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Exchange Task Wizard Merges Mailboxes

Microsoft made one important change to the Recovery Storage Group (RSG) in Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) by removing the need to use the ExMerge utility to extract mailbox data from the recovered database and merge it into the live database. You can now perform this operation directly by using the Recover Mailbox Data option in Exchange System Manager's (ESM's) Exchange Task Wizard. Not only is this a cleaner and less confusing way to recover data, it also eliminates the need for you to maintain copies of the ExMerge utility and track whatever updates Microsoft makes to it.

As Figure A shows, Recover Mailbox Data lets you choose whether to merge or copy recovered data back into the target mailboxes. If you merge data, the wizard moves the data into the target folder after checking that the items aren't already in the folder. The wizard checks the values of the PR_SEARCH_KEY and PR_LAST_MODIFICATION_TIME MAPI properties to decide whether an item that comes from the RSG database exists in the target mailbox and if so, is newer than the version found in the target mailbox. If the item is newer, it's used. If not, it's ignored. When you copy data, the wizard creates a complete copy of the folder hierarchy of the recovered mailbox in the target mailbox under a root folder called Recovered Data

Note that the merge handles only mailbox data and ignores other items such as rules, custom folder views, and permissions. Unless you swap the dial-tone database out to put back the original database, users must recreate any rules that they use to process messages and reset any permissions on their mailbox after the recovery operation is complete.

As with the Exchange Task Wizard's Move Mailbox function, you can schedule Recover Mailbox Data for a time when users aren't active. As Figure B shows, the wizard logs the results of the processing in an XML-format file in the My Documents\Exchange Task Wizard Logs directory. Unfortunately, you see the raw XML-format data rather than a nicely formatted version of the report, but the information is easy to follow.

The wizard ignores corrupt items that it encounters in a mailbox and only processes valid items. Unlike ExMerge, the wizard doesn't require send as and receive as rights on the destination mailboxes. Exchange Task Wizard's only disadvantage is that it can't filter items in the same way that ExMerge can. However, in most cases, you want to recover complete mailboxes, so the ability to filter items isn't required.

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