iPad Exchange ActiveSync Troubleshooting Guide

So you followed the instructions in The iPad Exchange ActiveSync Guide and still couldn’t get everything to work? Here are my troubleshooting tips!

My iPad can’t connect to my Exchange server!

  1. Check the Server name – The most common reason for an Exchange ActiveSync configuration failure is the use of an incorrect Exchange server name. See “Which Server Name Do I Enter?” for possible solutions.
  2. Clear the Domain name – That “Domain” field is not for your Internet domain. In fact, most users can leave it blank! Try that first.
  3. Try a different Domain name – If clearing the “Domain” field doesn’t help, see “What Domain Name Do I Enter?” for more ideas to try.
  4. Enable or disable SSL – The iPad usually detects whether or not to use SSL, but it sometimes gets this wrong. You can manually enable or disable SSL from the account’s “Account Info” page under “Mail, Contacts, Calendars”.
  5. Try a different network – Some network or email administrators restrict access to the ActiveSync server to those outside the corporate firewall (it sounds weird but is actually pretty common). Try an outside Wi-Fi network or just turn off Wi-Fi and use 3G to set it up. In this case, you will not be able to access your email from inside the corporate Wi-Fi network.

My iPad can’t send or receive email!

The most common reason that an otherwise properly-configured iPad cannot send or receive email is the use of an incorrect Domain string. Try leaving it blank or see “What Domain Name Do I Enter?” for more ideas to try.

iPad Exchange ActiveSync only works inside/outside my company’s Wi-Fi!

Many corporate networks have different Exchange server names inside and outside the firewall. Some will even disallow access to the Exchange ActiveSync server on the internal network. This configuration will greatly complicate your iPad use. You have two choices:

  1. Set up two different connections to your mail, one ActiveSync and another IMAP, based on what is and is not available on the internal network.
  2. Only use the outside/public configuration. Don’t use the internal network at all, or turn off Wi-Fi whenever you want to access your mail.

Neither is really a good option. A better solution is to get the email and network administrator to make everything work no matter where you happen to be connected!

I can’t add another Exchange server!

Make sure you updated to the latest version of iOS for iPad, at least 4.2.1. The iPad can sync email messages to any number of IMAP or POP accounts without a problem, but 3.2 can only sync to a single ActiveSync server at once. So you can set up Gmail over IMAP, Yahoo over SMS/IMAP, your local provider over POP, a Gmail Apps account over IMAP, etc at the same time as your work Exchange server without a problem. But you cannot set up more than one Exchange server using ActiveSync.

How can I find my Exchange ActiveSync server name?

By far the biggest problem folks have encountered when trying to enable Exchange ActiveSync on the iPad is finding the correct server name. Exchange 2007 has an Autodiscovery service for ActiveSync devices, and the iPad supports and attempts to use this. But it will fail for anyone using Exchange 2003 or with an admin that turned this off. If Autodiscovery fails, you have to manually enter the address. Most Exchange implementations have a variety of different servers these days, each with a unique hostname and IP address:

  • The main Exchange server, which is normally only used for internal or VPN connections to Outlook using the MAPI/RPC protocol and often has an excitingly-weird name like em22dc.yourcompany.com. This is not what you are looking for.
  • The external Exchange server for RPC over HTTPS connections from Outlook, which often has a nicer name like rpc.yourcompany.com. This is also not what you’re looking for.
  • The Outlook Web Access server used by Entourage and for accessing mail using a web browser, which is often called “owa.yourcompany.com”. Getting warmer, but still not the right one.
  • Entourage also uses an LDAP server, often called “ldap.yourcompany.com”, and might alias the OWA server as “dav.yourcompany.com”. Still not the right server for the iPad.
  • The one you want is the ActiveSync server, sometimes called “oma.yourcompany.com” since it’s mainly used for Outlook Mobile on Windows Mobile devices.

If your techies don’t know the first thing about the iPad, change your tactics. Ask them which hostname they enter when configuring Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs – these are very common, and this is the server you need with the iPad!

One more thing: You might get lucky and find that one of those other server names works for the iPad’s ActiveSync. This does not mean you’re using DAV or OWA on the iPad – instead it means that they set up two services on the same hostname. But I haven’t seen this myself.

How can I find my Exchange ActiveSync domain name?

It sure can be confusing when two different things have the exact same name. The part of your email address after the “@” sign is called a domain name, as is the first part of your web page URL. When setting up Exchange ActiveSync email, you may be required to enter an Exchange Domain, and this can be something else entirely!

So what should you enter in the iPad’s “Domain” field? Here are the possibilities, in order of liklihood:

  1. Nothing – The majority of Exchange environments will automatically detect the Exchange Domain, so you should leave the “Domain” field blank on your first attempt
  2. Ask For Help – If leaving it blank doesn’t work, go ask someone in IT what your Exchange Domain is and use whatever they suggest
  3. Your Internet Domain – Many hosted Exchange environments use the company’s internet domain as the Exchange domain, so try “yourcompany.com”
  4. Part of your Internet Domain – If “yourcompany.com” doesn’t work, try just “yourcompany”
  5. Fewer Letters – The next thing to try is just the first seven or eight letters of your truncated domain name, “yourcom” instead of “yourcompany”

If blank doesn’t work and IT can’t help, you might be stuck. You can try different combinations, but trial and error doesn’t always work!

What The iPad Lacks

  1. Spotlight does not include full-text search of mail messages. Although it’s nice to be able to search through everything on the iPad, and even content on the Exchange server, you still have to remember the sender, subject, etc.
  2. Still no notes and tasks sync (with Exchange). Although the iPad does allow synchronization of notes with Apple Mail for Mac users, it does not support Exchange or Apple’s own MobileMe over-the-air services.
  3. No public folder support.

As the iPad advances, I will keep my eyes open for enterprise Exchange ActiveSync features and post them here. Subscribe to my Apple feed for up-to-date details!