Archives / 2013 / July
  • Office Web Apps Server 2013 - machines are always reported as Unhealthy

    Tags: Office Web Apps

    As you might have noticed I have somewhat fallen in love with Office Web Apps 2013, or WAC as we say now that we’ve gotten this close to each other. It’s an amazingly well written server product with the good side benefit that it is also very usable for the end-users. Even though me and WAC has been hanging around for a while and by now know each other pretty well, WAC has constantly been reporting that it is Unhealthy. And from what I’ve seen, heard and experienced in the field I am not alone…

    Office Web Apps 2013 Health Reporting

    Office Web Apps 2013 has a really well written reporting mechanism that constantly monitors and reports issues with your WAC farm and its machines. You can at any time see the Health status of your machines by running the following Windows PowerShell command:


    If you have installed and configured the farm according to the interwebs and/or official sources it is most likely that all your servers are reporting Unhealthy even though your WAC farm is running fine, from the end-user perspective.

    Unhealthy WAC machines

    The health reporting mechanism in Office Web Apps consists of a number of Watchdog processes (FarmStateManagerWatchdog.exe, ImagingWatchdog.exe etc). These processes regularly check for issues with the different WAC services. For instance it makes sure all the servers and service endpoints are responding, it checks if the proofing tools works by actually testing the service with a correctly spelled word and an incorrectly spelled word and so on. If any of these watchdog process reports an error the machine is marked as Unhealthy. (Note: It will check all the reports from the last 10 minutes, so it is a slight delay in this status).

    You can see the Health reports in either the log files (SharePoint ULS Trace Log style) in your log directory on the WAC machines, but you might find it easier (and faster) to look in the Event Viewer of the machine. You will find the logs under Applications and Service Logs > Microsoft Office Web Apps.

    WAC Event Log entries

    In this log you will clearly see all the errors and be able to solve them, well at least most of them can be fixed by reading (and understanding) the log entry.

    Two common reasons for Unhealthy machines

    As I said, most WAC farms I’ve seen are reporting all machines as Unhealthy and I’ve found two major reasons for this. One is related to certificates and the second is related to Windows Server 2012/IIS8 and WCF.

    Correct WAC Farm certificate

    If you have been following the SharePoint 2013 space recently you should be pretty aware of that you should protect your server communication with SSL. Especially Office Web Apps 2013, which sends the AuthN token in clear text over the wire. So you create a certificate for your WAC farm load balanced DNS address, for instance, install it on the WAC machines, set up the farm and everything looks fine. But all the machines are reporting that they are Unhealthy. If you take a closer look at the WAC logs you will see exceptions like this: The underlying connection was closed: Could not establish trust relationship for the SSL/TLS secure channel.

    SSL errors

    It’s not that strange actually. In order to test the endpoints of the different machines the watchdog processes cannot call the load balanced DNS entry ( but instead has to call the individual machines, for instance – and the certificate is not valid for that DNS entry.

    In order to resolve this issue for the farm you have to create a new SAN certificamyte (or optionally a wildcard) containing the name of all the machines and the load balanced DNS entry.

    New SAN certificate

    If you’re creating a new farm just proceed as normal with a certificate like this. If you have an already existing farm and need to update the certificate you just install the certificate on all the machines (before doing anything else) and then use the following PowerShell command to configure the farm to use the new certificate, on one of the WAC machines. Note that you need to restart all the servers in the farm once you have changed the certificate.

    Set-OfficeWebAppsFarm -CertificateName ""

    Once the machines are restarted you can go back to the logs and see if it now reports any issues and if everything is fine your machines should soon (it takes a couple of minutes) start reporting that they are Healthy.

    After this you also need to update the WOPI Proof Key of your SharePoint farm(s), to avoid security errors when using Office Web Apps in SharePoint. This can be done either by removing all WOPI bindings and re-add them or by running the following command:


    WCF .svc endpoints not working on IIS8

    The second thing that I’ve seen is that (once you fix the certificate per above) the logs contains error messages that says it cannot access the Participant.svc file: BroadcastServicesWatchdog_Wfe reported status for BroadcastServices_Host in category '3'. Reported status: Contacting Participant.svc failed with an exception: The remote server returned an error: (404) Not Found. There are other similar error messages. This is a bit strange, if you look in the IIS for that specific for this file it is clearly there but if you try to browse to it you get a 404. Here’s a good way to test if you’re suffering from this issue without reading any logs:

    Tip: this command and/or URL is a very good way to use in your monitoring software or load balancer to check if the WAC farm/machine is up and running.

    If you receive a HTTP status equal to 200 then you’re golden and can quit reading this section but if you get an exception and specifically a 404 you’re suffering from this exact issue.

    When you install/configure IIS8 on Windows Server 2012 using instructions from the internet or TechNet and trying to do a “minimal” installation with as little Server features installed as possible you are most likely not installing the HTTP Activation for .NET Framework 4.5 WCF Services.

    Forgot the .NET WCF HTTP Activation?

    In order for IIS to understand .svc files, and not use the Static file handler, you need to install this Feature on your WAC machines. It can be done using the Add Roles and Features Wizard (as shown above) or using the following PowerShell command. Note that it will at the same time install two other dependent features.

