Tuesday, September 8, 2009

How to Build an Exchange 2003 Disaster Recovery Server

By: Rik Hoffelder

I have recently run into spate of mailbox recoveries for several of my customers where an "offline" recovery of an Exchange 2003 database was necessary. Since no one has published this information to the world, at least for free, I felt I should. Yes, many organizations have upgraded to Exchange 2007 or are planning their 2010 deployments, there are still many out there that will be running Exchange 2003 for a few more years. This article is for you!

Exchange 2003 introduced the Recovery Store Group to allow on-line restores of mailbox databases to aid in the recovery of deleted messages or deleted mailboxes, but there are still three situations where an offline recovery of Exchange databases is still a necessity in Exchange 2003, public folder data recovery (lost/deleted messages), recovery of a mailbox when the user account has been deleted, or the mailbox is no longer on the same server where the backup to be restored was taken.
The second situation is the one I encounter most often and the subject of this posting. An Exchange 2003 Recovery Storage Group will not allow you to export the data from a mailbox database if the original Active Directory user account has been deleted. This is because of the RSG's dependency on the msExchMailboxGUID. Note that the third situation is related to the msExchOrigMDB. Microsoft does an excellent job of describing these scenarios in How to use Recovery Storage Groups in Exchange Server 2003. Also important to note that these restrictions do not apply to Exchange 2007 and from what I understand Exchange 2010 as well.
So if I am going to invest my time in building a recovery server can I use for something besides recovering single mailboxes? Sure, glad you asked! Recovery servers are great for learning and practicing disaster recovery steps in general. After all the best time to learn disaster recovery procedures is not in the middle of a disaster, right? Not only can you practice Exchange database restore and dial tone recovery, you can also practice Active Directory recovery as the recovery server will be built into its own forest and domain.
The other benefit is testing your backups. Believe it or not just because the data wrote to the tape successfully doesn't mean it will restore successfully. I speak from experience here. I once did a recovery that required us to go back 22 backups before we found one that would restore and mount due to poor tape quality. So it's never a bad idea to pull a tape and restore it to your offline server from time to time and make sure it works.
I find that virtual machines with enough storage to handle the database(s) to be recovered work very well for this situation. The nice part of is you can make a backup copy of the image and use it for testing hotfixes, upgrades, and a whole host of other lab functions and do it on a tight budget.
So here's what you need to do. Note these are high level steps; the exact steps will vary depending on your situation and need. This also assumes a single server for Active Directory and Exchange.
  1. Build a new domain controller in a new forest and domain. I like to use a DNS name of exrecovery.local or the like.

    1. Assign an IP address that is routable to your backup server.
    2. Configuring forwarding or zone transfers between your production and recovery DNS servers. This is to ensure your backup server can locate it.
    3. Install the backup software agent; ensure the backup server can connect with proper credentials.

  2. Install Exchange 2003

    1. Prepare the Forest and Domain for Exchange 2003 using setup.exe /forestprep and setup.exe /domainprep
    2. Install Exchange in a new organization using the same name as your production organization.
    3. Make sure your recovery Administrative Group has the same name as the production admin group. Note that you can create several Admin Groups within a single recovery server then as long as the organization is set to native mode you can move the server to the appropriate group for recovery purposes.
    4. Create a new Storage Group using the same name as the production storage group. Create a new Mailbox Store using the same name as the production mailbox store.
    5. Be certain to check the "This database can be overwritten by a restore" box on the mailbox store properties.
    6. Apply the same level of service packs and updates as your production organization to both the operating system and Exchange 2003.

  3. Restore the database(s)

    1. From your backup application, mount and catalog the appropriate tape and select your database(s) to be restored.
    2. In your backup application's console go to the Exchange Restore section (I'm assuming Backup Exec, but all backup software will have something very similar) and select to redirect the restore. In the redirect enter the name to your recovery server. If you will not be restoring any additional logs from incremental backups select the mount database upon completion option, otherwise select this option after the last incremental back has been restored. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: It is critical that you make sure to redirect the restore. If you miss this step the restore will attempt to overwrite your production database. In which case you be learning a database recovery that you didn't plan on!
    3. After the restore completes your database(s) should be mounted and just about ready for use.

