Message Trace – the way to find missing Microsoft 365 emails

Trying to find a missing message or why an email is in a particular folder?  For Microsoft 365 hosted accounts the place to start is Message Trace

Microsoft 365 / Exchange Server admin has a system for tracking all messages.  Other Exchange Server systems have a similar feature for administrators.

Maybe someone swears they sent a message but it’s not in your Inbox?  Or an email appears in a folder, but you don’t know why?

Modern mail systems can be complicated with many mailboxes, connectors, redirections, quarantine and message rules.  It can be hard to find an email or figure out why a message appears in a particular place.

Go to Admin | More | Exchange Server | Message Trace – ask your organizations admin if you don’t have access.

Message Trace should find any incoming message from the sender and tell you what happened to it.  It works for almost all incoming messages even if they are redirected elsewhere.

The Default query “Messages received by my primary domain in the last day” is a place to start.  You can enter the address of the sender and, despite the name, a number of days to search.

Leave Senders blank if you want to see all incoming messages for the time range.

A summary report, displayed online, is available for smaller searches.  It’s the best, first choice because the report is available immediately and probably has the information you need.

For example, this message was received with an Inbox rule sending it to a folder.

Longer and more detailed reports have to be downloaded in .CSV format.  These reports take some time to produce (maybe an hour or two).  Microsoft will email you when the report is ready.   Open CSV’s in Excel.

Tracing Outgoing Messages

Want to check if a message has been sent?

Message Trace has an option to find outgoing messages “Messages sent from my primary domain in the last day”.  It’s similar to the incoming message search and has filters for recipients address and date range.

Choose any message from the summary list to see details.

Under Message Events, look for ‘Send External’  Those details will show exactly when the message was accepted by the receivers mail system (in this case for a Gmail address).  That’s useful information for a recipient trying to find a message on their system.

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