Intermittent Workflow failures – ‘The workflow failed to start due to an internal error’

By Scott Kyser
SharePoint, Workflow, Troubleshooting


I just got through working a pretty nasty workflow issue that had  nothing to go on with verbose ULS logging.   Our issue was that even the most basic workflow’s were failing on a brand new custom list, with the first item created.  After the first item was created the workflow would work fine for X amount of time.   This issue was ugly, and intermittent, and it probably would have helped if I read this first -

 We found a way to reproduce the error with the following:

1.)   Create a new list

2.)   Create a new workflow with SharePoint Designer

             a.)   Step 1: Email user X

3.)   Create a new list item

4.)   Start the workflow

5.)   Watch the failure

Note: Every other attempt after this work would fine  (restarting the workflow)


 Like I said – the ULS logs were clean, tracking the correlation ID we came up with nothing.    Right when we took a break to review the final 3 sets of logs, my friend Wes had attempted a fix he used in the past with another workflow problem.

Disabling the OffWfCommon feature. 

disable-spfeature -identity  "OFFWfCommon" –url http://yoursitehere/sites/site

enable-spfeature –identify “OffWfCommon”    –url  http://yoursitehere/sites/site


After doing this the workflow consistently worked - but had me questions as to why, so I did some checking and I have found this to be a fix for other similar workflow issues such as a modified “Workflow Task” content type version that contains this error:  

The requested workflow task content type was not found on the SPWeb

If you have a modified "Workflow Task" version greater then 0 and are seeing this same issue, the steps above may be relevant.  I would always recommend testing this in a test environment fully before doing it.   Here is some sample PowerShell code to help find versions that are not 0.  Again, to be used in a test environment.

 $site = get-spsite http://yoursitehere/sites/site  
$site = $site.RootWeb
foreach ($sites in $site)
   foreach ($ctype in $site.ContentTypes)
       if ($ -eq "workflow Task" -and $ctype.version -gt "0")

              $ctype.Scope,$,$ctype.version }



 Please only use these steps if you are experience the exact scenarios listed above, and I hope this helps you!


Scott Kyser

Scott Kyser is the CEO and Co-Founder of SkyNorth Software.  Prior to SkyNorth, Scott enjoyed 9 years at Microsoft where he held various roles supporting SharePoint and Azure. As a Dedicated Premier Field Engineer, he worked with top Enterprise Fortune 500 companies and assisted in proactive reviews, architecture design, software upgrades, migrations, and plenty of trouble-shooting. He was integral to architecting technical solutions, as well as providing world class support and leadership.  In addition to a very successful Microsoft career, Scott brings passion, integrity, and common-sense solutions to the SkyNorth team where he values providing the best solution for technology related business issues.

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5357 Penn Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55419

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