Troubleshoot your Outlook: sending weird random content of Asian characters when you respond to meeting invites.?!

So sharing one wild story I went through in the past couple of days ๐Ÿ˜‰ Whenever I responded to a meeting invite using Outlook on Windows 10, it misbehaved and replaced my message with random content using an Asian mix of characters. Check out the screenshot below. I was not able to reproduce this behavior using Outlook Web Access or Outlook for Mobile.

Outlook invite response

This all started when a colleague of mine pinged me over Teams and asked me if I spoke Chinese. I smiled and said: “I wish. Why would you think that?” I asked. He told me that my meeting invite response was not in English. So naturally I thought he was messing with me ๐Ÿ˜› and I checked the Sent folder in Outlook. To my surprise, indeed and for days my responses to meeting invites were being replaced with that mix of Asian characters. What surprised me even more, was that: content was continuously changing with every message.

At that moment, my head then rushed into wild conclusions. Maybe someone hacked my machine and this is a message in their mother tongue? Is this a ransom message? Why is it that subtle though? Why not contact me directly? I checked out both Bing and Google Translators. Google detected it as Chinese while Bing as Japanese and both were not able to translate it. Check out screenshot below. I then checked if any of my external contacts/customers have been exposed and reported this to IT.

Bing Translator
Google Translator

After having couple of remote desktop sessions with IT, we ruled out a an attack and came to the conclusion that this was an Encoding problem caused by a beta Windows 10 feature.

The resolution was simple: uncheck the box called “Beta: Use Unicode UTF-8 for worldwide language support.”. You can find that under the Administrative tab in the Region settings of the Control Panel. Check out the screenshot below. As soon as you apply this change, Windows 10 will ask for your permission to restart the machine.

Solution: uncheck beta Unicode checkbox

Well that’s it ๐Ÿ™‚ Outlook will go back to normal behavior. When I initially faced this problem, I did not find any resources online, therefore sharing this with you, as I am pretty sure others will go through this issue too.

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