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Exchange public folders FAQs

Creating and managing Exchange Server public folders can be a tricky business. In this collection of frequently asked questions, you'll discover a wealth of information on the topic. From configuring and troubleshooting permissions to recovering and exporting data, you're sure to learn something about public folders you didn't know before.

Creating and managing Exchange Server public folders can be a tricky business. In the list of frequently asked...

questions below, you'll discover a wealth of information from configuring and troubleshooting permissions to recovering and exporting data.

Frequently Asked Questions:


Configuring public folders in Exchange 2003

How do I configure public folders in Exchange 2003, and what are the advantages of public folders?

Good question. Public folders provide a way of sharing Exchange data across your Exchange organization inside of Exchange.

You configure public folders from within Exchange System Manager. Navigate to the appropriate Administrative Group and expand the public folders container. You can create and configure public folders from here. Once top-level public folders are created, users with adequate permissions will be able to create subfolders and store content.

I strongly recommend that you keep public folder usage under tight control. Microsoft has suggested that public folders will be phased out of Exchange gradually, with the logical replacement being SharePoint Portal Server.

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Recovering public folder data

An Exchange server has gone down. Is it possible to re-make the public files and mail with just the MDBDATA folder with a fresh install? If so, how?

I'm assuming that you are referring to recovering data in Exchange 2000. There are two primary ways to recover mailbox data, and one for public folder data.

Mailbox data can be restored back to the recovery storage group (RSG). It can also be recovered on a hot spare server.

To recover the public folder data, you would need to mount the database on a hot spare server that is isolated from production. Once you have the data back online, you can use EXMERGE or PUBMERGE to extract the data into .PST files -- then you can import that back into your production mail environment. You should also consider looking into this webcast I did with David Sengupta on this topic of recovery.

Within the standard recovery context, you will lose the public folder data if you try to recover it through the Mailbox Recovery Center in Exchange System Manager, because it only allows you to mount mailbox stores.

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Recovering a deleted public folder subfolder

We have public folders running on Exchange 2003. A user has deleted a subfolder within public folders. Although deleted item retention is enabled, the folder cannot be recovered -- even with full control permissions through the public folder hierarchy.

We receive the error, "Outlook was unable to recover some or all of the items in this folder. Make sure you have the required permissions to recover items in this folder and try again. If the problem persists contact your administrator."?

One thing you may want to look into is whether there were nested public folders beneath this public folder, and what permissions were set on the public folders nested inside of the folder you are trying to recover.

From what I understand, you need rights for the public folder that you are trying to recover, and all nested public folders beneath that public folder.

For example, if you had the following public folder hierarchy:

Top Level Public Folder #1
  L Public Folder A
    L Public Folder B
      L Public Folder C

Let's say you had permissions on Public Folder A and Public Folder B -- but no permissions on Public Folder C. If Public Folder A was deleted, attempting to recover it by viewing the dumpster contents, while highlighting Top Level Public Folder #1, will fail with the message you refer to. This is because you don't have rights on Public Folder C.

I suspect this is what you're experiencing, in which case you will need to resort to a backup. The two ways of recovering the folder from backup are (a) building a recovery server or (b) using a third-party solution to recover the public folder from backup to your production environment.

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Creating top-level public folder permissions

We have a problem with public folders. We use Outlook 2003 on our clients. We have multiple instances of a folder that I believe happened because users accidentally dragged the good folder. I think Outlook is creating that folder again with a 1, 2, 3, etc. after it. I, as the administrator, cannot delete these folders. They show no one as their owners and have no data. When I try to open the Properties on these folders, I receive an error message:

The object is no longer available
Press F5 to try again
ID No 800040e19
Exchange System Manager

I have looked up this error in the Microsoft Knowledge Base, but have found nothing that helps. I have about seven of these folders, and the more people try to get rid of them, the more are created.

By default, administrators are assigned the right to create public folders. The Default role does not, but can post to folders or to Read items unless those permissions are changed.

