‘Open in Windows Explorer’ defaulting to Web Folders instead of WebDav

Problem

You set up a new web application with a new load balanced URL. The web application contains one or more site collections but the root site collection, i.e. http://xxx.sharepoint.com/ does not exist. You browse to a document library under http://xxx.sharepoint.com/project1 called ‘Documents’ and try to ‘Open in windows explorer’.

The document library opens but you find that it is not using WebDav but FPFRC (Frontpage RPC). You can tell this by looking at the address of the opened folder, it should show as ‘http://xxx.sharepoint.com/project1/documents’ instead of \\xxx.sharepoint.com\project1\documents.

Cause

According to Microsoft’s article, ‘Microsoft SharePoint Services: Understanding and Troubleshooting the SharePoint Explorer View’, this behaviour occurs when the WebClient.exe service fails to connect to the WebDav server. The only way to resolve this is to ensure that there is no problems with connectivity.

Apparently, the WebClient service checks the root URL to determine whether it can connect via WebDav, i.e. \\xxx.sharepoint.com\. If it receives an ‘unable to connect’ message, it assumes that there is no WebDav server.

In a single server scenario, you will not encounter this problem because \\xxx.sharepoint.com\ would point to the file shares on a single server. However, when you have multiple servers behind a load balancer, the load balancer does not know how to map the WebDav request to the pool of web servers (at least in our case).

Solution

  1. To troubleshoot this problem, the first thing you need to do is check whether you can browse to the root of the URL, i.e. \\xxx.sharepoint.com\. If you have not configured a root site collection for your web application, chances are it will not work and you will get a message indicating that the webclient was not able to connect.
  2. Create the root site collection ‘/’ using PowerShell / Central Admin.
  3. Go to My Network Places -> Delete the Web Folder for the relevant site(s).
  4. Restart your computer.
  5. Browse to \\xxx.sharepoint.com\ again. The explorer window should open. You can now test further by appending the site name and document library name to the end of the URL, e.g. \\xxx.sharepoint.com\project1\documents
  6. You should now see the files in the SharePoint document library.
  7. Try using the ‘Open in windows explorer’ button again to confirm that the problem has been resolved.

 

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