Q. How can I delete all occurrences of a message from a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 mail database?

A. Although you can recall sent messages in Exchange, recalling a message doesn't reliably delete all occurrences of it. Sometimes you'll want to remove all traces of a message--for example, when a former employee sends a malicious email message to current employees. You can use the Mailbox Merge Wizard (Exmerge) utility, which is available in Exchange 2003 and Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server and is typically used to migrate mailboxes, to search for and delete all instances of a message. You can download the utility at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=429163ec-dcdf-47dc-96da-1c12d67327d5&displaylang=en. Be aware that you need Send As and Receive As permissions to run the Exmerge utility, which I discuss in the FAQ "How can I configure Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 administrators so that they can access all users' mailboxes?", at http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=42867.

Let's say I accidentally sent the message "Top Secret Plan," which could reveal the secret identities of certain people, to a group in my organization. To delete all occurrences of this message, I can perform the following steps:

  1. Start the Exmerge utility.
  2. Click Next at the Mailbox Merge wizard's introduction page.
  3. At the Procedure Selection page, select "Extract or Import (Two Step Procedure)" and click Next.
  4. Ensure that the "Step 1: Extract data from an Exchange Server Mailbox" option is selected and click Next.
  5. Enter the Exchange server name, then click Options. You'll see the Data Selection Criteria dialog box.
  6. Select the Data tab and make sure the "User messages and folders" check box is selected.
  7. Select the Import Procedure tab, which the figure at Figure shows, then select the "Archive data to target store" option.
  8. Select the Folders tab. At this point, you're prompted to click Yes to verify that you want to confirm the previously selected options, which will result in messages being deleted. Click Yes.
  9. On the Folders tab, you can specify folders that Exmerge should either ignore or process when it searches the mail database for the message. If you don't enter any folder names, Exmerge will search all folders in the database.
  10. Select the Dates tab if you want to limit Exmerge's search to a particular date range. If you don't specify a date range, Exmerge will search the entire database.
  11. Select the Message Details tab. You'll see a page like the figure at Figure shows. Enter the criteria you want Exmerge to use in its search--for example, the message subject "Top Secret Plan."
  12. Click OK.
  13. The Source Server page displays. Click Next.
  14. If you have more than one mailbox database, you're prompted to select which databases to include in the search. If necessary, select the database(s) to include and click Next.
  15. At the Mailbox Selection page, which the figure at Figure shows, you select which mailboxes to search. You can select specific mailboxes by holding down the Ctrl key, or you can click Select All to select all mailboxes. Click Next.
  16. Select the locale for the mailboxes and click Next.
  17. Click Change Folder to select a location for the personal store (PST) files that will be created or for the extracted message, then click Next.
  18. At the Save Settings page, click Next. A progress indicator displays while Exmerge performs the search and delete operations.
  19. After the "Operation completed successfully" message displays, click Finish. The message is now deleted from all mailboxes.
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