So you’re migrating to a shiny new Exchange environment and you reach the part of Public Folders. Microsoft haven’t spent much time developing Public Folders lately and they tend to be a pain managing. So you write down  7 reasons, or even 10 reasons and bring it to your boss and he agree – get rid of those Public Folders! But where do you start? Here are some real world tip and experiences. Not that technical but rather guide on how to investigate how and if the Public Folders are used…

1. Give yourself access to them all

Before you can do an inventory you have to get access to all folders. I suggest creating a domain group and add yourself to it and give that group access to all folders. In Exchange 2003, use System Manager -> Administrative Groups -> First Administrative Group -> Folders -> Public Folders. Right-click a folder and choose Manage Settings… Next -> Modify Client Permissions -> Add users. Add the group and choose Owner in the dropdown:

In Exchange 2010, it’s not possible to use GUI to add permission to a folder and all subfolders on Public Folders (I told you Microsoft doesn’t spend much time on Public Folders anymore). You have to user Powershell and the script AddUsersToPFRecursive.ps1. Example:AddUsersToPFRecursive.ps1 -TopPublicFolder “\Sales” -User “David” -Permission Reviewer

AddUsersToPFRecursive.ps1 -TopPublicFolder “\Sales” -User “David” -Permission Reviewer


2. Inventory

Use Outlook to read the content of the folders. I suspect you’ll find plenty of empty and unused ones that you probably could archive (see later) and delete straight away. But there are different folder types, how do you know if it’s in use or not?

  • Mail and Post folder: By default, these folders are sorted by date
  • Calendar folder: By default, you see the Calendar view but if you choose  View -> Change View -> List you will get a list view and can easily sort by date and see when the last object is from:
  • Contacts folder: Again, switch to List view, right-click the header and choose Field Chooser and drag the Modified column to the view and sort by it. Maybe most contact hasn’t been modified since some time? Then maybe it isn’t used any more.

…just keep doing this until you’re done.


3. Stop access to it

So hopefully you’ve gathered a bunch of Public Folders you think is not in use. Well, maybe you’re unsure so before you go ahead and Archive and Delete them (see below), you might want to deny access and wait for some time to see if someone comes screaming. Just change the permissions on the folder and set Default to None and uncheck Folder Visible. But remember, there might be other users and/or groups in the list that allows them access so make sure to remove them too.

If you have found a tree of Public Folders with hundreds of subfolders, you can remove the permissions just on the top folder. This will make sure the whole tree is no longer visible and very easy to roll back. Just a word of warning using this method. A user can right-click any Public Folder in the tree and Add to Favorites… If you just remove the permissions on the “top folder” they will still see their folder in their Favorites tree. To stop this, you must remove the permissions on all subfolders. This will not remove the folder from their Outlook’s Favorite view but it will be empty and that will probably cause the user to call the Servicedesk.


4. Archive and Delete

After some time waiting for someone to complain it’s time to Delete them. Well, maybe first you should Archive them and the easiest way is to simply use Outlook to export to PST. Sure you could (also) use your normal backup routines but it will be a pain to get just some individual items so I would prefer PST since it’s easier to just open it with Outlook if someone miss an item.

Good luck! I promise you that your life as an Exchange admin will be much easier without Public Folders. Especially at your next migration!

What are your experiences on Public Folder removal?