Recovery of data from Exchange 5.5

I had a question recently from a friend at Microsoft about a client who had got into a bit of a pickle!

They needed to restore and email from a mailbox which was 5 years old, long since deleted and on Exchange 5.5.

They did have a backup from the month end, but no idea whether the mail actually was still available or whether it was deleted before month end.

I did a little research and with the help of a couple of other Exchange MVPs Paul Robichaux and Kevin Ball I think I have a solution! We will of course not find out until I get some feedback from my friend.


So my thoughts were as follows:

One option to get this back (if it exists) would be to use Ontrack PowerControls. I’ve not done it for a while, but essentially, the idea is you recover the full database from tape and then Ontrack can open it and extract the relevant email. Of course the full tool is not free although there is a free version which might just have enough to do what is needed or at least to help you understand if the email is actually available!


The other option could be interesting! I’m not 100% sure but I believe that if you have Exchange 2003 (possibly later but not sure) you could create a database and then dismount and delete the files. Then put the recovered database (.edb file) in the same location and name it the same as the dummy database file you just deleted. At this point mounting the database should prompt Exchange to upgrade the structure of the DB to Exchange 2003 and allow you to see the mailboxes within. You would then need to create a user account and link the relevant mailbox to that account. (Thanks to Paul for the tip here)


So with a bit of luck and possibly some purchasing of tools, assuming the mail wasn’t deleted before the month end back, it should be possible to get it back!


Having posted something similar on Twitter I received feedback saying the recovery via Exchange 2003 won’t work! So I tested it!! – Yup I actually installed NTT4 and Exchange 5.5.

What I have found so far is that Exchange 2003, will create an STM file but then won’t mount the database. I believe that this is probably due to the fact that they are different organisations as I didn’t carry out a migration to Exchange 2003 instead just installing separate Orgs. I will update later with more progress!