Five and a half ways to find an email address in Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory

by Bharat Suneja

Every once in a while you try to assign a particular address to a recipient in Active Directory Users & Computers, only to be told someone already has that address! Email addresses need to be unique — two recipients can’t have the same email address.

Here are a few different ways to find out whether an email address is already used, and the recipient it belongs to.

  1. Resolve recipient in Outlook or OWA

    Create a new message in Microsoft Outlook or OWA, enter the email address and then press CTRL-K. If the recipient is not hidden from Address Lists/GAL, the email address resolves to the recipient’s Display Name.

  2. Request a delivery receipt

    If the recipient is hidden from Address Lists, send a message to it and request a Delivery Receipt. The Delivery Receipt option is on the Options tab in Outlook.

    Figure 1: Select the Request a Delivery Receipt option in Outlook 2013

  3. Search in the Exchange Admin Center (EAC)

    If you’re on Exchange 2013 or Exchange Online, you can use the EAC to easily search recipients. Go to Recipients > Mailboxes and type the address in the search box.

    Figure 2: Use the search box in the EAC in Exchange 2013 and Exchange Online

    The caveat, and the reason why this only counts as half – when you’re on the Recipients > Mailboxes page in EAC, you can only search mailboxes. To search other types of recipients such as distribution groups, you would have to navigate to the corresponding tab or page in EAC. There’s an Advanced Search option in EAC, but it also limits the recipient type (selected via a drop-down) to the page/tab you’re on. For example, if you’re on the Mailboxes tab, the available Recipient types options are user mailbox, linked mailbox, legacy mailbox and remote user mailbox. Similarly, on the Groups tab, the options are mail-enabled distribution group, mail non-universal group, mail universal security group and dynamic distribution group.

    Figure 3: Advanced Search in EAC restricts the search to recipient types you can search

  4. Find email addresses using PowerShell/Exchange Management Shell (Exchange 2013/2010/2007)

    In Exchange 2007 and later, you can use the Shell to easily and quickly find an email address. To get a list of recipients with a particular email address:

    get-recipient | where {$_.emailaddresses -match “[email protected]”} | select name,emailaddresses

    To get a list of all recipients with email addresses from a particular domain:

    get-recipient | where {$_.emailaddresses -match “”} | select name,emailaddresses

  5. Use a Saved Query in Active Directory Users and Computers

    1. In Active Directory Users & Computers (on Windows Server 2003), right-click Saved Queries container | New | Query
    2. Enter a name for the query, and click the Define Query button
    3. From the Find drop-down – select Custom Search | go to Advanced tab
    4. In the Enter LDAP Query text box, enter the query:

      (proxyAddresses=smtp:[email protected])

    This returns recipients of all types – users, mail-enabled contacts, public folders, and groups that have the address [email protected].

    Click here to see a Flash demo.

    Screenshot: Active Directory Users and Computers > Saved Queries | Custom Search dialog
    Figure 4: Use a custom query in Active Directory Users and Computers console

  6. Using CSVDE/LDIFDE to find an email address

    Saved Queries isn’t available in the Windows 2000 version of ADUC. You can also use CSVDE or LDIFDE to export this information to a file, using the following command:

    csvde -f outputfilename.csv -d “dc=domain,dc=com” -r “(&(mailnickname=*)(proxyAddresses=smtp:[email protected]))” -l name

    Replace “dc=domain,dc=com” with your Active Directory domain name and suffix, and [email protected] with the exact email address you’re looking for.

    To find all recipients who have an email address from a particular SMTP domain, you can use a wildcard, e.g.:

    csvde -f outputfilename.csv -d “dc=domain,dc=com” -r “(&(mailnickname=*)(proxyAddresses=smtp:*” -l name

    In the above example, only the name field is exported. All CSVDE/LDIFDE queries also return the object’s distinguishedName. To add more fields to the list, insert a coma after name and type new field names separated by a coma: e.g.


Method Exchange Online Exchange 2013 Exchange 2010 Exchange 2007 Exchange 2003
Resolve recipient Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Request Delivery Receipt Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Search in EAC Yes Yes No No No
ADUC Saved Query No Yes Yes Yes Yes
PowerShell Yes Yes Yes Yes No

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous January 3, 2007 at 5:03 am

Many thanks; a very useful tip!


Anonymous January 8, 2007 at 4:34 pm

Very nice indeed, this saved me a lot of time – thank-you.


Anonymous May 10, 2007 at 8:11 am

It doesn’t work for me. Am I doing something worng? I have run other queries that work flawlessly. MMMM



Anonymous June 20, 2007 at 9:20 am

Muchas gracias. Me ha servidor de gran ayuda


Anonymous February 13, 2008 at 2:49 am

Thanks! Option number 3 works a dream!

Daniel Harrison


Anonymous April 18, 2008 at 8:43 am

We tried everything before checking your site. Option 3 solved our problem! Thanks.


Anonymous October 13, 2008 at 5:53 am

Excellent Thx!


Anonymous November 4, 2008 at 2:34 pm

thank you! thank you! thank you! This worked perfect…


Wayne July 2, 2009 at 4:00 am

Thank you, LDAP query worked a treat!


Anonymous August 11, 2009 at 3:46 pm

I have wondered how to do this for ages (seems weird M$ doesn't make it easier!) – you are collectively amazing people (and alternate sentient life forms) :-)


Dunxd October 28, 2009 at 4:36 am

Would be helpful to have more discussion of wildcards – for example, Exchange handles duplicate email addresses by appending numbers to the end of the user portion of the address. I want to find all addresses that have been created this way – e.g. *[email protected]. Searching on this in the Saved Query doesn't seem to work.


Anonymous November 19, 2009 at 8:07 am



Lewis wells October 1, 2010 at 7:06 am

Option 3 sorted my issue also! Bloody email address was assigned directly to a public folder :).

I bet thats half the users who end up here’s problem too!


Ryan December 22, 2010 at 6:47 am

Thanks!! Very useful!


sumon March 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm

nice blog


scott September 14, 2012 at 1:06 am

Thanks, this worked perfect, saved me a lot of hassle


Thodoros September 3, 2014 at 1:18 am

Thank you. Very useful.
Additionally for search with criteria:
In AD Users & Computers (on Windows Server 2003) –> Find Users, Contacts, and Groups –> Advanced –> Field –> (we select) Proxy Addresses
& (choose) “Condition” & “Value”= smtp: (a part or the whole email address).


SB November 6, 2014 at 7:43 am

Hi there,

I am hoping someone on here will be able to help. I am currently working on a task which requires me to clean up email lists in AD. I am having problems with people responding to me to let me know if they use a distribution list or not.

Is there a way of checking in AD via script if an email has been used in the last 6-12 months ?

I would appreciate your help



Bharat Suneja November 6, 2014 at 9:43 am

Distribution list usage data is not stored in Active Directory.

What you can do is search message tracking logs to determine if a DL was used recently. Logs are retained for 30 days by default, so it won’t meet your immediate needs. Some organizations retain logs for much longer, either on Exchange servers or (a little more commonly) archived elsewhere (fileshares, databases, log management tools, etc.).

Third-party reporting tools also provide info about DL usage, including stale or unused DLs, but afaik most rely on mining message tracking logs.

See Are Distribution Groups really being used?.


Wanda August 14, 2015 at 2:36 pm

I want to send and receive things via my email address?


David January 6, 2019 at 7:55 am

You may also use a tool such as my free version of AD report builder at to quickly get a list of users with their email address (and all their email addresses if needed).


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