Manually remove an Exchange 2003 server from AD and the Exchange Organization

Issue: There is a plethora of threads and confusing articles online about the topic of manually removing an Exchange 2003 server from your Exchange Org.  This might be required when a server fails and is not restored from backup or when your graceful uninstall efforts through add/remove programs fail in the middle.  If add/remove is simply giving you errors like mailboxes still exist or public folders still exist then I would take the time to properly decommission the server and continue with the removal process through add/remove programs (general decommissioning of Exchange 2003 is not covered here).

Background: There are two primary roads one can take to manually remove Exchange 2003:

The Wrong Road: removing the server object from ADSIEDIT.MSC which is very bad solution as it will leave all the attributes all over AD.  MS says this option is to only be used when you plan to immediately re-install Exchange 2003 on the server.

The Better Road (solution): If you have Exchange 2003 System Manager installed anywhere in the environment you can simply delete the server object from System Manager which will gracefully remove the server from AD and the Exchange org and remove it’s attributes from any user accounts that had mailboxes on it.
** I’d of course first recommend following all of the general Exchange 2003 decommissioning steps (not covered here) and finally deleting the private and public stores (assuming they are empty and assuming you don’t need any data in them).

Removing an Exchange 2003 server from Active Directory:

Note: This procedure removes all references to the server in Active Directory. It also removes the mailbox-enabling attributes from all Active Directory users who have mailboxes on the server that you removed.

  1. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Microsoft Exchange, and then click System Manager.
  2. Expand Administrative Groups/Your_Administrative _Group_Name/Servers. Note In this step, replace Your_Administrative _Group_Name with the name of your administrative group.
  3. Right-click the name of the Exchange Server 2003 server that you want to remove, click All Tasks, and then click Remove Server.

This change may need to replicate through AD so you may still see the server on other servers until replication is complete.  If this was the last Exchange server in the Exchange organization then you may be left with an ’empty servers container’.  I will try and write a followup article on removing the empty servers container which if left in place will lead to public folder replication issues, for the time being the bottom of this article about public folder removal mentions how to do it:


5 thoughts on “Manually remove an Exchange 2003 server from AD and the Exchange Organization

  1. David Chester

    I am also having the same problem

    I uninstalled the Exchange 2003 server myself in 2019 after upgrading to Exchange 2010. I don’t recall any problems with this.

    Now I am installing a new Exchange Server 2016 on my way up to 2019 and I am getting this same error about having an old 2000 or 2003 server somewhere in the system. I most certainly don’t.

    There are instructions about removing the Exchange 2003 entries using ADSI Edit but they don’t tell you which entries you need to delete! I found one which was obvious because it had the name of the old server in it, but now I am stuck.

  2. John

    I started installing exchange 2016 in our environment. Its an upgrade from 2010. I ran setup.exe /prepareschema which would upgrade the schema.
    This came back with an error saying that there is an exchange 2000 or an exchange 2003 server installed in your environment. I did a bit of digging and sure enough I found an exchange 2003 computer account in AD. This server is no where to be found (I only work with the company for a year), so I cant turn it on and uninstall exchange.
    What is the best way to remove this exchange server and all references to it from Active Directory?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Chris Harris Post author

      You could try installing only Exchange 2003 System Manager with the latest service pack and then following the process in the article. It can be installed on a workstation or server. Let me know what happens.

      1. Michael

        Hi, i have the same problem, i tried this solution in a test environment, but it is not working.
        I got “network path not found” error. ID no: c0070035…


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