Recovering Offline files in Windows XP

Offline files within Windows XP is a pig – make no doubt about it. Don’t get me wrong – what is supposed to be a nice feature, allowing laptop users to amend documents "offline" and then see them sync to their office server when they connect to the LAN, does work… albeit 90% of the time. That other 10%? Expect tears before bed-time.

Back in the day I debated the short-comings of off-line files with many a MSFTer, with the response from more than one Microsoft employee being a hushed "don’t tell anyone I said this, but off-line files is not a reliable feature". You only have to look around at the number of blogs and web-sites dedicated solely to resolving end-users off-lines file woes to realise things aren’t right. Of course, Vista has come along now so everything is ok – but what about all those people still using XP – or to put it another way, what about 90% of Windows users out there?

I can’t recall the amount of times when I’ve had a ‘phone call from a user who had spent hours working on a document on his laptop, then found that document mysteriously disappeared when he synchronised his files on-line.

One such situation occurred today when a client ‘phoned me to ask where two of his files had gone to – they were there one minute, but as soon as the computer had finished synchronising with the company server – they weren’t to be found.

The files had gone, sure enough, and although we could restore the last best copy from either on-site or off-site backup, the work the user did on the files since he last synchronised seemed lost.

Step in CSCCMD – supposedly part of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. I say supposedly, because although version 1.0 of CSCCMD is indeed within the ResKit download – it doesn’t contain an important feature – the /EXTRACT function. This can only be found in CSCCMD 1.1 – which is apparently harder to find than Rocking Horse droppings! I finally located a copy via this blog – kudos to the writer for making the file available himself. I’ve made sure you can now also find a copy of CSCCMD 1.1 here – if anyone knows an "official" source of this file, do leave a comment below and let me know.

What do CSCCMD do? It allows you to work with the off-line file cache – located (a hidden folder) at C:\Windows\CSC. If you browse to that directory directly, you’ll see a list of numbered folders and suitably mysteriously named files within. CSCCMD allows you to extract those files into a readable format using the \EXTRACT function we spoke of earlier. In this case I dropped a copy of CSCCMD.EXE into C:\Windows\CSC and then executed the command

CSCCMD /EXTRACT:\\servername\share /TARGET:c:\temp /recurse

… where <servername\share> is the off-line folder location you’re trying to recover, /TARGET:c:\temp is a temporary folder setup as a suspense location for the extracted files, and /recurse is a switch that makes sure that CSCCMD extracts all files in all folders found within C:\Windows\CSC.

Minutes later, CSCCMD had ran its magic.

My advice to the user going forwards? If you’re working on a very important document or making lots of changes, save a copy to a USB key-disk before returning to the office – I didn’t specifically say off-line files under XP wasn’t to be trusted, but he got the idea.

Now cue a ton of e-mails and comments telling me off-line files is infinitely better within Windows Vista and the user is a fool for sticking with XP… 🙂


5 Responses to “Recovering Offline files in Windows XP”

  1. 1 Dale February 10, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    This is a great posting.Works as described.Thanks for a simple description of the process.

  2. 2 Tim May 6, 2009 at 2:45 am

    Works a treat, thanks

  3. 3 Jorg August 24, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    This is a great posting, however, it doesn\’t work for me. I am getting an error message saying "System Error 87 has occured. The parameter is incorrect."

  4. 4 Stewart March 19, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    You don\’t know how long I\’ve been looking for this. Absolutely great, thank you!!!!!!!!

  5. 5 Richard March 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for the feedback – glad this post is useful!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Tubblog on Twitter

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.


Enter your email address to subscribe to Tubblog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 48 other followers

Microsoft Small Business Specialist Logo
Computer Weekly Blog Awards 2010 Logo
MSP Mentor 250 Logo
SMB 150 List Logo
International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners Logo Registered & Protected

%d bloggers like this: