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Deleting auto-generated spam from the outbound queue

The obvious way to deal with a flooded outbound queue is to stop the SMTP service and flush the queue. But what if there are legitimate messages that need to be delivered? Learn an easy way to selectively delete just the offending messages, without losing any of the good ones.

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Picture this: One afternoon, you're bombarded with pleas for help from people who've been trying to send mail all day. You check the outbound SMTP queue and -- to your horror -- find hundreds, if not thousands of identical messages.

Maybe they've been generated by some piece of malware that somehow slipped through your company's defenses, and is now trying to spam the outside world; or maybe one of your users has stupidly tried to e-mail the same 2 MB attachment to a whole slew of SMTP-only users!

The obvious way to deal with this is to stop the SMTP service and flush the queue. But what if there are other messages that legitimately need to be delivered?

There is a way to delete only the offending messages -- without using any third-party tools:

  1. Open one of the offending messages and look for a couple of keywords or phrases that should distinguish it from other mail in the queue.

  2. Stop the SMTP service on the Exchange server.

  3. Open the directory that contains the SMTP queues if you haven't already. Usually this is the folder C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\Mailroot\VSI 1\Queue.

  4. Right-click on the Queue folder and select Search.

  5. In the search window's Word or phrase in the file field, enter the phrase you're using to filter out the message in question.

  6. Search for the matching messages.

  7. Remove them from the queue. You don't have to delete them; they can simply be moved to another folder in the event another message that shouldn't be deleted has been trapped.

  8. Restart the SMTP service and let the messages spool normally.

Since SMTP-queued messages are plain text, they can be read by being dropped into Notepad or another plain text reader.

Note that some automatic spam uses randomly-generated texts to make them more difficult to filter out. However, if they're trying to propagate by sending an attachment, odds are you should be able to filter by searching for the first dozen or so characters in the encoded version of the attachment.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.

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Related information from

  • Learning Center: The spamfighter's toolbox
  • Reference Center: Spam prevention and management

  • Dig Deeper on Exchange Server setup and troubleshooting