Managing PST Import-Export process in Exchange Server 2013 (Part 1)

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Managing PST Import-Export process in Exchange Server 2013 (Part 2).

Introduction

There are some components of products that die hard, well some of them come back from nowhere such as Public Folders, and our topic for this article series is no different. The PST has been around for a very long time (do you remember ExMerge on Exchange Server 2003?). Microsoft’s Exchange Team has been doing a great job on providing new ways to get rid of PST in corporate environments.

But seriously, is PST a bad thing? Depends on your perspective, if you want to perform In-Place eDiscovery when you have tons of users’ PSTs spread over several File Servers or even local disk of the end-user personal laptops, then you probably hate PSTs. However, if you want to create a backup to a USB drive, or export data from the same In-Place eDiscovery to hand it over to an Auditor, then PST just became handy.

So, if you hate, love or are still undecided about PST, this article will go over the process on how you can manage the import and export process using either Exchange Admin Center (EAC) or Exchange Management Shell in your Exchange Server 2013 environment.

Creating the EXUtil$ Shared Folder

The first step is to create a Shared Folder to support the Import/Export process. The same folder can be used for other features, such as Certificates in Exchange Server 2013. As the new Exchange Server 2013 moves away from the console environment and adopts a web interface, then a shared folder makes more sense for this new type of scenario.

The Shared Folder can be created anywhere on our network, however I would recommend to keep close to your Exchange Server and bear in mind that the location should be in a partition different from the C: drive to avoid an operation filling up all your system drive space.

I suggest a couple of hints to avoid issues when creating this new shared folder to support Exchange:

  • Like we stated before, create the Shared Folder on a disk different than the C: drive to avoid the drive being filled up with a high number of PST files being generated
  • Create a clean-up procedure/script to remove the files after X days
  • Do not create this folder on a disk that contains Databases or Log files

We will name our Shared Folder as EXUtil$ as shown in the Figure 01.

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Figure 01

The permission is an important point because the Exchange Trusted Subsystem must have access to this shared folder. Let’s add the Exchange Trusted Subsystem to Share and Security level and for the sake of simplicity, let’s give Full Control on both places, as shown in Figure 02.

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Figure 02

Managing Import/Export Permissions…

By default, the permissions required to Import/Export are not assigned to users in an Exchange environment. In this article series we are going to use a user called helpdesk that is part of the Recipient Management role and using Exchange Admin Center (EAC) we are going to perform the following steps:

  1. Open EAC (Exchange Admin Center) using Organization Management
  2. Click Permissions
  3. Double click Recipient Management
  4. Click Add located in the Roles sections and on the new page select Mailbox Import Export and click Add -> and then OK (Figure 03)

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Figure 03

The result will be similar to Figure 04 where we can see also our helpdesk user being part of the same Role Group.

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Figure 04

The next step is to open a new session using the helpdesk credentials to make sure that the permissions that we have just assigned will work properly.

Exporting Mailbox data to PST…

Now that we have the Shared Folder and permissions in place, let’s log on as helpdesk user in the EAC (Exchange Admin Center) and select the desired mailbox which in our case is Anderson Patricio. Click on the button and then Export to a PST file, as shown in Figure 05.

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Figure 05

On the initial page of the wizard (Figure 06), we should have the user that we have just selected and we can select the source for the PST export process which can be the Mailbox or the Archive mailbox. Click Next.

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Figure 06

On the second page of the wizard we will use the Shared Folder that we have created in the previous section. We will add the name of the PST file, as shown in Figure 07. Click Next.

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Figure 07

On the final page of the wizard, we can define a mailbox that will receive a message when the process is completed, click Finish (Figure 08).

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Figure 08

The user that created the PST Export request will be notified during the process via the Exchange Admin Center as shown in Figure 09.

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Figure 09

The same user will receive messages about the process (start and finish messages). In Figure 10, we can notice that Exchange sent a message informing that the process has finished, the location of the PST file and how long it took.

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Figure 10

The best way to test it is to open the file generated. Besides the regular folders that are “seen” by the end-users while their mailbox is on Exchange, we will have a folder called Recoverable Items and 3 (three) subfolders in our exported PST file. We have several Exchange features using these folders, such as In-place hold, mailbox audit logging, deleted item retention and so forth. This folder was known as Dumpster in previous versions of Exchange Servers. (Figure 11)

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Figure 11

Importing PST

The process to import PST data to a mailbox is similar to the export process. First we need to select the desired mailbox and click on the … icon and then Import PST, as shown in Figure 12.

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Figure 12

On the first page of the wizard (Figure 13), we need to specify the path of the PST that is located in the same folder created in the beginning of this article (EXUtil$ Shared Folder) and click Next.

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Figure 13

On the second page of the wizard (Figure 14), we need to specify which mailbox will receive the contents. In this example we are going to select user13 Personal Archive location just to make sure that we can see in an empty Archive mailbox that is being imported into the destination mailbox. Click Next.

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Figure 14

On the final page we can send a message when the process is complete. We can select more than one user by clicking browse… In Figure 15 we selected two users (Administrator and user13) and it may be handy when you need to import content to a remote user. Just tell the user to wait for the message from the system to start accessing the data, this way you do not need to keep an eye on the process and inform the user afterwards.

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Figure 15

The result is a message sent to both users (Figure 16).

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Figure 16

Conclusion

In this initial article, we covered the basic steps to support the Import and Export process of PST using Exchange Server 2013 via the web interface that is, Exchange Admin Center (EAC). In the following articles of this series, we will perform the same import/export process using Exchange Management Shell using additional parameters.

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to Managing PST Import-Export process in Exchange Server 2013 (Part 2).

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