Server-side activities have been updated

If you use SharePoint Designer 2013 to build workflows, there's a fair chance you'll have come across the following error message:
Server-side activities have been updated. You need to restart SharePoint Designer to use the updated version of activities.
 Needless to say, restarting SharePoint Designer rarely makes the error go away. The usual advice is:

Approach 1: Clear the cache folders
See for example How to Clear Your SharePoint Designer 2010/2013 Cache. If you've just deployed some custom workflow activities to your site, this will probably solve your problem (and you should clear the cache folders every time you deploy custom activities). If the error occurs spontaneously, this approach often won't help.

Approach 2: Reinstall SharePoint Designer
This might work if you've got a preview version of SharePoint Designer installed. If not, it's unlikely to help. It didn't work for me, and it didn't work for countless others on the forums.

Approach 3: Install SharePoint Designer on another machine
This one kind of annoys me... it usually works, but it's hardly a practical solution to the problem.

In my case, having tried approach 1 and 2 and having established that the problem was client-specific (a colleague was able to connect to the same sites and create workflows just fine), I did some digging around to see what else could be causing the problem.

Short Answer


(If you're working on a Windows client rather than a SharePoint server)

Check your Programs list for Workflow Manager Client 1.0. If it's there, uninstall it. The Workflow Manager Client needs to run on every SharePoint server in a farm when you pair the farm with a Workflow Manager deployment. In my case, I'm using SharePoint Designer on my laptop to build workflows on an Office 365 site, so there was no reason for the Workflow Manager Client to be there. (I'm not even sure how it got there - maybe bundled with Visual Studio.)

In my case, once I'd uninstalled Workflow Manager Client, I was able to create and edit workflows in SharePoint Designer without errors.

*** Update 27 November 2015 ***: A new issue has emerged where running Visual Studio 2015 and SharePoint Designer 2013 on the same machine appears to be causing the same problem (without Workflow Manager Client). Installing SharePoint Designer 2013 with SP1 before you install Visual Studio appears to prevent this issue from occurring. If it's too late for that, uninstalling and reinstalling Visual Studio seems to fix the problem. (See https://community.office365.com/en-us/f/154/t/409588?pi14985=2 for more on this issue.)

*** Update 16 September 2016 ***: As of January 2016 there's a SharePoint Designer 2013 patch that fixes this issue specifically (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3114337). Thanks to Jeremy Morel for the pointer.

Long Answer ("Show your work")


I started by getting a colleague, John Devaney, to run SharePoint Designer and connect to the site. Once we'd established he was able to create and edit workflows, we compared the contents of our cache folders. The contents of the WebsiteCache folder (%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\WebsiteCache) showed some key differences. When you drill down into the version folder for a particular site, mine looked like this:


























Whereas John's looked like this:




















We'd both started with empty cache folders. However, John's SharePoint Designer instance downloaded, generated, or copied in a handful of assemblies and culture definitions (the NLP files), whereas mine failed to do so. 

I experimented with copying these files across to my own cache folder. The key file turned out to be the Microsoft.SharePoint.WorkflowServices.Activities.Proxy.dll assembly. If I copied this assembly across to my cache folder, I was able to create and edit workflows. Without it, I got the Server-side activities have been updated error.

Next, I had a closer look at how SharePoint Designer goes about getting these assemblies. I used Fiddler to look at the web traffic that SharePoint Designer generates when I try to create a new workflow. It calls various client-side object model (CSOM) methods, including two methods in the WorkflowDeploymentService class:
  • GetDesignerActions. According to MSDN, this method "returns a list of valid Workflow Manager Client 1.0 actions for the specified server". As you'd expect, the response body contains a bunch of SharePoint Designer actions in .actions4 (XML) format.
  • GetActivitySignatures. This method takes a single DateTime argument named lastChanged, which suggests a connection to SharePoint Designer caching. Again, as you'd expect, the response body contains a set of activity definitions in XAML format.
The fact that these methods interact with Workflow Manager Client 1.0 on the SharePoint server got me thinking, so I checked the Programs list on my laptop. The working theory is that information on the local instance of Workflow Manager Client could conflict with the information returned by the server, and somehow prevent SharePoint Designer from generating the proxy assemblies. Regardless, uninstalling the local Workflow Manager Client instance solved the problem for me.

Seeing as it's not an easy issue to replicate, I'd be interested to hear whether this fix works for other people.

Comments

  1. Uninstalling Workflow Manager Client 1.0 resolved the issue. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank You! Copying over the Microsoft.SharePoint.WorkflowServices.Activities.Proxy.dll from one of my other sites fixed the problem for me.

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  3. I had the Workflow Manager Client installed and removing it resolved the issue for me as well.

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  4. Thank you .Uninstalling Workflow Manager Client 1.0 resolved the issue.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did not work for me anything in a Dev environment. Was working fine until install of 3rd party software for Workflows from Plumsail. They link to this blog for the issue. I will have to uninstall their software. Had SP2012, SPDesigner 2013, Workflow Manager 2013 working seamlessly on same server until install of their software.

