Change the default range of free/busy data published for all users

Published Jun 10 2004 08:49 AM 5,187 Views

One question I see asked a lot is if there is a way to publish Free/Busy information for all users from the server-side.  In Outlook the default is to publish 2 months of Free/Busy information  per user. So is there a way to extend the default other than changing it from the client?  The short answer to this question is yes, it can be done.   However, this setting is not enabled on the Exchange Server; instead it is applied through Outlook XP and Outlook 2003 Group Policies.  Let’s take a look at how this can be done.


The first thing we need to do is install the Policy Template files. 


For Office 2003 install the Policy Template Files from the Office 2003 Editions Resource Kit Toolbox


For Office XP install the System Policy Editor and Templates from the Office XP Editions Resource Kit Toolbox


Next we will load the Office Policy Templates (.adm files) and configure the policy.  In our example, we will use the Default Domain Policy; however you can choose to create a new policy specifically for this setting.


  1. Open Active Directory Users and Computers

  2. Right click on the name of your domain and go to Properties

  3. On the Group Policy tab, choose to Edit your Default Domain Policy

  4. Under User Configuration, right click on Administrative Templates

  5. In the Add/Remove Templates box, choose Add

  6. By default the .Adm files are located in Winnt\Inf folder.  Choose the OUTLK11.ADM file and hit Open

  7. Now under Administrative Templates, expand Microsoft Office Outlook 2003

    1. Expand Tools\Options

    2. Expand Preferences

    3. Expand Calendar Options

    4. Select Free\Busy Options

    5. In the right-hand pane, double click on Options

    6. Click enabled and change months of Free/Busy information published

    7. If you do not wish to have users change the number of months set in the above step, check the box to “Prevent Users from changing Months of Free/Busy information being published” 
  8. To refresh your group policy settings in Windows 2003 so this change is effective immediately go to the command prompt and type:

Gpupdate /target:user /force


8a. To refresh your group policy settings in Windows 2000 so this change is effective immediately, go to a command prompt and type:

secedit /refresh user_policy  /enforce


Note:  When policies are being used such as the Free/Busy policy, these settings cannot be changed from the Outlook client and will be grayed out.


Outlook policies cannot be used to create profiles. However, Outlook policies can be used to do lots of other cool things.  For example you can set policies to prevent the creation of offline folders, set default locations for pst files, globally enable HTML/Word as the default email editor, disable signatures from being added to outgoing messages, modify settings for Exchange cached mode and more.


- Melissa Travers


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This was really useful as I have been trying to figure out how to allow certain attachments that I want to be able to send and receive in outlook on my home network.
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Great I am glad it helped. So few people realize that they have the option of using these policies to accomplish all sort of things!

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I am the admin of a University. Our students are only allowed to use OWA because due to legit reasons we are not allowed to join their private computers into our network.

How am I doing this without having Outlook? I looked at OWA Admin but there's nothing to customize Calendar settings.

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Hi John

I will be out of the office for a couple of days, but let me check when I get back to see if setting the policy via an Outlook policy sticks in OWA. I tend to think not, but let me do some testing and I will post the result. There is currently not a way to set this via OWA.
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You mentioned that you can use Outlook policies to "disable signatures from being added to outgoing messages". Are you referring to digital signatures?

I am trying to find a way to keep users from creating signatures on their outlook messages. I see the policy under Tools/Options/Mail Format "disable signatures for new message". But when I enable that policy, no change is made on the client after the policy is refreshed.

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Hi Patty

I was not referring to digital signatures but the outgoing signatures. If the policy is not applying, this could be for a variety of reasons. If you configure other policies, that do not pertain to Outlook or Office do these apply? If so, if you configure another policy in Office such as Free/Busy, does this apply? This will try and help narrow down the cause of the problem. You may also want to check your application log for errors.
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Does the policy have to reside at the default domain level as in your original instructions? I'm creating a separate policy with only myself to get the policy for testing. RSOP says the policy was applied to me.
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This is just what I've been looking for. But can you tell me if there's a significant increase in server load? (We have about 1500 mailboxes.)

Many thanks.
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To address the questions posted:

John - I have not yet found an alternative method for changing this for OWA clients.

Patty - This does not have to be set as part of the Default Domain Policy, this was just an example. You can create a separate policy for this.

ShirtSleeves - The policies will replicate via Active Directory not Exchange. This would depend your topology number of Domain Controllers etc. Policies are replicated automatically, I want to say every 15 minutes off the top of my head or when you force the update via gpudate or secedit.
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Sorry, my question was badly worded...
Is there an extra load on the Exchange server if 1500 users publish 12 months worth of calendar information (which they'll be constantly changing, or course), in comparison to the normal load on the server of two months?
Is there a significant growth in the size of the information store?
Generally speaking, of course...
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Hi Melissa-
Trying to help an org that has some users who will only ever use OWA (exch 2003). Currently, these users F/B times are not being published - that is, they show up hash marked to other users.
How does one get people who never use the fat client to publish free/busy? Should this be happening already, and I've got a problem, or do they have to log in once/periodically with fat client to trigger updates?

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I am running Exchange 2003 Server and was wondering if anyone know how to manage a specific user's calendar. The problem is, I have a user (ceo) who does not want the details of his calendar information visible, he does want it to show free or busy, but when busy not excatly what he is doing or meeting with. He would like to have this done from the server, if at allpossible.

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Hi - I am not running Active Directory. We are still on Exhange 5.5 - is there a way to do this with NT and Exchange 5.5. ?

Thanks for your help
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ShirtSleeves - This may add some additional load to the server. Data is stored in the Schedule+ Free/Busy Public Folder

Jake - Try testing with one of the users and logging into Outlook. To start Outlook, go to Start- Run and type :

Outlook /cleanfreebusy

See if this publishes their free/busy to the server.

Darrek - looking into this one

Shannon - Others have asked this question to see if this can be done other than OL group policy. There is not a supported way to do this. Checking with our Dev team to see if there is any other workaround.
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You can do it using NT with no AD by creating a .reg file and importing it with regedit /s in a login script. The /s switch tells regedit to import the settings silently, and not notify the user.

The reg file should look similar to the following (this is for Outlook 2003):
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

FBPublishRange is the number of months to publish, expressed as a hex value. (c = 3 months in the above example)
FBUpdateSecs is how often (in seconds) to update the free/busy information expressed as a hex value. (4b0 = 1200 seconds, or 20 minutes in the above example)
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‎Jun 10 2004 08:49 AM
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