You can globally prevent users from creating top-level public folders, which should prevent drag-and-drop duplication at the top level through the following procedure.

To remove the 'Create top-level public folder' permission:

  1. Start Exchange System Manager (ESM).
  2. Navigate to Folders, right-click the Public Folder node and click Properties.
  3. Click the Security tab.
  4. Under Name, click Everyone.
  5. Under Permissions, scroll to 'Create top level public folder.'
  6. In the Allow column, clear the checkbox.

To enable your administrative account to delete the duplicate folders, add your account to the top-level public folder hierarchy and assign yourself full control.

To set the permissions for groups and users to manage individual public folders, navigate to the desired folder through ESM, and click on either Client Permissions and/or Administrative Rights. Client Permissions allow you to select predefined roles that control permissions to create items, read items, create subfolders and establish folder owner, folder contact and folder visible. Groups need to be mail-enabled.

Administrative Rights sets who is an administrator for the folder. In most cases, these are settings don't need to be altered.

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What is the procedure for propagating permissions to all public folder subfolders in Exchange 2000?

Microsoft has incorporated some of the functionality of the Exchange 5.5 PFAdmin Resource Kit tool into the Exchange System Manager in Exchange 2000 and 2003. It is now possible to propagate settings directly on the folders themselves. The following is a process for propagating Client Permissions described in the Microsoft KB325744 at :

  • Start the Exchange System Manager
  • Right-click the top-level folder and then click Properties
  • Select the Permissions tab, and then click Client permissions.
  • After setting the permission you wish to propagate, click OK
  • Right-click the top-level folder again and click All Tasks
  • In the Propagate Folder Settings dialog box, click Folder rights

There are a number of other settings that can also be propagated as well. I would recommend that you create a few public folders without any content to get a feel for how propagation works before propagating settings on production folders. Propagated settings will overwrite all permissions in all subfolders.

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Using a public folder as a distribution list

Is there a way to use an existing public folder full of contacts as a distribution list?

There is a way of achieving what you're trying to do, though you'll have to try it out to see if it meets your requirements:

First of all, you'll want a public folder that contains contact items to use for your tests. It doesn't matter where it is or how many contacts it contains, as long as you have permissions to access it.

Once this is set up, right click the public folder, select Properties -> Outlook Address Book and choose to display this folder as an Outlook Address Book.

Now, when you want to address messages to recipients in the public folder, all you need to do is create a new email message in Outlook, click 'To,' pick the correct Address Book and select from the addresses that appear.

For multiple addresses, either multi-select them all or create distribution lists in the public folder itself.

One final tip: If you want to send an email to some or all contacts in a given public folder, you can just multi-select the contacts in the public folder and drag them onto your Inbox. This will result in a blank new message addressed to these recipients.

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Expanding Exchange public folders

I am running Exchange 2003 configured with four active nodes and one passive node. The public folder store is on one of the Exchange virtual servers. When I try to expand public folders through Exchange System Manager. I get an error: "The requested operation is forbidden." I can access the public folder on a standalone Exchange 2003 server though.

From the description you give, my suspicion is that Exchange System Manager (ESM) cannot get to the "exadmin" virtual directory on your Exchange servers. This virtual directory needs to be available on port 80 for ESM to be able to expand the public folder hierarchy. You should check to make sure that:

  1. The port has not been changed.

  2. Permissions have not been changed.

  3. The Web server hosting exadmin is indeed running.

  4. No one has modified the host headers serviced by this site.

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Copying large amounts of contact information to a public folder

I need a simple way to copy about 13,000 contacts to a public folder. I'm a network administrator for an insurance company. We have contact information for about 11,000 independent agents and 2,000 various other contacts.

We just implemented a 'fax from desktop' solution. The cool thing about it is that, if you have a contact and a number in the 'Business Fax' field, all you have to do is find that contact, send a message and it goes out as a fax.

