Inside VSTS

The Red X of Death

Can't access the Documents or Reports folder? Mickey shows you the two most common causes for this problem and how to correct them.

I would like to introduce everyone to a new author for this column -- Mickey Gousset. Mickey is a fellow Team System MVP, co-author of the book Professional Team Foundation Server from Wrox and an all-around great guy. Mickey and I will be alternating the authoring of this column. Enjoy! --Jeff Levinson
If you've been using Team Explorer to access Team Foundation Server (TFS), then you may have encountered what I like to call the "Red X of Death." This occurs when you try to access a team project on your TFS but can't access either the Documents or the Reports folder, as shown in Figure 1.

Chances are, if you haven't seen this before, it's because you're always giving yourself administrative privileges to everything on your TFS. When and if you do encounter this problem, don't worry. The solution isn't to make the affected user an administrator. Instead, there are two main causes of the "Red X of Death," both of which are easy to fix.

Cause No. 1: Wrong Security Privileges
Let's tackle the problem with the Reports folder first. This folder is related to SQL Server Reporting Services, which TFS uses for reporting. If you see a red "x" on the Reports folder, it could be an indication that you don't have the appropriate security rights to the report site. You need to have at least Content Manager rights to access the Reports folder.

Use the following steps to fix this problem with the Reports folder:

  1. Open your Web browser and navigate to
    where <ServerName> is the server where you have SQL Server Reporting Services installed. This could be your TFS or, if you're using TFS 2008, a separate server.

  2. Once the Reports site is pulled up, click on the folder for your Team Project.

  3. Click on the Properties tab at the top of the screen, then click the Security link on the left-hand menu. You'll see a screen similar to Figure 2.

  4. Click the Edit Security Item button.

  5. Click the New Role Assignment button. This opens a page where you can enter a user (or group) and select their role assignment, as shown in Figure 3.

Click OK, and the user will now have access to the Reports folder in Team Explorer.

Now, let's look at how to fix the "Red X of Death" problem for the Documents folder in Team Explorer. This folder is related to the Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) Team Project Portal site.

As with the Reports folder, a red "x" could indicate that you don't have the appropriate access rights to the Team Project Portal site. You'll need to be a member of either the Contributor or Administrator group to access the Documents folder. Use the following steps to fix this problem with the Documents folder:

  1. In your Web browser, navigate to
    where <TeamProjectName> is the name of your Team Project, and <ServerName> is the server where your Team Project Portal resides.

  2. Under Users and Permissions, click Peoples and groups.

  3. Click the New button to add a new user or group. A page will open similar to Figure 4.

  4. Enter the appropriate user name or group and select the appropriate site group (either Contributor or Administrator).

Click OK, and the user will now have access to the Documents folder in Team Explorer.

Cause No. 2: The Server Is Confused About Its Name
The other main reason that people encounter the "Red X of Death" is when they use a different address to access the server than the server thinks it is. For example, you may be accessing your server using the name "MyTFS.MyCompany.Com," but when the server was installed you used "MyTFS" as the server name.

When Team Explorer connects to the TFS, the server gives Team Explorer the locations of both the WSS portal site and the reporting services area. However, these are given using the name that the server knows, the name defined at setup. In the case of the above example, that would be "MyTFS."

To fix this problem, you can do one of the following:

  1. Modify the configuration of the TFS so that it uses the fully qualified name. You can do this using TFSReg.exe.

  2. Add an entry to the client machine's HOSTS file so that it can resolve the TFS server by the name that you use.

Overall, the second option is the easier one to try, and is the one you should do first.

The "Red X of Death" is a common issue that people run into with TFS. As you can see from this article, it's not a difficult problem to fix. You just have to determine what the exact cause of the problem is first.

About the Author

Mickey Gousset spends his days as a principal consultant for Infront Consulting Group. Gousset is lead author of "Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2012" (Wrox, 2012) and frequents the speaker circuit singing the praises of ALM and DevOps. He also blogs at ALM Rocks!. Gousset is one of the original Team System/ALM MVPs and has held the award since 2005.

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