Product Review: DirectRestore for Exchange

 

Product: DirectRestore for Exchange

Product Homepage/Evaluation Version: Click here

Introduction

DirectRestore is a development company that specializes in software to read and extract data from offline Microsoft Exchange, SQL and SharePoint databases. This review will cover DirectRestore for Exchange v1.0.42100, a granular data extraction tool for offline Exchange mailbox stores and Outlook files. The utility provides direct access to unmounted databases, displaying its file structure and contents. It can extract mailboxes, folders, messages and attachments, notes, contacts, tasks and appointments. Extraction makes no changes to the mail store, preserving it in its original unmodified state. Recovered items can be saved into PST files or exported directly into live Exchange mailboxes.

Requirements and Installation

DirectRestore for Exchange supports Exchange 2013, 2010 and 2007. It can read offline EDB databases of these versions directly without Exchange or Outlook being present. With Exchange Web Services enabled on an Exchange server, it can also read and write from and to live mailboxes.

As to PST/OST files, the following are supported: 2013 (only PST), 2010, 2007, 2003, XP, 2000, 98 and 97.

This tool can be installed on a variety of operating systems such as Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, 2012 Server R2, 2012 Server, 2008 Server, 2003 Server or even XP. The installation is very easy and straightforward. It is possible to install the product in Default or Advanced mode. Default mode provides simple setup that requires just a few mouse clicks to complete. For simplicity, it does not offer any customization capabilities and uses the following default settings:

  • It installs on a per-user folder and is available just for your user;
  • Does not require local Administrator privileges;
  • It installs to C:\Program Files\DirectRestore\;
  • It creates a shortcut on the desktop automatically.

Advanced setup mode basically allows you to change and customize the above default installation options.

Once installed, you are presented with the following default window:

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Figure 1: DirectRestore for Exchange default Window

Opening a Mailbox Database

To open a database so you can browse it and extract data from it, click the Open file button on the taskbar or select File > Open from the menu. Select the database you wish to work with and click Open.

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Figure 2: Opening a Mailbox Database

A progress window will appear when opening a database, displaying the overall progress and information about the number of mailboxes in the database. It automatically closes in 3 seconds after database opening.

After loading the database, it becomes available for browsing and export. The database also becomes the default database and will be automatically reopened next time you launch the tool. At this stage, you can see statistics regarding the opening operation and the database itself on the right pane. On the left one, a list of all mailboxes present in the database is displayed.

Browsing Data

DirectRestore for Exchange provides two modes of finding, previewing and selecting items: browsing and search. A newly opened database is shown in the Browse mode by default:

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Figure 3: Browsing a Mailbox Database

This mode shows mailboxes in a tree-like structure and allows browsing folders and previewing individual items. It is best for navigating to specific mailboxes, folders and messages when you know what data you want to extract.

A useful feature is in regards to Deleted Items. By going to the Options > Show deleted items menu, we have three available display modes which help navigate and find the data we are looking for:

  • non-deleted items – only displays data that has not been deleted;
  • show only deleted items – only displays data that has been deleted;
  • show both deleted and non-deleted items – displays both deleted and non-deleted data.

Available properties and information about items is displayed in the Preview window. From here we can also easily save any attachments to the local machine.

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Figure 4: Item Preview

To mark items for extraction, simply select the checkbox next to them:

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Figure 5: Selecting Items for Extraction

Using these checkboxes, it is possible to select as many or as few items as necessary. To export an entire:

  • database mark the root checkbox with the database;
  • mailbox mark the checkbox next to mailbox in the tree;
  • folder expand a mailbox and mark the checkbox next to the desired folder.

By pressing Ctrl+F we can enable the filtering feature for better browsing the list of items. A special panel will appear in the right part of the program window:

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Figure 6: Filtering Items

The Search in the main window provides the ability to search single or multiple mailboxes and perform actions on the search results. The best application of Search mode is when you do not know the location and/or the number of items to extract. Using keyword search, it is possible to narrow down on specific messages, folders and mailboxes. The quickest way to get search results is clicking on a particular mailbox, entering some keywords in the Search field and clicking the button Start search. Search results will be displayed on a separate tab:

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Figure 7: Searching a Mailbox

You can also right-click on a mailbox to open the context menu and select Search in mailbox:

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Figure 8: Searching a Mailbox

By clicking on this menu, the advanced mode of search dialog will open and Search in field will be filled with the selected mailbox plus any other mailboxes we have already expanded:

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Figure 9: Advanced Search

You can click on the Search in… button to specify mailbox(es) and/or folder(s) to search in. Fill in necessary search parameters and start the search.

