Sunday, November 30, 2008

A User Deleted Emails by Mistake? No Need to Restore from Backup!

Before I start, I have to admit that the title of this post can be found little bit misleading. This statement is only true under certain circumstances. However, to my experience most Outlook users usually are quick to realize their own mistakes and they usually inform IT Department about accidental deletions within a week. So if your "Deleted Item Retention Period" value is set to a number larger than 7 (or still at default value of 14) days, and if the user comes with a restore request within this period, there really is no need for a restore from backup. Although this is feature has been around for a long time, I recently realized that it's not well known among most IT Generalists. 

Last week, for two occasions I was asked for assistance in restoring lost emails from backups. In the first case, one of my clients was trying to restore emails with Symantec Backup Exec 12. In the second case, another client needed step by step guidance with MS Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2007 to restore an accidentally deleted folder within "Inbox". Surprisingly, they both had users who accidentally deleted a bunch of emails and email folders from their Exchange Server mailboxes. For both cases, it took a little investigation to find out that the deletions took place within the last 7 days. So when I recommended them to use "Recover Deleted Items" feature in Outlook instead of tape restores, both of my clients were surprised. 

Both of these clients are sharp and intelligent IT Generalists. They manage mid-sized networks with a bunch of business applications along with their Exchange Servers. So Exchange Server management is not their only (or primary) responsibility. I think that most of the IT Generalists might be missing the fact that you can recover any deleted mail item within the limits of "Deleted Item Retention Period". So this post is for you, the IT Generalist who missed this powerful Exchange Server and Outlook feature. If you're an Exchange Server Admin (I mean, if Exchange Server is your primary responsibility), I assume you're already aware of this really neat feature. 

You can find plenty of online blog posts and articles on this topic. Microsoft KB Article 246153 explains the required registry key change for Outlook 2003 and older versions. MSExchange.org has an excellent article which describes all the basic information in detail along with OWA restore method. However, because these resources are relatively older, they fail to mention that Outlook 2007 does not require a registry trick to enable this feature. In other words, with Outlook 2007, you don't need to add the "DumpsterAlwaysOn" registry value to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Exchange\Client\Options key, because it's already there by default. For the Outlook versions prior to 2007, you have to add the registry value manually as described in MS KB Article, then restart Outlook. Alternatively, if you are still on Exchange 2003, you can use the OWA method described at MSExchange.org. However, Exchange 2007 OWA does not provide a similar functionality. You can only recover deleted items at the "Deleted Items" folder in OWA 2007 SP1.

With Recover Deleted Items feature, you can recover individual mail items, folders along with their contents, even if they were deleted using "Shift + Delete". If the deleted folder is one of the top level folders (like Inbox, Sent Items, Junk Email, etc.), you need to select the "Mailbox" at the Navigation Pane, then select Tools and Recover Deleted Items to reach the list of deleted folder(s). With this method you can also recover items that are deleted with "Mailbox Management" process. 

Finally, I want to mention about a great MSDN blog post by Doug Gowan, which discusses the necessity of backups in Exchange 2007 environments and outlines the scenarios when "Recover Deleted Items" feature can be used.

1 comment:

Dante Segura said...

You can recover only particular items from backup with a tool called recovery manager for exchange.

It worked well for us for item-level recovery of only accidentally deleted emails without a need to do a full restore.