Friday, May 14, 2010

Exchange 2010 – What to Know About Mailbox Import/Export

By:Rik Hoffelder
Exchange administrators are often asked to transfer e-mail data for various reasons and this usually involves PSTs. EXMERGE was always a great tool for this process; however Exchange 2007 introduced built-in functionality as a sort of replacement for EXMERGE. I say sort of because the Import-Mailbox and Export-Mailbox cmdlets don’t offer all of the same functionality as EXMERGE, specifically a GUI interface and multi-threaded mailbox export/import. That’s about the only downside to the cmdlets as they offer functionality not available to EXMERGE such as removing a message form mailbox and placing it another. Finding and removing messages from mailboxes, such as viruses (remember ISSCAN and ILOVEYOU?). It also works with mailbox recovery when using a recover storage group, not unlike EXMERGE, except I can recover a mailbox when the original user account was deleted, unlike the EXMERGE components of Exchange 2003 recovery.

Exchange 2010 Import-Mailbox and Export-Mailbox offer similar functionality as they did in Exchange 2007 with a few twists. The first big improvement is in security. In previous versions of Exchange an administrator required full mailbox access rights in order to import or export data using EXMERGE or Exchange 2007’s cmdlets. That is no longer the case with Exchange 2010. Among the new roles included with Role Based Access Control (RBAC) is the Mailbox Import Export role. This role is required for anyone who must perform this task, but it is not enabled by default for any user or group including members of Organization Management. As a result attempting to run the Import-Mailbox cmdlet will fail as an unrecognized command until the user is a member of the role group. An administrator can grant membership using the following cmdlet:

New-ManagementRoleAssignment –Role “Mailbox Import Export” –User “Administrator”

After joining the group, you must log off and back on in order to join, just like any other security group in the Windows world.

Next you must install the 64-bit version of Outlook 2010 or later on the mailbox server where you will perform the import. This must be the 64-bit version and it must be installed on the mailbox server role because Microsoft does not offer a 32-bit version of Exchange 2010 management tools. Also note that it is required on the mailbox server, so simply placing it on a 64-bit management workstation will not suffice; it MUST be on the Exchange 2010 server although you can use a 64-bit workstation to run the actual process.

A few items of note are that the Exchange 2010 version of Import-Mailbox and Export-Mailbox will not work against mailboxes hosted on Exchange 2003 or 2007 servers. You can use EXMERGE against both of those versions. And yes, EXMERGE still works against an Exchange 2007 server; you just have to set it up on a 32-bit workstation with Outlook and Exchange 2003 System Administration Console. On the flip side, Exchange 2007 Import/Export will not work against mailboxes hosted on 2010 or 2003 either.

Exchange 2010 RTM at least through Rollup 3 (most recent version at time of writing) has an annoying bug, in my opinion. If you have a typical installation of a multi-role server (Hub, CAS, & Mailbox), as many smaller organizations do, Import-Mailbox will fail with error -2147221219. The only workaround to this is to bring up a mailbox-only server to perform the imports. It will not work otherwise, it is not a security issue, it is a bug (maybe by design?). So for organizations needing this functionality on a regular basis should plan accordingly. I recommend building that as a virtual machine since it doesn’t require much resource when not in use.


  1. Nice article Rick and as you pointed out while this fucntionality is present from a command line it can be very finicky and it has no GUI so not very intuitive IMO. If you want such a tool you might check out Lucid8's DigiScope very cool product and reasonable pricing

  2. Thanks for the tip Troy, I'll check it out!

  3. Thanks for the useful information. Another best and quick option to export mailboxes to PST files, a third party EDB to PST converter can be used. This globally used tool repair and rebuild the corrupted items in Exchange databases and then export the mailboxes into PST files with full accuracy and complete data.


  4. Hello,
    There are several other effective option also available for EDB to PST Conversion, I would like to suggest such an advanced software called Kernel for Exchange Server Recovery that can easily export mailboxes to PST files. For more details visit

  5. Nice article, it provides the information about how to import or export mailbox. I found the familiar information from that provides the complete guidelines to import pst files/export edb to pst files, edb to exchange mailbox, edb to msg / eml files. This tool easily fixes all issues related to exchange server corruption .


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