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Troubleshooting OWA login problems

In the latest edition of the Exchange mailbag, our expert helps a few admins get to the bottom of their peskiest OWA logon problems.

Exchange mailbagIn this issue of the Exchange mailbag, expert Brien Posey answers some of our users’ burning Outlook Web Access login questions. Find out how to get past a seemingly impenetrable OWA logon page, what to do if OWA bounces back to the logon screen when opening an attachment and other stumpers.

Have your own Exchange question? Send it along to [email protected].

I’m able to access my OWA logon page, but I can’t access anything beyond that. External users can’t access the page either. What should I do? I am using Exchange Server 2003.

Brien Posey - You probably have a problem with your forms-based authentication. You can fix this by following these steps: 

  1. Open the Exchange System Manager and navigate to the Server -> Protocols section.
  2. Open the HTTP folder.
  3. Right-click on the Exchange Virtual Server and select the Properties command.
  4. Go to the Settings tab and deselect the Enable Forms Based Authentication checkbox.
  5. Click Apply.
  6. Open a command prompt window and enter the IISRESET command.
  7. Re-enable Forms Based Authentication and click Apply.

Our Exchange Server 2007 and Windows Server 2003 domain has about 100 mailboxes. We work completely on thin clients and use magnetic HID cards for passwords. For some reason, our staff cannot login into OWA mail without the magnetic reader and cards if they’re out of the office. What do you suggest?

Your best option may be to set up a VPN connection and then enable RADIUS authentication. That way, external users can authenticate into the network without using their HID cards. This won’t solve the OWA problem, but remote employees should be able to access their mail through Microsoft Outlook.

When I log into OWA, I’m able to access my email without a problem. However, when I try to reply or open an attachment, I get bounced back to the OWA logon screen when the attachment begins to open. Why does this happen?

According to Microsoft, this can happen if you’re trying to open an attachment that’s usually opened by an application other than a Web browser. For example, opening a Microsoft Word document requires that you use that application; Word documents don’t display in Internet Explorer natively. Although IE has the necessary authentication credentials, the application that’s trying to open the document doesn’t inherit those credentials.

If you’re running Exchange Server 2007 or Exchange 2010, consider enabling WebReady document viewing. This feature allows certain types of attachments to display within the Web browser.


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