Recovering from a disaster

The following is tip #12 from "12 ways to protect your Exchange 2003 data."

The following is tip #12 from "12 ways to protect your Exchange 2003 data," excerpted from Mike Daugherty's new book, Monitoring & Managing Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, reprinted with permission of Digital Press, an imprint of Elsevier, copyright 2004. For more Information, please visit www.elsevier.com. Return to the main page for more tips on this topic.


On rare occasions, a server fails badly or is physically damaged to the point that you have no choice except to rebuild the system. The recovery process is complex, but if you have maintained the disaster recovery toolkit described in Section 9.2, the recovery should not be a problem.

After fixing the system hardware (or acquiring replacement hardware), you must reinstall and reconfigure Windows, restore your disk drives using data from your backup media, recover the system state information from your backup media, reinstall Exchange in disaster recovery mode, and finally recover the Exchange Information Store databases from your backup media. The following procedure can be used to recover from a complete disaster. Many failures will not result in complete data loss, so you may need to adjust the following procedures to match your situation.

1. Reinstall Windows.

  • Reinstall the same version of Windows by running Windows Setup with the following options:

      -- The hardware and software configuration should match the original Exchange server, including the same components, the same version of Windows, the same service packs and hot fixes, the same drive designations, and the same server name.

      -- You should not join the Windows domain. Configure Windows as a standalone server in a workgroup. The server will automatically rejoin the correct domain when you restore the System State from the backup media.
2. Restore the disk drives.

  • Find and mount the correct backup media.

  • From the Windows Start menu, select All Programs → Accessories → System Tools → Backup (see Figure 9.2).

  • On the Backup or Restore Wizard Welcome window, select Advanced Mode to start the Backup Utility (see Figure 9.3).

    Note: If you clear the Always start in wizard mode check box, you can avoid the Welcome to the Backup or Restore Wizard window in the future by going directly to the Backup Utility.

  • In the Backup Utility window, select the Restore and Manage Media tab (see Figure 9.19).

  • On the Restore and Manage Media tab, double-click the backup file containing the files you want to restore. Use the check boxes to select each drive you want to restore. You should restore the system drive and any other drives containing data or applications.

  • Select Start Restore to begin recovering the drives.

3. Recover the system state.

  • Find and mount the correct backup media.

  • From the Windows Start menu, select All Programs → Accessories → System Tools → Backup (see Figure 9.2).

  • On the Backup or Restore Wizard Welcome window, select Advanced Mode to start the Backup Utility (see Figure 9.3).

Note: If you clear the Always start in wizard mode check box, you can avoid the Welcome to the Backup or Restore Wizard window in the future by going directly to the Backup Utility.

  • In the Backup Utility window, select the Restore and Manage Media tab.

  • On the Restore and Manage Media tab, double-click the backup file containing the files you want to restore. Select the System State check box. The System State backup includes Active Directory data, Windows registry data, and other data that are not usually backed up by file and drive backups.

  • Select Start Restore to begin recovering the System State.

  • Restart the server.

You will receive an error dialog box informing you that at least one service could not be started. The failing services are the ones that require Exchange. Windows incorrectly believes these services are configured on this server because they are listed in the System State backup. This problem will be corrected automatically when Exchange is reinstalled in disaster recovery mode.

4. Reinstall Exchange in Disaster Recovery Mode.

  • Insert the Exchange Server 2003 CD-ROM into your CD-ROM drive.

  • Select Run from the Windows Start menu. As the command to run, enter x:\setup\i386\setup.exe/DisasterRecovery, where x is your CD-ROM drive. Select OK to start the setup program.

  • You must install Exchange to the same drive and directory on which it was installed on the original server. Ensure that each component that was originally installed has an action of Disaster Recovery. If all of the originally installed components are not automatically set for Disaster Recovery, you must manually select them. Running Exchange Setup in Disaster Recovery mode restores the original Exchange system configuration and services. Once you have restored the Exchange configuration, you can recover the Exchange databases.

5. Recover Exchange Information Store databases.

  • Use the procedure outlined in Section 9.9 to recover the Exchange databases.


Get more "12 ways to protect your Exchange 2003 data." Return to the main page.

About the author: Mike Daugherty is Manager of the Microsoft Consulting Resource Unit for the Central Region as well as a Senior Solution Architect and Program Manager with HP Consulting and Integration Services. He travels widely, working with large Exchange installations and helping clients manage their systems. He is based in Texas.

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