Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Largest Exchange Mailbox?

I have been working with Microsoft Exchange Server since v5.0. During all those years and versions, I have seen mailboxes of all sizes. I have seen users with a couple of 4GB pst files. The largest mailbox I have ever seen on a system was around 8GB, and I used to think it was huge... until recently. I was performing a "site assessment" for a client and was collecting information about their Exchange Server 2003 environment. Since the disk space was a non-issue for the client, there were no quotas defined at the mailbox size level. I opened up the Mailboxes view in ESM and sorted the mailboxes by size to see the top 10 mailboxes and I got perplexed. I looked at the screen again, and asked the IT Manager if I was seeing right. Here's what I saw:

(The names of the users have been blurred to protect the innocent.)

So now the largest single mailbox I have ever seen is 27GB. How about you? What is the largest mailbox size you have ever witnessed? Please share your experiences and thoughts using the "Comments" link below.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Windows 7 on Dell Latitude D810

This may not be my most technical post, but I would like to share my recent experience with Windows 7 on my company provided Dell Latitude D810 laptop. It has a 1.73 Ghz Intel Pentium M Processor, 2GB of RAM and a 60 GB harddisk.I have been using this laptop since the day I joined the company, second week of December 2006.

I have always been amazed by the fact that this laptop was capable of running Windows Vista. Although I have been working on this laptop since December 2006, the laptop was actually purchased in June 2005. Because Vista OS was brand new when I started to work for BVA, I started right away with Vista. My first few months (OK I admit, my first year till the SP1 was released) was not so pleasant. I had performance issues, intermittent VPN connectivity problems and wireless network issues of all kinds. I used to think my problems were caused by due to the fact that Dell did not provide any Vista drivers for this model. However, after the SP1 install, all of my problems disappeared. Since then, my experience with the laptop and Vista has been quite good despite all the negative hype created around this version of Windows. Please keep in mind that this laptop is not officially "Built for Vista" or even "Vista Ready". The only label it has on reads: "Designed for Microsoft Windows XP".

So when Microsoft announced the next version of the Windows Operating System, I got curious. When I read comments and reviews like "Windows 7 runs much better than Vista", "Windows 7 can run on any hardware which supports XP", I thought I could give it a try. When my coworkers started to install and test out the RC code with their relatively newer generation laptops, I decided that it was time.

Because I was too lazy for a backup and restore operation, I initially decided to perform an "in-place upgrade". To avoid conflicts during the upgrade process, I uninstalled my VMware Server, Cisco VPN Client and virus scanning software. Upgrade process ran about an hour or so with no problems. At the end of the process the laptop rebooted for the last time, and I got the infamous "blue screen of death" (BSOD). Following the BSOD, the installer ran again and rolled back the upgrade process. Within 20 minutes of the BSOD, I got my Vista OS back, like nothing's happened. This first unsuccessful attempt was about six weeks ago.

Following this unsuccessful attempt, I had no choice but to perform a "wipe and install" operation. Because of time constraints, I was not able to perform this operation until last weekend.

I had considerable amout of data, but I did not want to perform any "System Transfer" (or Files and Settings Migration). In addition, in case of a second failure, I needed a tool that can perform image based backups and restores. So I used the free DriveImage XML tool ( for this purpose. The tool let me create an image based backup of my full drive, and gave me the option to perform file and folder level restores using this backup set. You can use the tool to create online backups (i.e. you can backup your computer while the operating system is running), or you can use it with WinPE and create offline backups. I used the online backup method.

Following the backup, I started the Windows 7 RC installation. I wiped out the existing partition and Windows 7 created a new hidden system partition, plus a new boot partition. Intallation was quick like Windows 2008 installations.

After the installation I found myself with some non-working devices. My network card was there, but wireless card (Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection) was not recognized by the installer. In addition, I had an "PCI Simple Communications Controller" device with no drivers. Finally, my video card was recognized as "Standard VGA". First I had to find the Wireless driver to gain access to the Internet. Then after a brief Google research, I found that the "PCI Simple Communications Controller" actually was listed as "Texas Instruments PCI 6515 Cardbus" at Dell's web site. Finally, I was able to install the "ATI Mobility RADEON X600" driver with no issues. Please keep in mind that all these drivers from Dell were actually created for Windows XP. After the drivers, I updated the OS, and installed my favorite virus protection tool. Finally, I installed Driveimage XML, and only restored Downloads and Documents folders from the backup set. I installed MS Office 2007 quickly and started to test and see the differences between Vista SP2 and Windows 7 RC. First impression, Windows 7 boots and comes back from hibernation faster than Vista. With Latitude D810, my "Windows Experience Index" is 1.0, because of poor 3-D graphics support. I searched for an updated driver for ATI X600, but so far I have been unsuccessful. Most importantly, Windows 7 has a smaller footprint than its predecessor: right after the boot, it's using roughly 700MB of RAM while Vista was consuming almost 1GB. No need to say, any program looks (or feels) faster in Windows 7 as well.

