Cleaning mailboxes in Microsoft Exchange

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In this article, we’ll discuss the Clean Mailbox utility that’s part of Microsoft Exchange Administrator. This utility will allow you to delete the contents of a mailbox without removing it or logging on to it. As long as you have Exchange Administrator permissions, you can remove mail, not the mailbox, with a variety of options.

Cleaning a mailbox

In many instances, you may want to remove the contents of a mailbox without removing the actual mailbox itself. A good example is in a lab or training environment. Before you start a training session, you need to make sure that mail from the previous class does not exist. Logging on to each mailbox and manually deleting its contents would be a time-consuming venture. Instead, you can let the Clean Mailbox utility do the work for you.

Using the utility without Service Pack 3

First, we’ll walk through the instructions for using the Clean Mailbox utility if you have not applied Service Pack 3 for Microsoft Exchange to your Exchange Server or to the client that runs Exchange Administrator. First, launch the Exchange Administrator. From the Recipients container, choose a mailbox that needs to be cleaned. From the Tools menu, choose Clean. You will be presented with the Clean Mailbox screen shown in Figure 1. At this point, you can delete mail based on age, sensitivity, or read criteria. You can also choose to delete the items or just move them to the deleted items folder. Note that the age of the message is calculated based on the date the message was last modified.

Figure 1: The Clean Mailbox utility without Service Pack 3 applied

One problem with using the Clean Mailbox utility prior to Service Pack 3 is that the Outlook client program stores Contact and Calendar information as message files. The utility does not differentiate between special folder messages and normal mail messages and will clean all messages based on message size or message age.

Service Pack 3 Functionality

In order to have the best functionality with the Clean Mailbox utility, you should apply Service Pack 3 for Microsoft Exchange to your Exchange Server as well as to all clients that run Exchange Administrator. By doing this, you will have additional options when using the utility, as you can see in Figure 2. The added functionality includes the ability to remove messages based on the date they were modified or received. It also adds a Default Types section that allows you to differentiate between special folders and the Inbox.

Figure 2: The Clean Mailbox utility with Service Pack 3 applied

Things to consider

The Clean Mailbox utility in the Microsoft Exchange Server Administrator program determines the message age based on the MAPI property PR_MESSAGE_DELIVERY_TIME, which is the date the message was received. However, Outlook’s auto-archive function determines message age based on the MAPI property PR_LAST_MODIFICATION_TIME, which is the date the message was last modified. This difference can result in a problem for auto-archive. When you move or change an Outlook message, you update the “Modified” date attribute that is used by the archive program. To the archive program, moved messages do not appear to be as old as they were before the move, and so they may not be archived as soon as expected. If you auto-archive messages once they reach a certain age, and you then delete messages using the Clean Mailbox utility, some messages may be deleted that have not yet been auto-archived because the last modification date may be changed. //

Troy Thompson, MCSE+Internet, is a freelance consultant in the Louisville, Ky., area.

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