As you can see from the screenshot above, the advanced search is quite powerful and becomes extremely useful in cases where we are not sure where data might be located such as an eDiscovery search for example.

The Search feature uses an index created by the tool itself to perform searches. This index is kept locally on disk and gets deleted when the tool is closed (I was told this will be improved soon).

Exporting Data

As mentioned before, DirectRestore for Exchange allows us to export items (e-mails, calendars, contacts, etc.) from an offline database and PST/OST files to live Exchange databases as well to PST files.

Note that this tool is best used for granular item extraction. The user interface is designed to easily locate, select and export specific messages, folders or mailboxes. Entire databases can also be exported, but the restore time will significantly increase over a slow connection. For bulk operations that involve exporting more than one mailbox it is typically better to work with a local copy of the database.

Export to Live Exchange – Standard Mode

The Standard mode of exporting data into a live Exchange server presents us with a simple yet complete interface and is probably best suited for backup operators or maybe HelpDesk staff.

Once all the items you want to export have been selected, click the injection button (alternatively, exporting to live Exchange is also available via the File menu.):

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Figure 10: Export Into Original Exchange Mailbox Button

This will bring up the Export into original mailbox dialog. If all goes well, you will see details regarding how many folders will be exported into which mailboxe(s):

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Figure 11: Export Into Original Mailbox Window – Single Mailbox

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Figure 12: Export Into Original Mailbox Window – Multiple Mailboxes

The domain name of the Exchange server will be automatically detected if the current machine is on the same domain as Exchange. Otherwise, fill in the field Host manually and click Refresh.

It is possible to export data to someone else’s mailbox using Exchange Impersonation. To do this, the user must have Exchange Impersonation rights to the destination mailbox(es).

DirectRestore for Exchange will try to automatically match all items to their original mailbox and perform a number of checks. For example, if the user running the tool does not have Impersonation rights to the target mailbox or the database is not mounted, you will see the following error messages:

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Figure 13: Impersonation Rights Error

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Figure 14: Database Dismounted

After entering the host name, the export will start. Required time depends on how many items you are exporting. You will see a progress window during the export showing the number of saved folders, messages and errors. You can disable the Progress window directly in the window or go to the Options menu and select Show Progress Dialog.

The export can be cancelled by clicking the Cancel Exporting button on the taskbar.

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Figure 15: Export Progress

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Figure 16: Export Complete

Something to be aware is that, with this current version, there is no duplicate detection mechanism. This means that if you export items that are already on the target folder/mailbox, you will end up with duplicates.

Export to Live Exchange – Expert Mode

The Expert mode of exporting data into a live Exchange server, on the other hand, presents us with a more complex and powerful interface which allows us to do a lot more when compared to the Standard mode as we will shortly see.

To switch to the Expert mode, go to the Options menu, select Export into live Exchange Mode and then select Expert. After switching the mode and opening an EDB file the main window of the application looks as follows:

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Figure 17: Export in Expert Mode

Notice the new panel on the right. New buttons are added that allows us to connect to an Exchange server and export checked items to the attached mailbox.

Click the first button to establish a connection to an Exchange server. Select the server you want to connect to as well as the target mailbox (if you do not select a mailbox, the tool will by default open the mailbox of the current user):

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Figure 18: Connecting to Exchange Server and Mailbox

Once the connection is established, the target mailbox will appear in the tree on the right:

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Figure 19: Target Mailbox in Expert Mode

Note that it is possible to connect to several mailboxes simultaneously on different Exchange servers.

The injection button on the right becomes active when there is a connection with at least one live mailbox and items in the offline database are checked.

It is also possible to display and preview items on the target live mailbox using the button near the Destination tab. If it is disabled there will be only a tree displayed in the right panel. After enabling the button a list with the items is displayed as well as a preview when clicking on the item:

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Figure 20: Previewing Items in Live Target Mailbox

After the mailbox appears in the tree, it is possible to drag-and-drop folders and individual items. When dragging a folder or a mailbox to a live mailbox, the hierarchy of the data being dragged will be recreated inside the destination folder. In the following example, I am dragging an e-mail from the offline Sent Items folder into the live mailbox’s Sent Items folder. I receive a warning saying I am about to export data into a live mailbox and if I want to continue. This warning is due to a very strict check that is based on comparing internal offline and live mailbox signatures. As soon as I click Yes, the selected e-mail gets exported into the live mailbox:

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Figure 21: Exporting Items Using Drag-and-Drop

When right-clicking folders/mailboxes in the destination panel, it is also possible to create a folder inside the mailbox. This is useful if you want to export all items to a new specific folder.

