Outlook, Discovery Mailboxes and Private Items

So, one of the great features of Exchange 2010 is the Discovery feature, also known as the Multi-Mailbox Search.  If you're not familiar with it, this feature provides the ability to search Exchange mailboxes for messages which meet certain criteria.  This can be again one, several, or ALL mailboxes in the org.  A nice web-based interface is provided via Exchange Control Panel (ECP)...you can also use the Exchange Management Shell to perform these searches as well.  The results of these searches are copied to a Discovery mailbox, which is a special type of Exchange 2010 mailbox.  Users are then granted full access to the Discovery Mailbox to be able to access the results.


One feature of Outlook/Exchange is the ability to mark items "Private".  By marking an item private, if someone else has been delegated access to your mailbox (or certain folders) they cannot see information about the items marked private.  For example, you might allow everyone on your team to be able to see your calendar and the details of it, but you can mark a lunch date with your spouse as Private and all people will see is that you have an appointment...not that it's with your spouse or where.

When a Discovery search is performed by Exchange, it sees everything...including the items marked as Private...which is by design and what you probably want...you wouldn't want to allow someone doing something malicious to be able to hide evidence by simply marking the item Private, now would you?

When you access your Discovery mailbox via Outlook, you can see the Private items and their details.

The Problem

If you have your Discovery mailbox open as a secondary mailbox in your profile (or Exchange auto-mapped it into your profile for you), when you go to copy those items from the Discovery mailbox to your own mailbox you may get one of the following errors:

Cannot copy this folder because it may contain private items.


Cannot move the items. Cannot copy this folder because it may contain private items

If you attempt to export the items to PST, you may get the same error...or you will find that the items marked as Private do NOT export (Outlook just quietly skips over them).

Note: This problem does not exist if you access your Discovery mailbox via OWA.

 The Workaround

The issue is that Outlook is NOT recognizing you have full rights to the Discoverymailbox to be able to access items marked “Private”...this is because the Discovery mailbox is SECONDARY in your profile.

So, what you have to do:

  1. Create a new profile with the Discovery mailbox as the primary.
  2. Once in the mailbox, if you export to a PST everything will export.
  3. If you want to copy it to your mailbox, you need to add your primary mailbox as secondary in the profile.
  4. You will then be able to move or copy items from the Discovery mailbox to your mailbox. (You can then go back to your normal profile and export the folder out, move things around, etc).