Exchange 2010 FAQ: What is the Difference Between Disabling and Removing a Mailbox

Question: What is the difference between disabling and removing an Exchange 2010 mailbox using the Exchange Management Console?

Something that I see a lot of new Exchange administrators get mixed up with is the difference between disabling and removing mailboxes in Exchange Server 2010.

In the Exchange Management Console when a mailbox is selected the actions pane shows two tasks; Disable and Remove.

Exchange 2010 mailbox tasks: Disable and Remove

These two tasks do the following:

  • Disable will remove the Exchange attributes for the user account but leave the user account in Active Directory. ┬áThe mailbox is then also left in the Exchange mailbox database until the retention period has lapsed, then it is removed permanently.
  • Remove will remove both the Exchange mailbox and the user account from Active Directory

Unfortunately some admins wrongly assume that Disable is for temporarily disabling mailboxes, and that Remove will only remove the mailbox and not the user account.

If you’re having trouble remember the correct usage of these tasks think about it in terms of the Exchange Management Shell commands and how they pair up.

  • Enable-Mailbox is for creating a mailbox for an existing user, and Disable-Mailbox removes only the Exchange attributes from the user account
  • New-Mailbox is for creating a new AD user and mailbox at the same time, and Remove-Mailbox removes both the mailbox and the user object.

But if thats too hard just to try to remember that Disable is the safest option, because you can quickly reconnect the mailbox to the user again if it is still within the retention period.


  1. Chaitu says

    Why can’t Microsoft just rename “Disable” to “Disconnect” when “Disconnect a mailbox” is the term used to explain the present “Disable” named task. :)

    • says

      I see your point, but on the other hand I also see why enable/disable makes sense.

      And let’s also remember that it does warn the administrator what “Remove” is about to do. Admins should know to read warnings, surely :)

  2. EK Koay says

    Hi Paul,

    What if we accidentally click Remove rather than Disable? Can we still re-connect back the disconnected mailbox if it is still within retention period? Please advise. Thanks.

  3. Minstralm says

    People think in opposites, Disable – Enable, Delete -Create, Remove-Add

    2008 Exchange is VERY inconsistent- sometimes it says Apply sometimes OK or even other words like Confirm . I think the Software engineers didn’t have a continuity checker.

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