When checking the items in the offline database, data exporting is available by clicking the Export into live Exchange Server Mailbox button. This method is similar to saving to PST, except that the target is a live server, not a file. When clicking the Export into live Exchange Server Mailbox button, a dialog which allows us to select a folder to save selected data appears:

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Figure 22: Selecting Destination Folder

This dialog box also allows us to create a new folder on the target live mailbox, so this does not have to be created beforehand. Once we select our target folder, all items will be exported into it similarly to as before.

Export to PST

The final export option is to export items to PST files. To do so, go to the File menu and then click on Export selected items into PST. Alternatively, click on the Export Selected Items Into PST button:

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Figure 23: Export Selected Items Into PST Button

You will be asked to select or create the destination folder for recovered data. After selecting a folder, the export will start. As before, the required time depends on how many items are selected for export and a progress window is displayed during the export which shows the number of saved mailboxes, folders and messages:

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Figure 24: Export Progress

DirectRestore for Exchange exports each mailbox into a separate PST file named “Recovery NNN – <Mailbox Name>[ – VVV].pst”, where NNN is the current recovery session identifier and VVV is the volume number in case the PST has to be written in more than one volume:

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Figure 25: PST Export Naming Convention

With large exports, there can be more than one file created for a single mailbox. Additional files are created automatically when the file size limit is hit. The size volume limit depends on the output file encoding. For ANSI PST files the limit is 1GB and for Unicode files it is 10GB.

The limit on the number of messages that can be restored into each folder in the PST file is 15,000 messages. When this limit is hit, additional folders are created automatically.

Export Using Command-Line Interface

DirectRestore for Exchange also contains a command line which allows us to easily process one or several databases at once. With this current version, the command-line tool only allows to export all mailboxes from one or more offline database files into PSTs – it is not possible to specify which mailbox(es) to export.

Here are some examples on how to use this tool:

  • esr.exe “C:\Database 01.edb” C:\Recovered\ – exports all mailboxes on database “Database 01.edb” to PSTs in the C:\Recovered\ folder
  • esr.exe C:\*.edb C:\Recovered\ – exports all mailboxes from all EDB files located in C:\ to PSTs in the C:\Recovered\ folder
  • esr.exe /list={D:\DB01.edb, D:\DB02.edb} C:\Recovered\ – exports all mailboxes on databases DB01.edb and DB02.edb to PSTs in the C:\Recovered\ folder

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Figure 26: Using Command-Line Tool

The end result is a list of PST files identical to Figure 25.

Limitations

Unfortunately, DirectRestore for Exchange also has a few limitations, with the following being the main ones:

  • Log files are not processed;
  • Attached messages, encrypted e-mails and embedded objects are not restored;
  • Messages with size over 64MB are not supported;
  • Recovery of delivery receipts and non-delivery reports is not supported;
  • “Run as different user” is not supported;
  • Search does not work on PST/OST files;
  • Using expert mode it is possible to export data from Exchange Online Archives to normal mailboxes but not directly to archives;
  • E-mails with embedded images are displayed with an attachments icon after exporting into live;
  • Creation time and Modified time are not restored;
  • Exporting data into live Public Folders is not supported;
  • Exporting data from PST/OST files into original mailbox is impossible.

It is worth mentioning that the following figures are not DirectRestore for Exchange’s limits, but instead the maximum the tool has been tested with:

  • Database size: 1TB;
  • Mailbox size: 100GB;
  • Number of messages in the database: 100,000,000;
  • Number of mailboxes in the database: 10,000;
  • Number of messages in one mailbox: 100,000.

When tested over the network, the tool worked perfectly fine with a 250GB EDB file with 10,000 mailbox and 1,000 items per mailbox on average.

Conclusion

DirectRestore for Exchange is a tool that, although fairly new, is already very powerful, comprehensive and useful. It allows administrators to easily recover EDB files from backup and then extract data from a single item to an entire mailbox without the need to use Exchange recovery databases.

It is true that is has a few limitations, but DirectRestore is working on these and compared to what it offers, these become minor.

MSExchange.org Rating 4.5/5

Learn more about DirectRestore for Exchange or download the Evaluation Version here

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