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Exchange essentials for the new administrator

Whether you are an Exchange newbie or are just interested in a "refresher," here is a tip on the ABCs of creating mailboxes.

If you are new to Exchange, it may seem at times that the bare essentials of getting started with the technology are lost among the wealth of information out there on Exchange.

In an effort to help this audience, I am going to use my column this week to talk about the ins and outs of first-time deployments and, specifically, mailbox creation.

In an Exchange environment, there are two main types of mailbox creation that you need to be aware of: mailboxes for new users and mailboxes for existing users.

Setting up a mailbox for a new user is really no big deal. At the time that you create the user account, Windows will ask you if you want to create a mailbox to go along with the account. This is great if you are in the process of setting up your company's first network, but odds are that you probably have an existing network and are simply adding an Exchange Server to it. The act of installing Exchange alone will not create mailboxes for your existing users. Instead, you will have to manually create a mailbox and link it to an existing account. Fortunately, this process isn't as difficult as it sounds.

For demonstration purposes, I will be using Exchange Server 2003 running on a Windows 2003 Server. Begin the process by opening Active Directory Users and Computers. After doing so, select the Users container and then locate the account that you would like to create a mailbox for. After finding the account, right click it and you should see an option on the resulting shortcut menu called Exchange Tasks.

If the Exchange Tasks option exists, then select it. If this option doesn't exist, then there are a couple of possible reasons why. If the option doesn't exist then it means that the domain controller that you are working from has no knowledge of the existence of the Exchange Server. The most common cause of this is that the Active Directory replication cycle has not completed for that domain controller since Exchange was installed. Usually if you just wait for a while the problem will go away by itself, assuming that the server is able to communicate with other domain controllers in the domain.

When you right click on the user and select the Exchange Tasks command from the shortcut menu, Windows will launch the Exchange Task Wizard. Click Next to bypass the wizard's Welcome screen and you will see a list of available tasks. The available task list typically will include things like Create a Mailbox, Establish an e-mail address and Remove Exchange Attributes. Since we are setting up a mailbox for a previously existing user account, select the Create Mailbox command and click Next. You will now see a screen that asks you for an alias, server and mailbox store.

This information should be filled in for you automatically, but it is still good to look over it because the default values may not be the best values for you. Normally, the Alias will be the same as the user name, but you have the option of changing it to meet your needs. If this is your first Exchange deployment then you probably won't have to worry about selecting a server because you will likely only have one Exchange Server. If you do have multiple servers, though, then this is where you can control which server the mailbox is placed on. Finally, you can choose which of the server's storage groups the mailbox should be placed into. If you are unsure of what to choose, then just select the First Storage Group / Mailbox Store option. Click Next and you should see a summary appear, indicating that the mailbox was created successfully. Click Finish to complete the process.

As I said earlier, this process is very similar to the process used in creating a brand new account. When you create a new user account, there will be an option during the setup process that asks if you want to create a mailbox for the account. If you choose to create an Exchange mailbox, then you are simply prompted to enter the alias, server, and mailbox store in exactly the same way as I just showed you. The only difference is that mailbox is being created for a new account rather than for an existing one.

After Exchange is installed, deleting a user account becomes a little bit different as well. When you delete the account, Windows will ask you if you want to delete the Exchange Mailbox as well. Normally it would probably seem like you would want to say Yes, but think before you delete. If you have a new employee who will be taking the old employee's place, it might be helpful for the new employee to have access to the old employee's messages. If this sounds like something that you might want to do, then tell Windows not to delete the mailbox.

Any time that you delete a user account, but not the corresponding mailbox, the mailbox is said to be orphaned. The only way to access an orphaned mailbox is to associate it with a user account. Before I show you how to do that, though, I should point out that each account can have only one mailbox associated with it. Therefore, when you create the account for the new employee, don't create a mailbox to go with it.

The last step in the process is to associate the new account with the old mailbox. You will have to do this through the Exchange System Manager. To do so, navigate through System Manager to Administrative Groups | your administrative group | Servers | your server | First Storage Group | Mailbox Store | Mailboxes. Now, locate the mailbox that belonged to the old employee. Once you have found it, right click on the mailbox and select the Reconnect command from the resulting shortcut menu. When you do, you will be prompted for the user account that you wish to link the mailbox to. It's as easy as that!

Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as the CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, Tech Target, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies, and numerous other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at

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