Finally, my biggest challenge with Windows 7 was to install Cisco VPN client. I heard and read bad experiences and BSOD horror stories about Cisco VPN Client on Windows 7. However, I really needed Cisco VPN Client on my laptop, so I asked Google. I was lucky enough to find not only one but two alternative solutions to the problem.
1. Following the instructions at, I first installed Citrix DNE Update, then installed Cisco VPN Client v5.0.05.0290 with no problems. I have tested a number of different connections, and it works great.
2. Dell Latitude 810 does not support this option, because it requires a CPU with Intel Hardware Virtualization support. This option is called "Windows XP mode for Windows 7". Microsoft presents this option to break the incompatibility barrier between the older applications and the new OS. According to Microsoft, any application compatible with Windows XP should work in this mode. However, because of hardware constraints, it is not for everybody. As the first prerequisite, you need a CPU with hardware virtualization (Intel-VT or AMD-V) support. Even though the newer CPUs support this feature, you have to explicitly enable it at the BIOS level. Then, you can follow the instructions here ( As a final step, you can install Cisco VPN Client in the XP virtual PC. This is a great feature and provides a very well integration with the host operating system (i.e. Windows 7). One of my co-workers was able to complete this process with his Latitude 820 and got Cisco VPN Client working without the Citrix DNE update.

My overall experience with Windows 7 on my 4-year-old laptop so far has been great. Next step is to get my hands on the RTM code and upgrade the OS one more time. I will try to post about this experience as well. How about your experience/thoughts about Windows 7? Please us the "Comments" link to provide feedback about this post or share your experience about Windows 7.

Update to the post (Nov 09):
After I had used the RC code for a couple of months, I finally found the available time slot to perform a transition to Windows 7 RTM. As some of you have already mentioned, all I needed was to download and install the Windows XP graphics and the audio drivers from Dell's Web site. All other devices were automatically recognized by Windows 7. For the wireless network card drivers, I had to run Windows updates.

In addition, Cisco released an updated version of their VPN client software. Right now I am running Cisco VPN Client v on Windows 7, and it is really fast.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unable to Mail Enable Public Folders

One of my clients had a recent issue. He wanted to create and "Mail Enable" a new public folder in their Exchange 2007 infrastructure. He used the UI (not the Exchange Shell commands) for the purpose. He did not receive any error messages when he right clicked the folder and selected "Mail Enable" from the context menu. However, then he wanted to verify the operation and tried to open up the properties of the folder. At this step, he received the following error:

The Active Directory proxy object for the public folder '\Root Folder\Sub Folder' is being generated. Please try again later. It was running command 'get-mailpublicfolder -Server 'ServerFQDN' -Identity "\Root Folder\Sub Folder".

We checked almost everything including the "msExchOwningPFTreeBL" attribute. Even if we created a top level folder, the behavior was the same. Mail Enable was running with no problems, but when we checked the properties of the public folders, we were getting the exact same error message.

Because we had retired the Exchange 2003 servers recently, I even thought this issue might be related. However I was not able to find anything to prove this.

My long Google search did not return much results either. Then, in Technet Forums, I found a post which was about a similar problem. In their case, they were working on the RTM version and they noticed that the "System Attendant " service had been shutting itself down intermittently. Their solution was to make sure that the "System Attendant" was running. After reading this post, we immediately checked and verified that the service was already "up and running". Then we thought, since we have nothing to lose, we could try restarting the service. After "System Attendant" restart, we "Mail Disabled" then "Mail Enabled" the public folder. Finally, when we checked the properties of the public folder, we got no errors and were able to verify the new e-mail address of the folder.

I really don't know what was wrong in the first place, but apparently "System Attendant" was not performing properly. Then the service restart fixed the problem. Since the other services do not depend on the "System Attendant" anymore, the service restart did not require us to take all the other Exchange Server services down.

We spent a couple of hours on this "interesting" problem, and with this post I am hoping to save you same time if you run into the same issue.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM'd

Microsoft announced today that the new version of the Windows operating system has been released to manufacturing.

Microsoft resources also announced the availability of the new version with the following blog post.