Recovering an Exchange edb database

The server with our Exchange 2003 database on it died. It didn’t seem to be the hard drive but the server itself – the power just wouldn’t come back on. So, I had to set up Exchange on a new server and then plug the old hard drive in and try and pursuade it to use the old database files as the new message store. Active Directory was running on the same machine so there was no user information stored anywhere else either.

My method seems to have worked, and this (in outline) is the steps I took. You’re definitely taking a risk doing this, and I’m sure there’s a more robust way, so make sure you’ve got backups of the world and his dog before you start any of this.

  1. Make sure Exchange, and Active Directory, is all working fine on the new machine.
  2. Stop the Exchange store service
  3. Go into Exchange System Manager -> Servers -> [Your server] -> Storage Group and dismount the mailbox store.
  4. Rename the MDBDATA folder in your new Exchange directory
  5. Copy the old MDBDATA folder that you want to restore from in
  6. Run the first few steps on the knowledge base article How to recover the information store on Exchange 2000 Server or Exchange Server 2003 in a single site. I only got to step 5 before I couldn’t stop dabbling myself.
  7. Set up users in the new Active Directory structure matching the old users
  8. Go into Exchange System Manager -> Servers -> [Your server] -> Storage Group and right click on the Mailbox Store and select ‘Properties’.
  9. Select the ‘Database’ tab and tick ‘This database can be overwritten by a restore’
  10. Mount the Store (right click on it)

This should mount without any errors. If you’re still getting problems, go back to the knowledge base article and follow it through again.

Next is getting all your data back, and here’s where I went well and truly off-piste:

  1. Create Active Directory users matching the people who’s mailboxes you need to restore. Don’t accept the option to create an Exchange mailbox.
  2. Go into Exchange System Manager -> Tools -> Mailbox Recovery Center and right click to add the mailbox store.
  3. You should see a list of old mailboxes come up in the right hand panel, with little ‘X’s next to them. Right click on each one in turn and ‘Find Match’ and then ‘Reconnect’.
  4. Hopefully, that’ll do it!

Before trying any of that you may like to take the photo below, demonstrating my accredited drive mounting techniques, as a warning as to how I tend to approach these things.

Exchange drive recovery

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