  4. Recovering the mailbox

    1. After the mailbox store has been mounted navigate to the Mailboxes container in Exchange System Manager. Right-click and select Run Cleanup Agent. This will cause the restored mailboxes to appear with a red X next to it.
    2. Create a user account in your recovery domain. Be sure to use the same display name, first name, and last name as the mailbox you are recovering.
    3. In the Mailboxes container in Exchange System Manager, right-click the mailbox to be recovered then select Connect to connect the mailbox to the user account you just created. Note that if you use a different display name, first name, or last name the reconnected mailbox will display that name in ESM.
    4. Export the mailbox to a PST using EXMERGE. Remember Microsoft doesn't support Outlook on the same server as Exchange 2003 in a production environment, but since this isn't production feel free to try it. Just remember it isn't supported!

I hope someone finds this information useful. If you like to see other information like this feel free to post a comment. I'm always happy to hear from you!

More information on Exchange


  1. I'll bite and play the anti-Microsoft/anti-Exchange card...

    How about use an email system that stores your messages as individual files, rather than a single giant database that's notorious for corruption? A couple that come to mind are Postfix, Sendmail, Zimbra (an integrated collection of open-source servers), Kerio Mail Server, Communigate Pro, and the list goes on.

    Those solutions could save your company money, but they won't make Exchange admins happy...

  2. Yea, I'm sure a flat file database system will do wonders for our end users. At the same time, we should remove all of our instances of SQL and oracle and go with flat file databases everywhere. Afterall, the time it takes to query a flat file database is definetly cheaper than the cost of a product from Microsoft and a support contract.

  3. Let's keep in mind that Lotus Domino is a flat file mail system as was MS Mail and many others. None of those solutions scaled well, which is why they were replaced by transacted database solutions such as Exchange.

    None of the shared file mail systems offer a point in time recovery capability that a transacted database can. Let's also not forget maintaining synchronization of calendar data (remember Schedule+ or that horrible thing from NetScape?), nothing tops the Exchange Availability Service today.

    No flat/shared file mail systems went the way of the dinosaur for good reason.

  4. ...Thanks for this informative and knowledgeable post

    I was hunting for this topic over internet for last few months and was unable to find it anywhere

    So at last my destination is here

    Thanks a lot

  5. Very Informative post!!!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Helpful post with lots of details information on how to restore and recover Exchange Mailbox in Exchange Server ?

    Have you checked out some third party tools like Stellar Phoenix Mailbox Exchange Recovery? If not you can give it a quick look at http://www.stellarinfo.com/edb-exchange-server-recovery.htm.

    This Exchange Server recovery software offers easy way to repair and recover the deleted mailboxes quickly via an intuitive GUI. The Exchange Server disaster recovery tool uses extensive scanning algorithm to scan and recover the complete data from damaged database.

    1. Thanks for sharing this helpful resource. There are also some third party applications which help to repair and recover the damaged Exchange database file and the recovered database can be mount directly on the server like http://www.edbtopst-converter.com I read that it supports all versions of MS Exchange server and provides two options. User can save the recovered database file either into .edb OR can export Exchange mailboxes in individual .pst files(which can be imported into MS Outlook).

  8. This is a very well written article about How to Build an Exchange 2003 Disaster Recovery Server. If not able to repair Exchange Mailbox Server then try some third party tool called "Kernel for Exchange Recovery software" help to restores mailboxes items from inaccessible or corrupt exchange server and convert into MS outlook .PST file

  9. One of the simple and easy solution to repair, rebuild Exchange disaster recovery server is here: http://www.recover-computerdata.com/exchange-server-recovery.html

    This advance and globally used Exchange database recovery tool has been developed with extensive analyzing techniques to perform 100 % recovery of lost or damaged data.

