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How to enable automatic Exchange IMF updates via Microsoft Update

Learn how Exchange Server 2003 SP2 and later can be set up to automatically obtain and install new versions of IMF through the Microsoft Update Web site.


To help you stay one step ahead of new incarnations of spam, Microsoft issues a new version of Exchange Server's Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) approximately twice a month (that is, on the first and third Wednesday of each month). It's the responsibility of Exchange administrators to download and install it though.

What many Exchange administrators don't realize is that Exchange 2003 SP2 and later can be set up to automatically obtain and install new versions of IMF through the Microsoft Update Web site.

New editions of Exchange Server's IMF can be downloaded like any other system patch made available through Microsoft Update, and with minimum user intervention. All languages that are supported through Microsoft Update have IMF versions available.

To set this up on your Exchange server:

  1. Open the registry and edit the key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Exchange

  2. Insert a new DWORD value named ContentFilterState and set it to 1.

  3. Now go to the Microsoft Update Web site and click the "Custom" button to scan for optional updates. If a newer version of the Exchange Server IMF filter is available, it'll show up in the list of updates that can be downloaded.

If you have "Show updates" checked, the installed updates can also be seen in Control Panel -> Add or Remove Programs. They're listed as sub-entries under Microsoft Exchange and named "Update for Intelligent Message Filter on Exchange Server 2003," followed by the date of IMF's revision. If you remove IMF through the Control Panel, IMF will revert to the original version installed with Exchange Server 2003.

Whenever a new edition of the filter is installed, it'll reside in the directory \Program Files\Exchsrvr\bin\MSCFV2\<revision>, where <revision> is the IMF revision number. This folder contains the .DLL needed for IMF, as well as the MSExchange.UceContentFilter.xml file used by the .DLL.

If you want to work manually with these files and directories (for instance, to roll back to an earlier version of IMF), Microsoft Knowledge Base article 907747, How to update the Intelligent Message Filter version 2 in Exchange Server 2003 SP2, explains in detail how to do that.

Note: Don't confuse Windows Update with Microsoft Update. Windows Update is the older version of what has been turned into Microsoft Update, which covers a broader range of products and technologies. Also, you should know that this technology is not offered for or supported on Exchange Server clusters.

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


You can also enable Exchange Server's Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) updates from WSUS. Apart from creating the ContentFilterState registry DWORD Value of 1, from WSUS, you must add the following Update Classification: "Update Rollups." This will then download the IMF updates as well as the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.

For more information, check out "Updating Intelligent Message Filter v2 via WSUS" on my blog.
—Athif K.

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  • E-mail Security School: Locking down Exchange Server
  • Reference Center: Spam prevention and management resources

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