How to manage Exchange Global Address List

A Global Address List (GAL) can be referred to as a directory which has lists for every user, group and contact within an organization that is using Microsoft Exchange. No matter what version of Exchange Server you are running, you will have to manage the GAL so that the end user gets a seamless experience. The basic functionality of GAL is to allow users to look up for the employee’s email addresses in the organization to send them email. Other than using it for the emails, the system administrators also use the GAL for creating / editing the distribution lists which helps in sending the emails in bulk to many users in one go.

Now that we know a brief about the GAL, let’s talk about how to manage it in a correct way to get the optimum use out of it. If you are an administrator, you can use Powershell or the manual way of updating the GAL from the Exchange Management Console. Its straight-forward from the console, see the screen-shot below for more details:

If you are familiar with Powershell and would like to use Shell cmdlets, you can leverage the following cmdlet:

Update-GlobalAddressList -Identity “Global Address List”

For more detail on how to use Update-GlobalAddressList and its parameters, you can refer to this link:

When it comes to the client side of it, the users can take care of downloading the GAL on their own to make sure that they have an updated list of the GAL directory on their email (Outlook) clients. By default it gets updated every 24 hours however to make sure that you have no conflicts and are running with the current copy of the Address Book, you can manually trigger the process from the Outlook itself. With the changes in the design of Outlook, the options remain the same however the way you get there might be different. To get there, you need to follow just two simple steps. Look below for illustrations:

As we mentioned that it differs from different version of Outlook, in a nutshell you could do this to manually update the Address Book from an Outlook client:

  • Outlook 2007 and previous versions
    Tools => Send/Receive => Download Address Book
  • Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013
    Click Send/Receive => Send/Receive Groups => Download Address Book

As per the screenshot above, it is advisable to leave the checkbox “Download changes since last Send/Receive unchecked to make sure that you get a latest copy of GAL downloaded on the client. The downside of keeping it unchecked is that it takes a longer time to download the GAL. It is also recommended to select the option “Full Details”. From Vista onwards, these files are stored in C:Users%username%AppDataLocalMicrosoftOutlookOffline Address Book folder with an extension of .oab.

Troubleshooting GAL issues:-

When dealing with client side issues, an easier way is to rename the Offline Address Book folder and try another download. If that does not work, you can try creating a temp outlook profile to narrow down any profile specific issues.

If you think an issue could be at the server end, your best friend would be the event viewer. Check the events listed under Applications on the Exchange Server to figure out any issues with the OAB generation. As a test you may want to create a new GAL and see if that works.