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 FAQ: What is the Difference Between Disabling and Removing a Mailbox
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.  The 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.

About the Author

Paul Cunningham

Paul is a former Microsoft MVP for Office Apps and Services. He works as a consultant, writer, and trainer specializing in Office 365 and Exchange Server. Paul no longer writes for


  1. kathleen

    Can you change this default 30 days and where would i do that?

  2. Grant N

    What would be helpful, is if Disable did not also Remove the email account after the retention period. Disable in Exchange, means Stop using the email account, then delete it after 30 days.

    Would have been nice if disable, just disabled the account.

    The Exchange Account options should have been:

    Disable the Email Account. ( Stops receiving email, still accessible )
    Disable then Remove the Email Account after Retention expires.
    Remove the Email Account Immediately.
    Remove the Email Account and the Domain Account Immediately

    So many times it has happened someone has meant to only remove the email account and instead removed the entire account.

  3. Manz khan

    Dear Paul,

    As I am getting a strange problem in exchange 2010 only one user gets the prompt of entering username and I checked everything is fine and I moved his mailbox to different databases also but still it prompts and what did work around installed fresh win 10 , office 2010 but also not solved the problem and read plenty of blogs …and done all the changes nothing helped .like credential manager , NTLM, DNS I am not understanding what could be this now I am planning to disable the mailbox and connect it again will this will be helpfull ? as it has lost the AD sid string to connect . please help

  4. Vijay Birari

    Dear Paul Sir,

    Could you tell me the default retention period of Disable mailbox

  5. Vijay Birari

    Dear Paul Sir,

    Could you tell me the fault retention period of Disable mailbox

  6. jessi

    very helpful posting, but how can i disable all resigned staff at the same time ..? (beginner) ex: i have txt file(UPN list) that have to be disable

    1. jessi

      or can i disable mailbox OU ??

  7. Lisa

    I just want to completely DELETE, GONE, HAVE NO MORE 2 accounts. Can l do this prior to having a breakdown, or must we take valium first?

  8. jc

    ..and it´s good to remember when disabling mailbox – it also disconnects archive mailbox and that you cannot reconnect again like primary mailbox – right ?

    “Disabling mailbox “Xxxxx Xxxxx” will remove the Exchange properties from the Active Directory user object and mark the mailbox in the database for removal. If the mailbox has an archive or remote archive, the archive will also be marked for removal. In the case of remote archives, this action is permanent. You can’t reconnect this user to the remote archive again.”

  9. Minstralm

    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.

    1. Minstralm

      I meant Exchange 2007 and s2010

  10. EK Koay

    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.

  11. Chaitu

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

    1. Avatar photo
      Paul Cunningham

      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 🙂

      1. Chaitu

        I absolutely agree with you about reading warnings these days.. unlike before.

  12. Richard

    It’s terrible terminology. I once had to deal with the fallout when someone deleted all the users in a domain instead of removing their mailboxes.

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