of the user machines accessing the files. Sometimes the user selects the file, opening the preview pane, works on the file, then closes Word, and the preview pane is still active. Eventually, the file handle is released, but not before the whole scene is ransacked looking for the alleged unknown user.
So anyway, keep the preview pain… (pun INTENDED) closed. Or at least don’t have the file in question selected for preview.
Windows says the darndest things sometimes…