Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Clients can't open PDF attachments they're sent. Not supported file type or file has been damaged.

Attended a client who had an interesting problem. They use a Microsoft Access system and create a new email with the client's email address already filled in by clicking on a button. They then attach a PDF and send the email.

The problem was clients started reporting they couldn't open the PDF in the email. Clients would see the message "the file type wasn't supported or the file has been damaged".

The client was using Microsoft Office 2016 and Microsoft Access 2016. The copy of Microsoft Office 2016 came with the Dell computer and Microsoft Access 2016 was purchased separately from Microsoft's store.

After checking the raw email data I found the process of attaching the PDF to the email created from Microsoft Access indicated the file had been attached, but there was no actual data in the attachment. Thus you could save the PDF but it was empty with a file size of zero. There was no problem with the original PDF.

I decided to run the repair option for Microsoft Access 2016 and then Microsoft Office 2016. The local repair didn't fix the issue. I then ran the Microsoft Access 2016 online repair option which stated it would do a more thorough repair. What happened then was unexpected. I could see the full version of Office 2016 was being downloaded which I assumed would be used to do the repair, but instead Office 2016 was installed. Access 2016 still worked but now Office 2016 wasn't activated. A new product key was required for Office 2016. The repair had left Office 2016 now not activated and useless for the client.

I'd been in a similar situation before. The original Office 2016 licence from Dell preinstalled on the computer with the product key. Now a new version of Office 2016 from Microsoft. Previously for a copy of Windows 7 Microsoft had said the issue was with Dell. In this case however the problem was Microsoft's repair software had created the problem.

I decided to use the online chat for Microsoft support. After quite a lengthy chat conversation Microsoft's support staff offered a new licence for Office 2016. As the Office 2016 software was already loaded it only needed to be activated which I did.

The installation of the new copy of Office 2016 also fixed the issue with attachments not working so everything was back to normal for the client.

There's a good lesson in this story. The support to fix the client's issue was a total of around four hours. That's a considerable cost to the client. Office 2016 needed to be reinstalled to fix the issue but because Office 2016 was purchased from Dell and Access from Microsoft, you leave yourself exposed to a difficult support situation. Had both licences been purchased direct from Microsoft you don't leave yourself exposed to the potential situation where Microsoft can say you need to go back to Dell even though all the software is Microsoft software. This has happened previously as mentioned with a copy of Windows 7.

I'd suggest if you're buying a new computer buy the computer from the supplier such as Dell, but buy the software from Microsoft. That way you have control over the licence. You unfortunately don't have control over the operating system software licence as that still is from Dell and Microsoft has previously referred that back to Dell.

Kelvin Eldridge
IT support

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