Summary: In this article, we will explore the recovery option when we have one or more Public folders which are accidentally deleted from the Exchange infrastructure. We know that Public folders are stored the same way as Mailbox Databases, and recovery from them should be easy or known. But restoring Public folders and their respective databases differs a lot from Mailbox Databases.
The ideal scenario is to have your Exchange Server updated to the latest version so as to minimize the known issues and enable that extra feature which could save you a lot of time and frustration. One of the things to keep in mind -and it’s an important note- is that you cannot simply restore the Public folder of yesterday and replace your existing one.
If you do so, it will disturb the Public folder hierarchy and you will end up using the ADSIEdit.msc to manually add the Public folder back in your setup.
An option is to recover the Public folder by using the application ExFolder, but you might end up with an error message saying Recovery Partially Succeeded. One of the culprits in such cases could be that the Public folder contained an unknown user which could be a deleted user or a user who is not working with the company anymore.
The user is usually displayed by using the GUID example Account Unknown(S-1-5-21-2871923699-18503497887-2348595). Then you will end up with issues on your Exchange Server and most probably you will end up restoring from backup the logs and all the files to be able to mount the Public folder.
In such cases, you would need to use an application called MFCMAPI.
Following are the steps to use MFCMAPI for restoring Public folder:
- Download the application and run it on a machine having full rights in Exchange and its Public folders. You would also need to have Outlook installed on the machine.
- After opening the MFCMAPI, open a session on the server.
- From the Outlook, open the Public Folder and create a temporary folder where you’d restore the folders.
- Click on Session and Logon. Select the default Outlook profile of a pre-configured user in Outlook and click OK.
- Click the menu bar and select MDB, Public Folder. Open the Public Folder Store. Enter 0x00000001 in the CreateStoreEntryID flags field and click OK.
- If successful, it will open a new MFCMAPI window.
- Expand the IPM_SUBTREE and open the parent folder of the deleted folder.
- Select Other tables and Deleted contents.
- A new MFCMAPI will open again.
- In this window you will get all the items that were deleted.
- Select the items you would need to restore. Click on the Actions and select copy messages.
- Open the MFCMAPI window, where you have all your Public folders listed.
- Select the one with IPM_SUBTREE on top and browse to the temporary folder we had created earlier. Right click on the folder and click Paste.
- At this stage a new window will open.
- Make sure that Move message instead of Copy is un-ticked and click on OK.
- At this stage, all the folders should be copied to the temporary folder. Switch to Outlook and create again the Deleted folder in its prior location manually and set the access rights on this Public folder.
- From Outlook, you will need to move all the items from the temporary folder to the original location. After this operation is complete, you will need to close off all MFCMAPI windows.
Depending on the folder depth, the process will take considerable time and the restore would not be granular as expected. There are other applications that can be used like Exchange Server Public Folder Distributed Authoring and Versioning or PFDAVAdmin, but they still require more resources and technical skills to restore.
Of course it’s not a solution that will work for everyone and it could be that the operation will fail since it depends on when and how the folder was deleted.
What if the folder was deleted years ago and you would need to recover the file from a tape backup? What if the public folder was from an Exchange Server which doesn’t exist anymore and you have migrated to a new Exchange Server or a cloud platform with the Active Directory being decommissioned or migrated to a new Active Directory forest?
In such cases, there isn’t much you can do but make a full restore of the whole Active Directory and Exchange Server if they were virtual machine, and you would need to commission hardware and resources and again. This operation could take a lot of time and IT resources to recover an item or folder.
On the other hand you would go for a specialized Exchange recovery software application which can reduce those administrative efforts by 80%.
Applications like Stellar Repair for Exchange will help you recover the folders in no time, without hours trying to restore, without special applications or configurations. This can be done from any device connected to the same network as the Exchange server. On the other hand, you can recover from corrupted folders and restore them directly on the Public Folders or export them to PST. It supports all versions of Exchange and for the price you pay, it’s worth more than having your IT people hassling through their day to recover something if they are lucky and wasting time which could be used on more productive tasks.