    Add-WindowsFeature NET-WCF-HTTP-Activation45

    If you’re installing a WAC machine from scratch your PowerShell command should look like follows (on Windows Server 2012):

    Import-Module ServerManager
    # Required Features
    Add-WindowsFeature NET-Framework-45-Core,NET-Framework-45-ASPNET,`
        Web-ISAPI-Filter,Web-Includes,InkAndHandwritingServices, NET-WCF-HTTP-Activation45
    # Recommended Features
    Add-WindowsFeature Web-Stat-Compression,Web-Dyn-Compression

    Once the feature is installed, there is no need for any server restart, you should see that your machines are reported as Healthy. Remember it can take up to 10 minutes. You can sometimes speed up the health reporting a bit by restarting the WAC Service:

    Restart-Service WACSM

    If they are no reported as Healthy then you have another issue. Check the logs again, fix it, report to me what you did and why and I’ll update this post.

    Healthy WAC machines

    Another note, you might not see the same status on all WAC machines when you inspect the health status for each machine. WAC machines are not constantly talking to each other, it may take a while before the synchronize. You can always log in to each and every WAC machine and run the following cmdlet to get the actual value of that specific machine:


    Repairing an Office Web Apps Farm

    There is a PowerShell cmdlet in Office Web Apps 2013 that is called Repair-OfficeWebAppsFarm. This command is sounding way better than it actually is. It will not repair anything, it will remove all Unhealthy servers, and nothing more. So unless you have fixed the issues mentioned above, you will have no WAC machines after running that cmdlet. Just a tip…


    Having an Healthy Office Web Apps Server 2013 farm is important. You should constantly monitor the Health status of each and every Office Web Apps Server machine, and if found Unhealthy fix it. Most likely you don’t have a valid certificate for your Office Web Apps Server 2013, one that contains the load balanced name and all the individual server names, and thus you will always have an Unhealthy farm. Get a new certificate for it, so that you can properly monitor the farm.

  • SharePoint 2013, Office Web Apps 2013 and Excel files with Data Connections

    Tags: SharePoint 2013, Office Web Apps

    Here goes a post in the middle of the summer, directly taken from yet another e-mail conversation with information that I thought was well known. It has been blogged before, but perhaps you readers (thanks mum and the other one) don’t follow those blogs, so here we go.


    Who doesn’t like Excel? Most people love it so much that they can’t get enough of it and uploads the Excel files to SharePoint and view and edit them using Office Web Apps 2013 (WAC). The web view and editing can be very beneficial on slow networks, on machines and devices without any decent Office edition or just as nice widgets on your dashboards. External Data Refresh Failed

    Assume you have you SharePoint 2013 farm connected to a WAC 2013 farm and then you use all your Excel skills and starts retrieving data from other data sources. Unfortunately your data will not refresh, since Office Web Apps 2013 cannot read data from external data sources – that is what Excel Calculation Services Service Application is doing for you in SharePoint 2013. So you create one of these Service Applications, but still no luck. Office Web Apps 2013 are still rendering your Excel files. So how do we fix this, keep on reading and I’ll show you how…

    [Update 2013-08-01] If you are not using delegation but instead would like to use the Secure Store Service Application in SharePoint 2013 you might want to take a look at this follow-up post.

    Stop rendering Excel files in Office Web Apps 2013

    Fortunately there is a feature in SharePoint 2013 that allows you to do suppressions for the different WOPI Bindings. What we would like to do is to suppress the WOPI Binding that is responsible for viewing of Excel files. This is done through PowerShell on a per SharePoint farm basis, it’s not a WAC setting, like this:

    New-SPWOPISuppressionSetting -Extension XLSX -Action View

    WOPI Suppression for Excel files

    This command will suppress the WOPI Binding for the extension XLSX (Excel files) and for the WOPI Action View. If we now have Excel Services running in our SharePoint farm then Excel Services will be responsible for viewing Excel (XLSX) files. But Office Web Apps 2013 will be responsible for previews (in search and document libraries) and editing of the files.

    You don’t have to do anything else, no IISRESET (this must be the only time you don’t need this for a SharePoint config change!) or anything else.

    Verify if Excel files are rendered by Office Web Apps

    If you are unsure if Excel files are rendered using WAC or Excel Calc you can easily take a look at the URL. When Office Web Apps is responsible for the rendering the URL will look something like this:
    And when Excel Calc is rendering the document it should look like the following:

    You can also check the WOPI suppression settings using the Get-SPWOPISuppressionSetting cmdlet if you have shell access to the SharePoint farm.

    I want my Office Web Apps viewing back…

    Of course you can revert back to using the Office Web Apps for rendering of the Excel files. This is done using the Remove-SPWOPISuppressionSetting cmdlet.


    Basically for every farm where you are using BI features such as Excel Services and/or PowerPivot you need to do this WOPI suppression setting. But if you don’t have these requirements you should stick to using Office Web Apps 2013, to avoid unnecessary Service Applications and take advantage of the features in WAC that are not available in Excel Services.

About Wictor...

Wictor Wilén is the Nordic Digital Workplace Lead working at Avanade. Wictor has achieved the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) - SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) - SharePoint  and Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) - SharePoint 2010 certifications. He has also been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for seven consecutive years.

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