Microsoft Exchange Server and Outlook email archiving FAQs

Get email-archiving advice for Exchange Server, Outlook and OWA. Plus, learn about email-archiving tools and methods to achieve effective data retention.

Email archiving -- if done properly -- frees up storage on Exchange servers, allows for speedier retrieval of archived Microsoft Outlook messages and meets compliance regulations.

This collection of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) provides troubleshooting advice on Exchange Server, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Web Access (OWA) email archiving issues. You'll also discover third-party tools, journaling event sinks and other methods for achieving effective corporate email-archiving and data retention.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

TROUBLESHOOTING EMAIL ARCHIVING ISSUES

  1. Can OWA users access archived email from an Exchange .PST?
  2. How can I recover email that Outlook's auto-archive permanently deleted?
  3. What's the best native Exchange Server 2003 email-archiving tool?
  4. Can I selectively archive email messages in Exchange Server 2003?
  5. Is it possible to manipulate Microsoft Outlook email archive settings?
  6. Why doesn't all of my Microsoft Outlook 2007 email get archived?
  7. Why is archiving Outlook email on laptops unreliable?
  8. Why can't remote users view Outlook archive folders?
  9. How can I recover an archived Outlook email that was deleted?
  10. Is it possible to archive OWA email on Windows SBS 2003?

Can OWA users access archived email from an Exchange .PST?

We are migrating from hosted email to an in-house Exchange server. I know you can't archive email through Outlook Web Access (OWA), but is there a way to pair the Exchange server with Outlook 2003 on the client end to enable email archiving? Can you create a .PST file on the Exchange server that the user can access through OWA?

Microsoft recommends against .PSTs stored on remote machines. In fact, this is unsupported, as explained in Microsoft Knowledge Base article "Personal folder files are unsupported over a LAN or over a WAN link."

You have two options:

  1. Use the Archive option within Microsoft Outlook (which isn't a corporately manageable option).
  2. Deploy a third-party email archiving solution such as: Symantec, Quest, HP, Zantaz, Mimosa, ZipLip, etc.

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How can I recover email that Outlook's auto-archive permanently deleted?

My boss clicked yes to "auto archive" in Microsoft Outlook, not knowing it was set to permanently delete. There is nothing left in .PST, trash, etc. Microsoft said the email should be somewhere on the hard drive. Can you help?

It sounds to me like your boss has an Archive.PST file located somewhere on his hard drive or network home directory. Search the hard drive and home directory for all .PST files. Once you find them, take note of where they are saved, their size and their last modified date. Chances are the largest one with the most recent 'last modified' date is the one you want. Open it within Microsoft Outlook and you should find the messages.

If you end up searching and not finding any more .PST files in the locations I specified, then it sounds like you are out of luck. You will need to recover your boss's mailbox from backup tape and then restore them into his production mailbox or into a .PST for his reference.

(As a last ditch effort, you could also try asking whoever you spoke with at Microsoft what they meant when they said "it's somewhere on the hard drive," though I suspect they were just trying to point you to a local Archive.PST file.)

MEMBER FEEDBACK:

Go into Microsoft Outlook, right-click on the archive in the folder view and select Properties. Click on Advanced and it will show you the location of the .PST.
—Brian C.

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What about using the DumpsterAlwaysOn Microsoft Outlook registry hack? That would probably allow the moved/deleted email to be recovered from Exchange, as long as it is within the auto-retention period.

Read Recovering hard deleted items from outside of the Deleted Items folder for more information.
—Neill T.

******************************************

You could try setting the registry key "DumpsterAlwaysOn" to see if the items are in there. Depending on how the Exchange server is configured, you will be able to recover hard-deleted items from any folder.
—Matt H.

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What's the best native Exchange Server 2003 email-archiving tool?

I work for a small business that would like to keep a copy of every message sent and received through our Exchange 2003 server running on Windows Server 2003. How can I accomplish this with tools available in Exchange 2003?

Need more info on Exchange email archiving?

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For this you'll need to do the following:

  1. Set up a journaling mailbox and name it something like JournalMB1@yourcompany.com.
  2. Launch Exchange System Manager (ESM) on each store and set the "archive all messages on this store" value to the journaling mailbox. A copy of all email messages in your Exchange organization will be archived to the journaling mailbox.
  3. Back up the journaling mailbox to make sure you can recover data in case of disaster.

