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Brad's TechTips - Exchange Server & Outlook

[<< Full list of Exchange Server & Outlook tips.]
 
 
"Now You See It, Now You Don't , And Now You Do Again – Recovering Deleted Items In Outlook and Exchange Server"
 
(I originally wrote this article for TechTarget SearchExchange.com; a slightly shortened version still appears there.)
 
The Deleted Items folder in Outlook can be your best friend or your worst enemy, depending on whether you are an end-user or an administrator trying to support users. In corporate environments that use Exchange Server on the back-end, the Deleted Items folder serves multiple purposes:
  1. It can be a temporary holding place for messages or other items that users delete from their Inbox. Users move items into it, with the intention of emptying the folder later. Alternatively, administrators can run scheduled policies to empty it based on criteria such as item age or size.
     
  2. It can be a perpetual file archive for end-users that refuse to accept the concept of Inbox sub-folders. These are the users that come after you with torches and pitchforks when you run (or accidentally run) that policy to empty the Deleted Items folder.
Whatever the case may be, you don't want to be in the position of having to recover items that were accidentally or intentionally deleted if all you have is a tape backup for recovery purposes. For single item retrieval, the amount of time and effort can outweigh the value of the message itself, and in many cases, administrators may not know how to recover an Exchange Server properly.
 
Fortunately, Exchange Server supports a Deleted Items Retention policy that lets you recover files even after they have been supposedly deleted from the Deleted Items folder in Outlook. To enable this, open your Exchange System Manager and drill-down through your server and storage group objects until you come to the mailbox store. Right-click on the mailbox store and select its properties, and then locate the Limits tab.  (See screen shot.)  Companies that still use Exchange Server 5.5 have the same option. See Microsoft Knowledge Base article 246283 (“XADM: Set Deleted Mail Message Retention Time in Exchange Server 5.5”) for details.
 
Within the Limits tab you will be able to specify the amount of time for which to retain any items that users have deleted.  You can select one day, thirty days or any other value up to sixty-eight years. (Keep in mind that the longer these messages are retained, the more disk space is used on the server. Also, if you are still using Exchange Server 2003 in sixty-eight years, please contact me so that we can discuss some upgrades.)
 
Once you've enabled this setting, users will be able to recover their own deleted messages and will no longer need to come to you for this task. To recover items, users click their Deleted Items folder in Outlook, and then select Tools > Recover Deleted Items from the toolbar. From the window that appears, they will see all the items that they have deleted within the range that you specified on the server.
 
One final item to note is that users can bypass their Deleted Items folder, and therefore this recovery technique, by holding down the Shift key when deleting the item. By default, the Recover Deleted Items option is not available when you've selected any folder other than Deleted Items, so you may wonder if it's possible to recover the item that's been hard-deleted in this manner. The answer is that you can do this if you first create or modify a Registry value on the workstation that is running Outlook. The value to set is:
 
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Exchange\Client\Options
Value name: DumpsterAlwaysOn
Data type: DWORD
Value data: 1
 
As always, use caution when making any changes to the Registry. This process is described in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 246153 (“How To Recover Items That Have Been Hard Deleted In Outlook”).
 
So good luck, and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery!