Registry hack lets OWA users reset their passwords

All it takes is this simple registry hack to give users with expired passwords access to their OWA accounts.

Most Exchange Server administrators probably don’t spend much time thinking about resetting passwords, possibly because there’s nothing overly complex about the process involved. Still, problems do occur, especially when Outlook Web Access passwords expire. Editing the registry lets users fix this problem themselves -- without having to call help desk.

If a user’s password has expired, OWA won’t let him log on or give him a chance to change his password -- even after the Exchange Server 2010 SP1 rollup. In Figure 1, you’ll notice that when a user with an expired password attempts to log into Outlook Web App, Exchange denies the user access and produces a misleading error message. Instead of informing the user that his password has expired, OWA states that the user has entered either his username or password incorrectly.

Outlook Web App 2010 doesn’t explain that the user’s password has expired.
Figure 1. OWA does not actually inform the user that his password has expired.

Depending on which version of Exchange you’re running, you can solve this problem using a registry hack. When Microsoft released Exchange Server 2007 SP3, it included an option to allow users to reset passwords from the OWA logon screen.

Since then, Microsoft disabled this option and designed OWA to only enable the password changing functionality using the following registry hack. Microsoft did eliminate this functionality in the RTM release of Exchange Server 2010, but brought it back in Exchange 2010 SP1.

Warning: Before I explain the registry hack, remember that editing your registry can be dangerous. Be sure to make a full backup of your client access server (CAS) before attempting the hack.

Performing the registry hack to enable password resets
Open the Registry Editor on your CAS and navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchange OWA. Then create a new DWORD value. The Registry Editor will ask if you want to create a 32-bit or a 64-bit DWORD value. Even though Exchange Server 2010 is a 64-bit application, you must create a 32-bit DWORD value for this method to work.

Name the new DWORD value ChangeExpiredPasswordEnabled (Figure 2) and assign it a value of 1. If you ever want to disable this hack, you can either delete the registry key or change the value to 0.

Create a 32-bit DWORD value in the Registry Editor.
Figure 2. To enable the registry hack, create a 32-bit DWORD value and name it ChangeExpiredPasswordEnabled.

After you create the registry entry, you’ll need to either reboot your CAS or reset IIS. To reset IIS, open a command prompt window and enter the following command: IISRESET /NoForce (Figure 3).

Reset IIS with the IISRESET/NoForce command
Figure 3. To create the registry entry, reset IIS using the IISRESET/NoForce command.

Once you’ve reset the server, users with expired passwords will be allowed to access OWA. If a user with an expired password attempts to log into OWA, the system will display a screen giving him the opportunity to reset his password and use OWA (Figure 4).

Users can reset OWA passwords.
Figure 4. Users can reset their expired Outlook Web Access passwords.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a seven-time Microsoft MVP for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. For more information visit www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in November 2010

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