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Here is an interesting scenario that I'm going to be dealing with:

  1. A single server hosting an Active Directory domain and an Exchange 2003 server, with several dozen mailboxes. (yes I realize this was a bad idea to begin with)
  2. The Exchange Server Information Store has been backed up using NTBACKUP.
  3. The server has had an unrecoverable crash, so the domain and Exchange installation are now gone.

I'm not really concerned with getting the environment back to how it was before. All I want to accomplish is exporting the mailboxes from the most recent Information Store backup.

Is it possible to rebuild a domain, reinstall Exchange, and "restore" the mailboxes for the single purpose of exporting them?

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So you don't have a backup of AD / system state of that machine? – Oskar Duveborn Jul 24 '09 at 10:15
Correct. I'm not interested in restoring the machine, just exporting the mailboxes. – Joseph Daigle Jul 24 '09 at 13:55

Since you don't have the original hardware (and presumably don't want to purchase matching HW), I'd create a virtual machine and go through the restore procedure as if it were a clean server. Pulling the mailboxes out of Exchange by somehow bypassing Active Directory or any kind of authentication would be a drastic departure from the purpose of AD.

Imagine the havoc if there were a quick & easy way for someone to pull the HDD(s) from a functioning Exchange server and just pluck whatever's desired from the mailboxes? :)

In the absence of extreme tricks by wiser minds than mine, you're definitely going to have to recreate that domain in some way in order to convince Exchange that you're legit.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

This is the basic process I came up with to accomplish my goal:

  1. Create a new AD domain and reinstall Exchange 2003 (it was important that Exchange be fully patched to what it was before the crash).
  2. Create a recovery mailbox storage group, and recovery mailbox database matching the name of the old mailbox database.
  3. Recover the mailbox database from the NTBACKUP file.

At this point I can mount the database and see the mailboxes, however I can't recover them because no users exist with matching msExchMailboxGUID attributes. Exmerge also fails. However we can use Exmerge to get the information we need:

  1. Run Exmerge with full logging. The log file will include the mailbox guid for each mailbox. But it requires some clean up. Go here for more info.
  2. Create a new AD user and exchange mailbox for each mailbox being recovered. Best to name the user similiar to that of the mailbox so they can be matched up.
  3. Using ADSIEDIT, change msExchMailboxGUID of each user to that which was extracted from the Exmerge log.
  4. At this point we can either recover the mailbox back into the normal storage group or run Exmerge to export the mailbox (which was my ultimate goal).
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I'm not entirely sure what you are asking, but providing your backup works, then yes you can.

You state you aren't concerned with getting the environment back, but you will need to do just that to be able to restore the backup.

If you want to restore the domain, and put the mailboxes on a different Exchange server? then restore your environment (AD & Exchange), set up a new Exchange server, join it the the Exchange Organisation, then move your mailboxes, public folders and decommission the old server.

If you are wanting to export the mailboxes to PST files, simply restore the environment, and use exmerge to export the mailboxes to PST.

If you are looking to export your mailboxes from backup and restore them into a new AD, with a new Exchange org, then my first question would be 'why?', if you are going to run exchange, but you need to keep your user's mailboxes, why not just keep the AD too? Building a new AD, and shoe-horning the mailboxes on to new users is generating a lot of unnecessary work, and that's assuming it works!

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We're migrating e-mail to another system. So we're eventually not going to have AD or Exchange setup anymore, all I want are the mailboxes so I can migrate that data to a different e-mail system. But unfortunately since we only had a SINGLE server that can't be restored, I can't just reinstall Exchange into the same organization. The best I can do is a completely new AD domain and Exchange org. – Joseph Daigle Jul 24 '09 at 12:34

You are going to have to rebuild an AD domain and reinstall Exchange for the purposes of recovering these mailboxes to export them.

It's not necessary to rebuild AD completely (since you didn't have backups of it) because you can create an LDF file (using ldifde.exe I believe), which subsequently creates the AD account using the Recovery Center in Exchange 2003. This will match the mailboxes to their corresponding AD account.

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