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Can I selectively archive email messages in Exchange Server 2003?

I only want to archive outgoing Exchange 2003 email that contains our optional legal disclosure within the body text. I have no need to archive the other email. Is the best way to do this to create a rule to filter specific email to the journal mailbox? Our email filtering software will not perform content scanning to "keep" an email.

There is no way of achieving the kind of policy-based communication-retention in native Microsoft Exchange Server. A number of third-party solutions exist that may be able to assist. For example, you may want to try MessageGate to see if they address your requirements.

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Is it possible to manipulate Microsoft Outlook email archive settings?

We use Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2003 and Outlook Web Access. We need to properly archive email for legal purposes; however, we're having issues with Outlook. The problem is that Outlook users are able to change their archive settings. How can we prevent users from changing their email archive settings? Also, can we change the location of the file archive? We'd like to be able to store archive files centrally.

If you're trying to meet Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance regulations, then you need to capture all email traffic at the SMTP server level. You cannot rely on archiving from the client, as email can be altered this way. However, if you capture traffic going through your SMTP servers then you have everything that was sent to or from your company. There are several third-party solutions available. You can also write an event sink to copy all email to a safe location, archive it as you like and let users do what they want with their archive settings.

Editor's note: Read more about Victor Ivanidze's event sink for Exchange 2000 and 2003 called SelectiveJournaling.

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Why doesn't all of my Microsoft Outlook 2007 email get archived?

When I archive email in Microsoft Outlook 2007, some items are missed. Why is this?

Microsoft Outlook doesn't look at send/receive dates to determine what is archived. It looks at modified dates. If an old email is opened and modified in some way, the new modified date will determine when it's archived. You can add the "modified" header to your Inbox folder and sort by it. I imagine that the unarchived email has a more recent modified date than a sent or received date. It's also worth noting that when you open your email for the first time in cached mode, the modified dates change to the day they were cached on your PC.

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Why is archiving Outlook email on laptops unreliable?

Some laptop users are unable to archive reliably. They access email via RPC over HTTPS, but Outlook email archiving is still unreliable. Do you know why?

Most laptop users access Outlook in cached mode when they're not connected to the Exchange server. Outlook synchronizes with Exchange once it reconnects to the network.

The Outlook AutoArchive function, which is turned on by default, will move items to the archive folder in a predetermined period. Older items will be deleted periodically. There may be a conflict between the synchronization and archive functions.

I recommend turning off the AutoArchive function. Instead, create an Outlook personal folder on the local drive and archive items manually.

If users only connect to the Exchange server through OWA and want to archive items, they need to access Exchange via HTTP. After connecting to the mailbox, users can drag messages to a .PST on the hard drive to archive them. Note that when users access mailboxes using the HTTP protocol, they can't use folders such as Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Journal.

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Why can't remote users view Outlook archive folders?

I have several users who access their Microsoft Outlook accounts remotely. We're running Outlook 2003 on a Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003. One of the users has a large archive folder that can be viewed on his laptop while in the office. However, when he accesses Outlook remotely on the same laptop, he cannot view the archive folder. Why can't he view his archive folder remotely?

It is very possible that the archive folder is located on a network share rather than on his local laptop. If that is the case, then he would have no way of accessing it when he is off the local area network (LAN) and on the road.

MEMBER FEEDBACK:

If your Microsoft Outlook is in cached mode, then indeed you should not be able to access the .PST file if it is on a network drive. However, if you're on a VPN, you may need the full path to the .PST file. Many times the shares are listed as an H drive, Z drive, etc. A fully qualified path should do the trick.
—Eddie L.

If traveling, it's better to store archive folders on the laptop instead of storing them on the server in a LAN environment. When the user returns to the office, you should create synchronization between the two folders.
—Abdul A.

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How can I recover an archived Outlook email that was deleted?

I am using Microsoft Outlook 2000 with Exchange Server on Windows NT. My AutoArchive is set to delete sent email every three months. Now I need to retrieve an email that was sent six months ago. How can I do this?

You need to reattach the archived Outlook .PST file to Outlook, and then copy the old email to the Exchange mailbox.

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Is it possible to archive OWA email on Windows SBS 2003?

How can we archive OWA email? We're running Windows SBS 2003 with Exchange Server.

There are different methods to do what you want, as described by expert Brad Dinerman in his post "Is it possible to create a personal .PST file in Outlook Web Access?".

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This was first published in July 2008

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