The problem is that I have to update this list about once a week because information changes that often. Basically, I import an Excel spreadsheet into a contact list in a personal folder on my computer and then copy to the Exchange Server 2003 public folder. This takes forever and a day even when breaking it up into 2,000 piece increments. It also eats about 60-70% of CPU during the copying procedure.

Is there any easier/simpler way of doing this?

First of all, check whether the public folder that you're importing to is replicated to (or located on) a server that is close to you. Secondly, you'll want to check the raw processing power on the Exchange server hosting that public folder. It's quite likely that boosting server performance will speed up your imports, if that's an option. Finally, you may want to consider creating an address list in Active Directory containing the contacts, instead of placing the contacts in a public folder.

You'll need to learn how to use a tool called LDIFDE for export and import to Active Directory. This is described in Microsoft's Step-by-Step guide to bulk import and export to Active Directory.

If this meets all your requirements, then this will speed up the process dramatically. Since LDIFDE import files are a bit unwieldy to manipulate, you will want to search your favorite Internet search engine for "convert ldif to csv free" to locate some of the free tools available to facilitate making your weekly changes using Excel. Obviously, test this in a lab first to ensure this meets your performance needs.

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Exporting from a user's Outlook calendar to a public folder calendar

The end user used her Outlook calendar as the division calendar instead of making a public folder calendar. How do I export the information from her Outlook calendar to the newly created public folder calendar?

Here are some steps for you to follow:

  1. Log onto the end user's account via Outlook.

  2. Navigate to the Outlook folder where the user has saved all the division appointments.

  3. Now you will want to define a new view. Call it whatever you want (i.e., "everything").

  4. In the new view dialog, select the "table" type and make sure all defaults are accepted (i.e., don't select a filter).

  5. Click apply.

  6. You will now see a list of all appointments in this Calendar.

  7. From here on in things get simple. Just select Edit -> Select All (or simply click CTRL-A) and then copy all items to the newly created public folder calendar.

That's all you need to do. You should now have all the appointments in the shared public folder for all to see.

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Public folder messages converting from ipm.note to

Until a couple of weeks ago, when a mail message came in for a public folder, it would come in as ipm.note. But now, for some reason, it is converting to How can I stop this?

Great question! While I can't answer what the root cause was behind the change in your environment (possibly a service pack?), I can provide a way to resolve this -- assuming you're running Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003.

If you're on Exchange 2000, you'll need to get a copy of the April 2004 Exchange 2000 Server post-Service Pack 3 update rollup (Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 836488, April 2004 Exchange 2000 Server post-Service Pack 3 update rollup) and install it on your Exchange server(s).

If you're on Exchange Server 2003, you'll need to call Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) and ask for fix 817809.

Once hotfixed, you'll want to a DWORD registry key named "incoming defaults to IPM.Note" under the following registry key:


\Public-<GUID> and set it to "1" to retain 
the IPM.Note message class.

This is also detailed in my colleague Serdar Yegulalp's article, Public folder message classes.

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How storage limits work in a public folder hierarchy

How do Public Folder storage limits count in the folder hierarchy? Do they count for the content of top folder only, or do they count for the content of whole folder tree -- beyond the top folder?

If a folder is created with Exchange System Manager, with storage limits set -- for example, a Prohibit Post at 500 KB -- then only that folder is evaluated. If the Administrator creates a sub-folder underneath, and assigns it a 600 KB limit, then that folder's size limits are enforced, independent of its parent. If a user is granted the Create Subfolders Client permission (for example as a publishing editor or owner), those folders are not by default size limited. They are also independent of any parent folder size restrictions.

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How to view public folders in Outlook 2003

We are using an Exchange 2000 server and Outlook 2003. We have some public folders (Contacts, etc). When we were using Outlook XP, it worked fine. But now, we can't see public folders with Outlook 2003. What can we do to use and synchronize it again?

In Outlook 2003, public folders are not at the bottom of the tree where they used to be. Click on the folder button at the bottom of the navigation pane. The folder list will appear, and then click Public Folders. You may want to add public folder to your favorite folder list.

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David Sengupta
David Sengupta
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