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ExMerge gotchas to watch for when migrating Exchange 2003 mailboxes

When migrating mailboxes in Exchange 2003, ExMerge is a good option because of its flexibility. However, you may encounter a few issues, such as Outlook rules breaking and attachments getting lost during the migration process. In this tip, Microsoft Exchange Server expert Brien Posey explains a few ExMerge gotchas to watch out for and their workarounds.

Migrating Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 mailboxes using ExMerge has some benefits, including flexibility. However, there are potential consequences as well. In this tip from Microsoft Exchange expert Brien Posey, you'll learn about a few ExMerge gotchas and their workarounds when migrating Exchange 2003 mailboxes.

Loss of free/busy information

A major concern when using ExMerge to move Exchange 2003 mailboxes is losing free/busy information. When you export a user's mailbox, ExMerge preserves all calendar entries. Unfortunately, those entries become disassociated with the Schedule+ free/busy information, which is stored in a public folder -- not the user's mailbox.

Here's a workaround. After you've imported a user's mailbox into a new location, have the user manually open Microsoft Outlook from a command prompt and use the /CleanFreeBusy switch. Opening Outlook this way won't fix the problem by itself. However, if the user creates a new calendar entry, Outlook will reset the free/busy information for the new entry and for existing calendar entries.

Losing attachments in embedded messages

When you use ExMerge to export a user's mailbox, message attachments are normally preserved. However, sometimes a message contains another embedded message . This happens when a message that originated outside an organization was forwarded to numerous external recipients before arriving in the recipient's mailbox.

ExMerge can handle embedded messages. But if that message contains attachments, they will be lost during the migration process. ExMerge doesn't open messages during the extraction process, so it doesn't know there are any attachments in embedded messages.

Outlook rules stop working properly

Rules do not work correctly after you move a mailbox using ExMerge. This is primarily true for rules that are designed to move a message to a target folder.

More on moving mailboxes on Exchange:
Moving mailboxes and public folders to Exchange 2007 

Use ExMerge to move mailboxes from SBS 2003 to another server

When you migrate a mailbox using ExMerge, all of the user's folders and rules should also be migrated. Outlook typically displays an error message indicating that one or more rules have errors. Although the rules appear to reference the destination folder by name, internally the rule uses the destination folder's GUID. When you use ExMerge to migrate a mailbox, all folders are assigned new GUIDs, which can cause some rules to break.

The best way to avoid this problem is to teach users how to edit a rule and reselect its destination folder. I also recommend educating help desk staff on this.

Granting Administrator rights to yourself

To export a mailbox using ExMerge, an administrator must have access to that particular mailbox. Exchange doesn't automatically grant administrator rights to all users' mailboxes; you must do this yourself.

To do so, open the Active Directory Users and Computers console, right-click on the mailbox owner's account and select Properties from the menu.

When the Properties sheet appears, select the Exchange Advanced tab and click on Mailbox Rights. Grant yourself all rights to the mailbox -- except for Associated External Account rights. Click OK twice and wait for the next Active Directory replication cycle to complete.

Note: Be sure to remove the rights when you finish to avoid potentially undermining Exchange Server's security.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. 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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