Intermittent Workflow Error – Failed on start (retrying)

A custom SharePoint 2010 workflow which I wrote was occasionally failing (perhaps 1 in 10) when auto-starting upon the addition of list item with a ‘Failed on start (retrying)‘ status. I’ve dealt with this error in the past and it is almost always caused by invalid workflow code (bad correlation tokens etc, there’s plenty about this elsewhere) but in those cases the failure is consistent.

Looking into the logs I found an unexpected error: “AutoStart Workflow: System.ArgumentException: New instances of this workflow template are currently disallowed“. The workflow association was NOT set to ‘no new instances’. In the case of my particular workflow, it was performing a considerable amount of work upon start including creating a dynamic amount of tasks that in most cases counted more than twenty.

With a lack of other options I modified the workflow with a delay immediately after start so that the workflow would sleep and then create tasks at the next timer interval. The error still intermittently appears in the logs but the workflow runs anyway (I believe it fails to run during the first timer interval when this happens, but retries at the next at which it works). Clearly this solution is not ideal, but has resolved my issue from a functional perspective.

If I come across a more elegant solution or any functional problems with this solution I’ll be sure to update this post. Good luck.

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Paul Ryan

As a developer my professional interests are technical and tend to be SharePoint focused. I've been working with SharePoint since 2009 and hope my posts will give back a little to the community that's supported me over this time. I'm also a keen runner (half-marathon) and passionate Brompton bicycle owner.

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