Remove Exchange 2007 public folder stores from a Mailbox Server role

You must delete and remove public folder stores from Exchange 2007 SP1 before you can uninstall the Mailbox Server role. This tip explains how to do it.

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When trying to uninstall the Mailbox Server role after installing Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 (SP1), Exchange MVP Brien Posey encountered a bug that prohibits removing a Mailbox Server role if it contains public folder stores. In this tip, he explains a workaround that uses ADSI Edit to change an Active Directory database and remove public folder stores from the Mailbox Server role.


As noted in a previous tutorial, uninstalling Exchange 2007 and individual server roles can be quite involved. I recently encountered another serious uninstallation issue that I didn't cover in the original tutorial.

When I attempted to install Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 (SP1) beta on my lab server, the installation failed and blocked me from trying again. Initially, I wasn't too concerned since this occurred on a lab server. But when I tried to install the final release of SP1 onto the server, the installation was blocked because of the previous failure.

Because I was working on a lab system, I uninstalled and then reinstalled Exchange Server 2007, and then applied the service pack. This is when I discovered that there's a bug in Exchange Server 2007 that makes it difficult to uninstall the Mailbox Server role if the server contains a public folder store. The installation process checks that the store is empty before it uninstalls the Mailbox Server role. Unfortunately, because it can be impossible to remove system folders from the public folder store, an installation process also isn't possible.

This is a common issue; possible solutions involve things such as moving public folder replicas to a different server, or using various Exchange Management Shell commands to delete a public folder store's contents manually. But none of these solutions have worked for me -- or many other Exchange administrators, it seems.

I have found that using ADSI Edit can correct the problem. ADSI Edit is a Windows tool that lets you change an Active Directory database manually. But be careful -- making a mistake in ADSI Edit is very serious, and can possibly destroy the entire Active Directory or your Exchange Server organization. It's best to back up all your Exchange servers and domain controllers before working with ADSI Edit.

NOTE: ADSI Edit isn't installed by default; it's part of Windows Support Tools. You will need to install it to continue. To do so, insert your Windows Server installation CD and navigate to the \SUPPORT\TOOLS folder. Double click on the SUPTOOLS.MSI file to install the Windows Support Tools. When the installation process completes, go to C:\Program Files\Support Tools and launch ADSI Edit.

To use ADSI Edit to remove the reference to the public folder store from Active Directory:

  1. Verify that the public folder store doesn't contain any data that you must save.
  2. Open the Exchange Management Console and dismount the public folder store.
  3. Once the store is dismounted, close the Exchange Management Console.
  4. Open ADSI and navigate through the console tree to: 
    Configuration -> Configuration -> Services -> Microsoft Exchange -> your Exchange organization -> Administrative Groups -> the Exchange 2007 administrative group -> Servers -> the server containing the store that you want to delete -> Information Store -> the storage group containing the store that you want to delete
    Figure 1 shows the location of ADSI Edit. Verify that you have gone to the correct location.

    Exchange Server 2007 ADSI Edit
    Figure 1. Use ADSI Edit to locate the store that you want to remove.

  5. The right-hand column should list the public folder store located in the selected storage group. Right click on public folder database and choose Delete from the menu.
  6. When asked if you want to delete the object, click Yes.
  7. When the store's reference has been deleted, close ADSI Edit.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a four-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional Award for his work with Windows Server, Internet Information Server (IIS) and Exchange Server. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox. You can visit Brien's personal web site at www.brienposey.com.

MEMBER FEEDBACK TO THIS TIP

This is a great tip for removing the public folders from Exchange Server2007! When I first tried using the Exchange Management Shell, I followed the commands word for word and it failed every time. Thanks for making that part much easier!
- Mark P.

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This was first published in February 2008

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