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Alternatives to closing or disabling Exchange mail accounts

The alternatives to closing or disabling an ex-employee's mailbox in case you need to continue monitoring the account.

When a user leaves an organization that uses Exchange, the administrator typically closes or disables that person's Exchange account. A disabled Exchange account cannot accept new e-mail at all. If someone e-mails a closed Exchange account, the server returns an automated error (usually error 503) with no additional details.

In some cases this may not be what is needed. For instance, if the user's account was terminated for security reasons, the administrator or another person may want to monitor mail coming into the account. Rather than disable the account entirely, they can simply hide it from the address book by selecting "Hide in address book" under the Advanced tab in the Exchange recipients configuration menu. This will hide the account from the address book, although the account will continue to accept mail.

Note that hiding a mailbox in this fashion will prevent many Exchange-specific backup programs, such as Backup Exec, from backing up the mailbox. If the administrator wants to continue retaining backups of the account, there are two other possibilities that don't involve hiding the mail account.

Another option can be used to provide a more detailed automated response instead of a simple 502 error. Select an alternate recipient for the mailbox, and then set an Outlook Out of Office Assistant rule to reply to all incoming mails to that box. This can provide redirection information to the sender.

A third option is to set a Delivery Restrictions rule to "Accept From:" and then place nothing in the "Accept From:" list, which can also be combined with an Out of Office Assistant rule as well. With both of these options, the user account is kept open and "alive."


Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators – please share your thoughts as well!


This was last published in January 2004

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