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Repairing damaged OWA virtual directories in Exchange Server 2003

Repairing corrupt Exchange Server 2003 virtual directories prevents Outlook Web Access (OWA) from displaying icons as red Xs or showing 'Loading' messages.

Microsoft Exchange Server virtual directory corruption can prevent Outlook Web Access (OWA) from displaying icons properly. The OWA contents frame will display a "Loading…" message and graphic images appear as placeholders containing red Xs. Troubleshoot this Outlook Web Access issue by repairing the damaged Exchange Server 2003 virtual directories that OWA uses.

When I logged onto Outlook Web Access recently, I noticed a serious problem. As you can see in Figure 1, OWA isn't displaying graphic images properly. All of the images have been replaced by placeholders containing red Xs and a "Loading…" message appears.

Outlook Web Access is displaying graphic images as red Xs
Figure 1. OWA's icons are replaced with red Xs and the contents frame displays a "Loading..." message. ( Click on image for enlarged view.)

Microsoft's knowledgebase article, Troubleshooting OWA when the contents frame displays "Loading", lists numerous causes for this OWA problem. After testing some of the troubleshooting techniques offered and trying a few things on my own, I discovered that a corrupt Exchange virtual directory caused the problem. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to configure Exchange Server 2003 to rebuild its virtual directory structure.

Note: Before you begin, I strongly recommend making a full system backup of your OWA server.

Deleting corrupt Exchange 2003 virtual directories

First, you must delete the corrupt Exchange 2003 virtual directories. To do so, open IIS Manager and navigate to Web Sites -> Default Web Site. You can delete the virtual directories under the Default Web Site container by selecting them and pressing the Delete key. Keep in mind that you don't want to delete all of the virtual directories. You should only delete the following Exchange Server virtual directories: Exadmin, Exchange, ExchWeb, Microsoft-Server-ActiveSync, OMA and Public.

Clearing the IIS metabase

Now you need to clean out the IIS metabase, and then download and install the IIS 6 Resource Kit tools.

After installing the Resource Kit tools, launch the IIS Metabase Explorer tool. You can find this tool in the Start -> All Programs -> IIS Resources menu. After the IIS Metabase Explorer tool opens, navigate to LM -> DS2MB, as shown in Figure 2. Right-click on the DS2MB container and choose Delete.

Delete the DS2MB container in the IIS Metabase Explorer tool
Figure 2. You must locate and delete the DS2MB container in the IIS Metabase Explorer tool. ( Click on image for enlarged view.)

You then must reboot the Exchange 2003 server. The System Attendant service will recreate the Exchange virtual directories from scratch.

More on Exchange Server virtual directories:
How to repair Exchange-related IIS virtual directories

Open IIS Manager and navigate to Web Sites -> Default A Web Site -> ExchWeb. Right-click on the ExchWeb container and select Properties. Windows will display the properties sheet for the ExchWeb virtual directory. Go to the Directory Security tab and click the Edit button located in the Authentication and Access Control section.

Finally, verify that the Enable Anonymous Access checkbox is selected. You also need to select the Integrated Windows Authentication checkbox. Click OK and close the IIS Manager. You should now be able to access OWA properly, as shown in Figure 3.

Troubleshoot OWA by recreating Exchange Server 2003 virtual directories and resetting permissions
Figure 3. Recreating the Exchange Server 2003 virtual directories and resetting the permissions fixes OWA's display issues. (Click on image for enlarged view.)

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Exchange Server, Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at

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