Exchange Server 2013 Backup and Restore 101 – Disabled mailboxes (Part 3)

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:


In the previous articles of this series, we covered some scenarios to restore individual items and the process involved on such tasks. In this third article of our series, we are going to work on the difference between deleting and disabling a mailbox, and after that we will focus on the available methods to restore the data from a disabled mailbox.

The first step is to understand the difference between delete and disable mailbox and both options are available when we select any given mailbox using Exchange Admin Center (EAC).

The delete option is available on the toolbox and when used, the mailbox and the Active Directory user account will be removed from the system.

The second options is using (More) and then Disable and that removes the mailbox however the Active Directory account will stay on the system. By doing that the user can log on to the network but as you can imagine will have no access to the mailbox data. Both options are shown in the Figure 01.

Figure 01

Now that we are on the same page about the difference between disable and delete options for a mailbox, the second piece of information is the attribute Keep deleted mailboxes for (days) on the database properties. This property defines for how long a disconnected mailbox will stay on the database, by default it is 30 days, when we disable/delete a mailbox that will disconnect the mailbox and knowing how many days you have to restore data is important.

In order to get there, open Exchange Admin Center, click on Servers, Databases, double click on the desired database, and finally click on Limits tab (Figure 02).

Figure 02

Restoring entire mailboxes – Disabled Mailboxes

In order to validate the process to restore the content of a disabled mailbox we are going to use user01, which is a regular user that has a few messages, as shown in Figure 03.

Figure 03

In order to disable the user01 mailbox, we can use Exchange Admin Center as shown in the previous section or use Exchange Management Shell, using the following syntax (Figure 04)

Disable-Mailbox <Mailbox>

Figure 04

After disabling a mailbox, we must be aware of these following items:

  • The Active Directory user is intact and the user is able to log on using its Active Directory
  • The user will not have access to the mailbox using any client method (for obvious reasons)
  • If the user has an In-Place Archive, that mailbox will be marked as disconnected on the Mailbox Database as well

In order to validate our options to restore the mailbox, we can start by disabling a mailbox using Exchange Admin Center (EAC), as shown in Figure 05.

Figure 05

To reconnect a mailbox, we can click on recipients, click on mailboxes, and then click on , finally click on Connect a mailbox (Figure 06)

Figure 06

In the new window, select the mailbox that you want to restore, and click on the first button from the toolbox (Connect), as shown in Figure 07.

A double click will not work, we must click on the Connect button.

Figure 07

Restore Option #01: Reconnecting to the original account…

We will start where we left off on the previous section, in the dialog box shown in Figure 08. As part of the process, the dialog box will provide you a match (if it can be found), and click on Yes, connect to the user account above.

If Exchange is not able to find a match or there is any sort of inconsistency (such as same user name in two different domains in a more complex scenario), then the only option available will be No, I want to connect to a different user account (we will go over this in detail in the next section).

Figure 08

The result of the previous operation will be something similar to “The operation completed successfully but the change will not become effective until Active Directory replication occurs”, click on OK and we should wait for the Active Directory replication to take place.

After replication has taken place, the user can try to logon and the first page will be a page to define language and time zone for the mailbox (like when a new mailbox is created), the user has to define its settings and click on save. After that, all data of the original mailbox will be available.

Restore Option #02: Reconnecting to another account…

A second option available is to restore the entire mailbox to another account. In this scenario, the original user had its mailbox disabled and a new user requires the content of that original mailbox.

The key to reconnect a disconnected mailbox is to have an Active Directory account without a mailbox available for the operation. After all, we cannot reconnect a mailbox to an existent mailbox.

For this exercise, we are going to create a new Active Directory user account, in our example UserRestore01, as shown in the figure 09.

Figure 09

Time to go back to the Exchange Admin Center (EAC), recipients, mailboxes, click on and then connect a mailbox like the one we performed in the previous section. Select the desired mailbox and click on connect. In the new dialog box (Figure 10), we are going to select the second option No, I want to connect to a different user account. Using this option we can select which Active Directory account will be used to connect on that disconnected mailbox.

Figure 10

A new wizard will guide us during the process. The first page (Figure 11) allows us to decide which type of mailbox it is going to be, in our case is a User mailbox, click Next.

Figure 11

In the second page of the wizard, the process will try to match the account but we can override that by selecting Connect to the following user account, and then click Browse. In the new page, we will have a list of all Active Directory user accounts that do not have a mailbox, we will select UserRestore01 from the list, and we will be clicking on OK (Figure 12).

Figure 12

The last page of the connection wizard can be seen on Figure 13, click on Finish.

Figure 13

The result will be a new mailbox UserRestore01 being displayed in the mailboxes area when visualizing through Exchange Admin Center (EAC), as shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14

When the UserRestore01 accesses its mailbox, they see a mailbox with all the content that used to belong to the user01 with all the content that was on the mailbox after the process of disabling that account (Figure 15)

Figure 15

If we disable again the UserRestore01, the mailbox will show up as UserRestore01. There will not be any reference to the original User01 mailbox on the database at this time.

Restore Option #03: Restoring the data to an existent mailbox…

Another possibility is to restore only the content of a disabled mailbox to an existent mailbox. That is my favorite method because we do not need to create a new account in Active Directory to retrieve the mailbox content.

For this exercise, we have our disconnected mailbox (user01) floating in its original Mailbox Database and we have a mailbox user05, which requires the content of the disabled mailbox.

The first step is to find out on which Mailbox Database the disabled mailbox is. We can use the following cmdlet and a list of all mailboxes of any given Mailbox Database will be listed. In the column DisconnectReason we will look for the Disable value (Figure 16)

Get-MailboxDatabase <Database> | Get-MailboxStatistics | ft DisplayName,MailboxGUID,DisconnectReason –AutoSize

Figure 16

If you only want a list of the disabled accounts, then you may want to use the following filter (Figure 17).

Get-MailboxDatabase <Database> | Get-MailboxStatistics | where { $_.DisconnectReason –eq ‘Disabled’} | ft DisplayName,MailboxGUID,DisconnectReason –AutoSize

Figure 17

Knowing the database and the name of the disconnected mailbox that we want to retrieve the data from are the two pieces of information that are required for our next cmdlet that will be used to retrieve the information using the New-MailboxRestoreRequest cmdlet. Using this cmdlet, we can restore the entire content of a disconnected mailbox to any mailbox and the cmdlet has several switches.

New-MailboxRestoreRequest –SourceDatabase <Source-Database> -SourceStoreMailbox <Disconnected-Mailbox> -TargetMailbox <Destination-Mailbox> -TargetRootFolder <Folder-in-Destination-Mailbox> -AllowLegacyDNMismatch

Running the cmdlet above will create a new request and we can track the status by running Get-MailboxRestoreRequest (Figure 18). We used the parameter –TargetRootFolder to define a new folder on the target mailbox to help the user to identify that any data underneath that folder is being originated from the disconnected mailbox.

Figure 18

As soon as the request is complete, (the status column will have the value of Completed), the mailbox defined in the cmdlet will have a new folder and the entire disconnected mailbox will be there. In our example, we defined the folder RestoreUser01-Data and the target mailbox as User05, as shown in the Figure 19

Figure 19


In this third article of our series, we covered a couple of scenarios of how to restore content from disabled mailboxes in Exchange Server 2013. In our next article, we will cover the process to restore a mailbox when it is deleted, and how to refresh information of disconnected mailboxes.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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