ExMerge – Archiving E-mail

ToolsWelcome to a brand new segment: Tool Tuesday!

Exmerge is an excellent tool to use when working with importing and exporting from Microsoft Exchange Server. Most documentation points to the use of this tool when migrating from one Exchange serve to another. However another excellent use is for exporting data into a PST file for archiving. While there are excellent archiving tools for the enterprise space, as well as highly recommended archiving service providers, this is a great method for small businesses who want to retain terminated employee mails in a readable format, while removing the data from the Information Store.

This tool can be run against a single mailbox or multiple mailboxes. The documentation is clear and is almost unnecessary as it is very easy to use. However, here are the two most common problems that people encounter because they don’t read the directions:

  1. When you download the tool from the Microsoft website (here), you will have an exe which will extract the files anywhere you want. You must choose the ExchSRVR/BIN for the destination. It will throw a dapi.DLL error if you don’t.
  2. If the process runs very quickly, and results in small PST files, then you likely have a permissions error: see MS KB292509

There are a couple of other common, supported and documented purposes for this tool:

  1. Brick level backup of an Exchange Server (without the added cost of a third party plug in)
  2. Extracting data from the dumpster
  3. Extracting folder rules
  4. Extracting data from a damaged Private Information Store
  5. Removing particular messages from an Information Store

And a few other uses which are a natural use for the tools, not specifically documented, but easy to figure out:

  1. Archiving older e-mails (move data from IS to PST for last year, etc)
  2. Extracting particular messages (by subject line) for litigation purposes
  3. Importing PST from a previous POP3/IMAP implementation into the Exchange Server as part of a large migration project

Enjoy!

Moving Outlook to a new system/profile/rebuild – OST

3d human carry a big tool in handsHere is a problem discovered by a fellow technician. He was in the process of rebuilding a laptop after a BSOD. So he performed an offline backup of everything on the hard drive, before rebuilding the operating system. He had a list of all the necessary passwords, keys, etc., so he thought that he was safe…

However, when he got to reinstalling and setting up Outlook he encountered a problem. The OST file is not portable. When Outlook is setup to use an Exchange server, there is an option to cache the data on the local computer, and thus creates an OST file. Typically, in a standard environment, there is no problem – just delete the OST file and reconnect to the Exchange server – the OST will automatically recreate and you’re all set. However here was the unique situation of this setup:

The laptop was part of a different domain as he was an outside consultant for the company. He did have a corporate Exchange account on his laptop, but since he was assigned to this client, he was no longer using his laptop to connect to the Exchange server for whatever reason, instead he simply used Outlook Web Access. However, at the client site, he did have a POP3 e-mail account, which was setup to put it’s mail inside his Exchange Personal Folder within outlook. No problem here, pretty standard to use Exchange and then POP an alternate account and have it all dump into the same inbox. Even though he was no longer connected to the Exchange server, everything was dumping the OST file. When the POP would occur it would delete the files off the mail server (again, nothing new)…

However, if you haven’t already figured it out, the only place the e-mail lived was in the OST. (Compare that to a straight POP profile in Outlook without Exchange, which places mail in a PST file.) Yet, the OST is not portable. So it isn’t something you can simply mount in a new profile/build/rebuild/reprofile/whatever of Outlook. The results was an orphaned OST file which couldn’t be connected, and about two years of lost POP mail. Had he periodically connected to the Exchange server via his laptop (VPN or RPC-HTTPS), it would have synced the POP mail to the Exchange server so the OST could be rebuilt. But in this case, if you connected to the Exchange server, the OST would have rebuilt from the last point it was synced – plus any new Exchange only e-mail. Thus all POP mail was lost.

Now there are tools available on the internet to recover an OST file which pretty much work as promised. However the only one which actually work are around $300, or you can pay someone online about $100 and they basically run that tool on your file for you. From experience, the tools which are less than $300 only do a partial job, not sure why, but I guess you get what you pay for.

Of course, the best thing is to know what you’re getting into. One good way to get around this would have been (before you rebuilt the computer) to create a new PST file and then manually move all the contents of the OST file to the PST file within the Outlook profile the OST is associated with.

Good luck!

Windows XP File Transfer Wizard

avoid the difficultiesHere are two quick quirks of Microsoft’s File Transfer Wizard:

1) The software is very sensitive to which version was used to create and restore the files, and does not appear to be forward or backwards compatible. There is a workaround by using the USMT command line tool if necessary. But the best way is to use the Microsoft Windows CD to both create and restore the image.

2) The file transfer wizard does move the contents of the Local Settings portion, which includes your Outlook PST file, probably the most likely item you’ll want to transfer.

Good Luck!

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