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When to use Move Mailbox Wizard or ExMerge to move Exchange mailboxes

Exchange administrators have a couple options when moving mailboxes -- Move Mailbox Wizard and ExMerge. Which one you use depends on your migration project and your version of Exchange Server. Learn which tool is best to move mailboxes in your Exchange environment.

Moving mailboxes is a task that most Exchange administrators do relatively frequently. Fortunately, Microsoft facilitates the process with two tools -- Move Mailbox Wizard and ExMerge. Which tool is better? This tip from Microsoft Exchange Server expert Brien Posey discusses the differences between Move Mailbox Wizard and ExMerge and gives specifics on which tool works best in certain Exchange Server migration scenarios.

When moving mailboxes, you want a tool that's quick and easy to use. One such tool for Exchange Server is the Move...

Mailbox Wizard. However, there are some situations where Move Mailbox Wizard is impractical and ExMerge is your only option. The trick is to know which situation calls for which tool.

Running Exchange organizations in mixed mode

You may not be able to use the Move Mailbox Wizard in organizations that operate Exchange in mixed mode without some significant restrictions. First, you can't install Exchange Server 2007 in a mixed-mode organization. If you're planning to move mailboxes to an Exchange 2007 server, you must get rid of your Exchange 5.5 servers and convert the organization to native mode before installing Exchange 2007.

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

Note: Microsoft replaced ExMerge in Exchange 2007 with the EMS Export Mailbox command. Most situations in this article deal with legacy Exchange servers.

Another limitation associated with using the Move Mailbox Wizard in mixed-mode environments is that you can't move a mailbox between servers residing in different administrative groups. This restriction exists because legacy versions of Exchange Server use separate Active Directory (AD) partitions.

Legacy Exchange Servers and Move Mailbox Wizard versions

Avoid using the Move Mailbox wizard when upgrading from a legacy version of Exchange Server. For example, suppose that your entire Exchange organization is running Exchange 5.5 and you want to deploy either Exchange Server 2003 or Exchange 2007.

You can use the Move Mailbox Wizard here, but it will involve a lot more work. Simply stated, you would have to install an Exchange 2003 server and then deploy an AD connector. Then, you would migrate everything to Exchange 2003, decommission your Exchange 5.5 servers, switch to native mode and finally bring Exchange 2007 into the mix.

The problem with using this type of migration (aside from its complexity) is that leaves behind a lot of garbage from legacy Exchange servers. Using ExMerge may not be less work but will result in a pristine deployment, instead of a cluttered Active Directory.

Note: Using ExMerge causes more downtime during the migration process.

Additionally, older versions of the Move Mailbox Wizard will encounter problems if mailboxes contain corrupt messages. Newer versions, however, let you skip corrupt messages and move everything else.

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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