Can't open random email messages on a shared exchange 2003 email account

Servers: Windows 2003 Standard / Exchange 2003 Standard with10 users, service pack 2.  

Clients: XP Pro and Outlook 2003 fully patched.

Email Environment: Each network user has their own MAPI email account as well as access to a shared email account.  The shared email account is very organized with 50-60 customer folders and sub-folders.  The inbox, deleted, and outbox is kept clean.  The current size of the main shared email account is 13GB.  By the way, Exchange has been expanded to accept the 75GB limit.  In addition to the main shared email account, the owner has full access to the email accounts of all users (i.e. all users inboxes, outboxes, etc...)  

The Problem: Everything was working pretty well for the past few years, but getting a little slow with the older servers.  About 4 months ago I upgraded the hardware--New fileserver, exchange server, and vpn server, gigabit LAN -- actually its overkill for their small environment.  
Recently I discovered that users are not able to open "certain" email messages on shared email accounts.  Some of the problem messages were brought over from the old Exchange server and some are as recent as a few weeks ago.  When trying to open the email, Outlook pops up the message "Can't Open This Item.  Unknown Error."  However, if I go to a workstation, login as the owner of the shared email account, I can read the message.  If I forward the problem message, the recipient can open it fine.  

The owner who has access to everyone's email accounts is having the same trouble.  Random messages are non-accessible when viewed through a shared account.  When I say random, I don't mean that sometimes you can open the message and other times you can't.  I mean that certain messages seem to be corrupt in this manner while others are not.  Furthermore, it doesn't seem to matter who the message was originated from, content, attachments, or even the size of the shared email account (most users accounts are less than 2 MB)

Also, I am fairly confident this is not a rights issue--mainly because within the same folder, most messages are accessible.  

I was hoping the problem was limited to messages prior to the upgrade, but unfortunately like I said; I have experienced it with messages as new as 3 weeks ago.

My Event logs are clean.  

Please dont' tell me that the one big shared email account is too big--or maybe do--since that would be an easy fix.   However, the most evil thing you could suggest is re-install Exchange.

Thanks for reading about my problem and your suggestions.

Who is Participating?
SembeeConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You don't want to read this... but a 13gb mailbox is asking for trouble.
I have heard of 10gb mailboxes with problems, so a 13gb mailbox is well over that.
While you have a mailbox of that size, it is naturally going to be the only place that anyone will look as the source of the problem. If you call Microsoft I would expect their first response would be to reduce the size of that mailbox.

While Microsoft make no recommendations on the size of mailboxes, the general belief is that anything below 2gb is fine. Once you get above 2gb then you could start to see problems, particularly with Outlook. Outlook also has issues with large numbers of messages in a single folder.

If you have a large amount of folders and sub folders then I would probably suggest that you move them to public folders. Public folders can easily cope with large amounts of data. I have a folder on my home server that in excess of 125,000 items in it and I have no problems with working on that folder.

basstechAuthor Commented:
Thanks Simon for your quick reply!

I agree.  It's probabily time to move the 13Gig's of customer mail to public folders--then it can keep the public folder that holds the shared contacts company.   However, the part that puzzles me most, is the fact that the owner experiences similar problems when viewing the shared folders of other user's email accounts that don't even have 2Gig's of stuff.  I suppose it's possible that because each user's Outlook desktop is configured to view the 13Gig shared account, that somehow, the user's personal mail account of less than 2GB, could also be experiencing corruption because of the association on the Outlook desktop, or is it Exchange that's having the problem.  What do you think? --anybody?  

Other theories and solutions welcome too!

Thanks for working with me,


P.S. Simon,  I didn't know that MS had a problme with mailboxes over 2GB.  I only heard of keeping the inbox to a 1000 items or less.  --Thanks!
Microsoft have never said anything about issues with mailboxes. It is mainly within the Exchange community that the issues are seen. The smaller the mailbox the happier things are.

With a mailbox of that size, any behaviour would not surprise me.

basstechAuthor Commented:
When I visit my client today I'll move the mail to a public folder.  I'll let you know how it goes.  
Thanks again for you help.

basstechAuthor Commented:
I moved the mail to public folders.  There is now no mailboxes with over 2GB of mail.  I'll monitor the situation to see if the problem goes away.  Thanks for your help.  I'll accept your suggestion of moving to public folders and re-open if not fixed.

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