Cisco terminal length 0 and –more–

From time to time I just need to perform a simple dump of a configuration file from a Cisco IOS device for backup or review purposes, such as a from a router or switch. However, for switch stacks or complex configurations the configuration file can be long, and when using something like Putty to log all the terminal/ssh actions to a file, there is no need to constantly press any key at the –more– prompt. To avoid this, you can simply enter:
terminal length 0
at the enable (#) prompt. From there you will no longer see page breaks but rather have the data scroll out to you the entire configuration file. This also avoids the needs to go back and find/replace the –more– elements from a dump.


Exchange Backups with a GFS Retention Scheme

backup storage tapeSomething realized while working a a client was that we typically configure a G-F-S (Grandfather-Father-Son) backup retention with backups been retained by month going back for the prior year. So typically at best our granularity for recovery is a 30-ish day window. However, the default configuration in Exchange is to provide a 14-day retention for deleted items. A quick check here shows that there is a window where data can be received and deleted without ever being written to a recoverable backup.

Two takeaways:

· Exchange retention periods should exceed the longest period between retained backup media (typically around 30 days; but some rotations use true month end, others last Friday of the month, etc., so this date should be adjusted upwards)

· Making sure the customer is aware that we have a retention based system and it is not a true e-mail archiving system, which can add to backup costs substantially.

Exchange/Outlook Hard-Delete

emailWhen typically working with e-mail within Outlook you will read your e-mail, and then perhaps delete it which will move it to the “Deleted Items” folder. From there, you may choose to “Empty” the folder, or you may have some automated policy to delete the contents during logoff, or other automated period. If you are using Microsoft Exchange, then it becomes available for a short period of time in the recovery of the Deleted Items folder. This time period is based on the retention settings configured in Exchange, typically 14 days.

However, there is an additional feature in Outlook called a “Hard Delete”. This occurs when you hold down the shift key while pressing the delete key. When you do this, it performs a Hard Delete. What happens is that the item is then moved immediately to the recovery area on the folder you deleted it from. It skips the Deleted Items folder all together.

What is less known about Item Recovery in Outlook is that in reality each folder has it’s own Recovery Folder, and that my default, Microsoft Outlook 2003 and prior will only show you the option (under Tools) to open the recovery folder for the deleted items folder. However, when you hard delete an item it goes into the recovery folder of the folder from which it was hard deleted from. These recovery folders are hidden by default in Outlook 2003 and prior.

In Microsoft KB246153, we see how to make a registry change to enable item recovery on every folder:

As a side note, Microsoft recently added a feature to their support website which is called “Fix it for me” which will perform many tasks such as registry changes for you without requiring a manual edit of the registry.

Also, one final note, once an item has been purged from the recovery folder or the retention period (14 days by default) has passed, the e-mails will no longer be recoverable except via backups. And even still, if a message was received, hard-deleted and purged between backup intervals, the recoverability is next to impossible.

Microsoft File Transfer Wizard

avoid the difficultiesI discovered another quick of Microsoft’s File Transfer Wizard, which is not surprising but can be an unexpected surprise for administrators who are using redirected folders. Basically when using File Transfer Wizard, one of the default settings is to capture the My Documents and Desktop folders. However it does not detect if these folders are network and/or redirected folders, and as such will copy their contents by default. This is not surprising, but can cause unneeded actions if the new computer will also be using the redirected folder for the My Documents.

I was recently performing this action for a user upgrading from Microsoft Windows 2000 to Vista, and they were connected to a Microsoft Active Directory 2003 network which we did not setup for them. Redirected folders were in use, which I knew in the back of my mind. When I began the File Transfer Wizard, I noticed it backing up the My Documents folder and the ETA was 45 minutes. Then I realized that I should need the My Documents folder, so I canceled the FTW, and ran it again against the same dataset except for the redirected folders – wizard completed in 90 seconds. What a faster way to accomplish this simple task.

Lesson learned – understand what your backing up on the workstation and how it is configured before simply relying upon the wizard. Also, as mentioned previously, some items such as Outlook POP/IMAP configurations are not migrates, as well as the PST file (or anything in the “Local Settings” folder).


Rebuilding a computer

happy laptopOkay, here is a simple one that most people know, but was performed by someone in my office this week. When backing up a computer before you rebuild it (format the hard drive, replace the hard drive, whatever), be sure to perform a reliable backup of the system. At a minimum, reboot the computer and run NTBackup which is included in Windows XP – you will need to install it from the CD if you have Home Edition, but it is still available. Other tools can be more intuitive or faster, but NT backup really does a good job.

However what our technician did was a simple Windows file copy from drive C:\ to a USB drive. The problem is that this does not create a reliable backup and any errors along the way can result in a less-than-complete backup. The primary three reasons this does not work as expected is that Windows file copy cannot:

  • Backup open files
  • Backup some protected windows files
  • Backup files you don’t have access to

So when it comes time to restore, you may not get everything back.

While on the topic, a couple of things you’ll want to make sure you have/document before you rebuild a computer, although this is not all-inclusive:

  • All software media/download to reinstall your application (Windows, Office, Adobe applications, etc)
  • All software license keys or serial numbers
  • Drivers for your particular hardware saved to a CD-ROM or other accessible media
  • Settings and passwords for your e-mail client (Outlook) or other programs
  • A list of what is on your computer (software/hardware) so you know what you’ll need to put back on the system
  • The name of the computer and domain or workgroup
  • The name of local users on the computer (exact name, spelling and casing) and who is a member of the administrators group
  • Check for Encrypted File System (EFS) and mitigate if necessary

Good luck!

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