  10. Its my luck if i have share this exchange server repair tool to all users, MS exchange repair tool provide you very effective and creative technique to repair every .edb file from ms exchange server. The support all over version of MS exchange server and windows OS with (32 Bit and 64 But). Visit for more details : https://www.facebook.com/exchangeserverrecovery

  11. Restore Exchange server database to different Exchange server with best Exchange recovery software. Try this utility at free through free demo edition. Know More:- http://www.exchangerecoverysoftware.org/microsoft-exchange-server-recovery.html

  12. An Exchange information store fails to mount to MS Exchange Server due to many reasons. Corrupted items in Exchange database is one of the common cause which leads to mounting problem of information store. To fix the corrupted items, a third party exchange server repair tool can be used like this:

    This advance application allows the users to directly mount the information store database to MS Exchange Server.

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Have a look here http://www.exchangedisasterrecovery.org . By using this professional software, which is well known as Kernel for Exchange Server Recovery you can easily repair damaged EDB files and instantly convert EDB to PST files.

  16. Use Exchange Recovery solution that repairs and convert EDB data in PST file format. This is best solution for recovering EDB files and converting in PST file format easily.
    For more information and free download click http://exchangerecoverytools.blogspot.com

  17. For Exchange corruption disaster recovery, download this easy to use EDB Exchange mailbox recovery software. This is a better resolution to get rid from such worst situation and make data readable in well manner. Microsoft EDB export to PST utility efficiently extract Exchange mailbox database to PST file within seconds and it works with excellence to open Exchange data in PST file format.

    Read More

  18. EDB conversion tool perfectly repair EDB file. With the help of this tool you can convert EDB file to PST file along with entire Exchange mailbox data. It is safe tool to successfully restore Exchange server database. Read more http://www.exchangeserver.recoveryfiles.org/ or http://www.convert.edbtopstfile.net/

  19. Re-build Exchange 2003 in readable mode and read its entire data in PST file format with the help of Exchange EDB recovery tool. This is the finest application for Exchange 2003 database recovery with whole existing database. Microsoft Exchange 2003 EDB to PST program works with excellence to convert Exchange 2003 to Outlook PST file format against any changes in EDB data structure. With complete originality and assured success, EDB to PST converter software transfer Exchange 2003 database into Outlook.

    Read More

  20. I would like share a best Exchange Server Edb Recovery software that easily works on damage EDB files and restore Exchange mailbox to PST file format without missing original message format TXT, RTF and HTML. Read more about software from here: http://www.recoverydeletedfiles.com/exchange-server-edb-recovery.html

  21. Really very informative post, I found this exchange server recovery tool ( http://www.lepide.com/exchange-manager/ ) which helps to recover corrupt or inaccessible exchange database and easily transfer to accessible outlook pst files. This tool easily fix all sorts of exchange mailboxes corruption issues without any interruption.

  22. Hi thanks for sharing such a useful information. I would also like to recommend Exchagne EDB to PST Converter to repair and convert Exchagne EDB database to PST, MSG, EML, HTML and PDF file format.

    For Further Ref: http://www.edbpst.biz/edb-to-pst-recovery.html

  23. Exchange server recovery software to recover Exchange mailboxes from the critically damaged or corrupted EDB files. It also exports inaccessible Exchange mailboxes to Office 365 platform. - See more information at: https://softcart.wordpress.com/edb-to-pst-converter/ or http://www.mozesoft.com/edb-to-pst-converter.html

  24. Very Useful information to the exchange server administrator, In case you could not success to recover of exchange server mailbox items, then exchange server mailbox recovery tool is capable to restore mailbox items including attachments, messages, calendars, contacts, drafts, tasks, notes, journals, distribution lists, appointments, sent items, deleted emails etc. It can easily fix issue of edb file. Read more http://www.nucleustechnologies.com/Exchange-Server-Data-Recovery.html

  25. Try EDB to PST converter Software. For free demo – http://www.recoverydatatools.com/edb-to-pst-converter.html also read this post: http://edbtopstconvertertool.blogspot.com


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