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  6. I can confirm that copying the Websitecache folder from a machine where SPD is working, fixed the problem on my own laptop.

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  7. Removing Workflow Manager Client 1.0 from my machine has worked. Thanks a lot!

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  8. Workflow Manager Client is not installed on my machine. but I found the assemblies in Reference Assemblies folder and also the Microsoft.Net folder. are they relevant here? and If so is there any way to remove/uninstall them? I have VS 2015 professional installed on my machine in case of more information required

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    Replies
    1. It turns out Visual Studio 2015 doesn't play nicely with SharePoint Designer 2013 - that's yet another source of this error. It seems you need to install SPD2013 with SP1 before you install VS2015. Uninstalling and reinstalling VS2015 may resolve the problem - see https://community.office365.com/en-us/f/154/t/409588 (second page). I'll update this post once I've verified the fix.

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    2. Hi Jason, I would be interested to see your results on this. I am currently updating VS2015 and installing SPD-SP1 - will also post my results. I have had no success with any other options (except for trying another PC, as this is not an option for me)

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    3. I removed the Workflow Manager Client and now I do not have the drop down option to create SharePoint 2013 Workflows. After reinstalling the client I still can't get it back. The Workflow manager is installed.

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    4. Regarding last comment by Unknown on 29 August - can I emphasize that the guidance in this post was about fixing this problem on a Windows client, not on a SharePoint Server (see first sentence under Short Answer heading and explanation throughout). Whether or not the SharePoint 2013 workflow platform is available in SharePoint Designer is determined by how the SharePoint farm is configured, not by how a client machine running SharePoint Designer is configured. If you're running SharePoint Designer on an actual SharePoint Server (e.g. a dev environment), do not uninstall Workflow Manager Client. If you have, you'll probably need to reinstall and reconfigure Workflow Manager to make your 2013 workflows available again.

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  9. I uninstalled Workflow Manager Client 1.0, restarted SharePoint Designer, and created a WF as expected. Thank you!

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  10. I uninstalled Workflow Manager Client 1.0, and uninstalled VS 2015 and uninstalled also SPD and reinstall them in order but the problem is remain.
    I have created a text file and change the name to Microsoft.SharePoint.WorkflowServices.Activities.Proxy.dll so I can avoid the server side problem and open the workflow window but there is no actions in action list and no conditions in condition list.
    Please send to me the Microsoft.SharePoint.WorkflowServices.Activities.Proxy.dll file to set it in the cache folder. I thing it'll solve the problem.

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  11. I have updated sharepoint server and the problem has fixed

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  12. o copied the activities dll from this location and it fixed the issue https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21AE8rEirxf-u0P3E&cid=BC7316AE1B529695&id=BC7316AE1B529695%21593&parId=root&action=locate

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  13. The best way to solve this problem is to replace the dll file, you can find it http://fix4dll.com/msvcr71_dll . Otherwise it is possible for a long time to bother with this. I advise you to try. Good luck

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  14. Thanks! Uninstalling Workflow manager worked perfectly!

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  15. Hi Jason,
    Installing Windows Updates solved it for me.

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  16. I tried step 1 2 and 3, and it worked only by copying files from another machine.
    Thanks

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  17. I understand that this is well after this post, but since the thread is still active, here's a solution from Microsoft, (SPD2013 Update, Jan 2016),which specifically resolves this issue. Note that you must be using SPD2013 SP1 in order to install this update.

    Links:
    SP1 (if needed): http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2817441
    Update (fix): https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3114337

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jeremy! I'll add a note at the top of the post.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Jeremy! I'll add a note at the top of the post.

      Delete
  18. This is absolutely fantastic! Worked like a charm. Thanks very much both Jason and Jeremy!

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  19. Hey there - just want to give you a quick big thanks! Also i worked out that if i allowed sharing of the 15.0.0.4455 folder from the sites websitecache folder it downlaoded the necessary assemblies. that made my day!

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  20. Perfect. Uninstalling the Workflow Manager Client resolved the issue. Thanks!

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  21. Just want to mention that this issue cropped up for me today (after installing Visual Studio 2017, sigh), and trying all of the above including the MS fix did not clear the issue. Further research came across this link: https://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/windowsapps/en-US/5796972e-3a92-4306-8cf1-e1e7b9ab9635/error-while-saving-a-workflow-via-sharepoint-designer-serverside-activities-have-been-updated-you?forum=sharepointcustomization - which in the steps to fix included deleting the files in "\appdata\roaming\microsoft\SharePoint Designer\ProxyAssemblyCache" which was NOT mentioned above. This did solve my issue, so posting here in case it helps.

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  22. Thanks, copying the dll file solved the issue for me.

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  23. Uninstalling Workflow Manager Client 1.0 resolved the issue. Thanks!

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  24. After removing Workflow Manager Client 1.0 will 2013 workflows available to me or not???

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    Replies
    1. Yes, so long as you're removing it from a Windows client, not from a machine running SharePoint Server...

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