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SharePoint 2010 Custom Workflow “Failed To Start” Error

by on July 16, 2012

Under the workflow column, you will see “failed to start”.image

Click on the workflow link that says “failed to start” and you will see more workflow information:

Status: Failed on start

Workflow History:

<WorkflowName> was cancelled by System Account

<WorkflowName> failed to start



A custom Workflow applied to a custom Content Type is not starting or an OOTB workflow is not starting.

To see workflows on a content type:

List/Library > list/library settings > Content Type (will not appear if there are not multiple content types) > Settings > workflow settings


Not really sure – seems to be a glitch or possibly caused by an update, etc.

A possible reason for this is that since it cannot start automatically under a system account (perhaps a security measure?), and workflows run under the account with which they were created/published, you will need to republish with a non system account user.

NOTE: You should use a generic Admin account to avoid errors caused by removal of accounts as employees leave the company and their accounts are disabled during off-boarding processes.


Try publishing as a different user (rather than System Account), then back to the original if it is still a valid account. If it is based on another workflow, try republishing that one (IE. approval workflow).

You may want to create a non-user specific generic Admin account, and use that to publish all your workflows. This should remove issues which can be caused by removal of inactive users.

  1. vena permalink

    hi emerson.. i have a problem like that here..
    i’ve made a list workflow in sharepoint designer, and like your solution above, i already publish the workflow under non system account user. But still… failed on start. Please help?

    • make sure the publishing user has access to any lists/libraries in the workflow – the impersonation step should help.

  2. I encountered this error and stumbled upon the answer. From SPD, I opened All Files > Workflows > [Workflow Name]. I noticed my .xoml and .xsn were checked out. After I checked them back in, all was well.

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  1. SharePoint Designer issues + resolutions | My Blog
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