Recover Exchange Server Data

Updated: August 21, 2008

Applies To: Windows SBS 2008

When you configure a server backup, Windows SBS 2008 uses Windows Server Backup to back up your Exchange Server application and related data files by default. Unlike previous versions of Windows Backup, you cannot use Windows Server Backup to use Restore Storage Groups or to recover Exchange Server data to its original location on the server. However, you can use the Recovery Wizard to fully restore the Exchange Server application and data files.

Because it can be time consuming and inconvenient to fully restore the Exchange Server application, whenever possible, you should consider using the features in Microsoft Outlook to recover specific e-mail items and mail folders.

Recovering deleted mailbox items

When you delete a mailbox item, the item is not physically removed from storage. Instead, the server marks the item as deleted, clears most of the attributes from it, renames the item, and then moves the item to a special container that stores deleted items. The deleted item is known as a “tombstone.” A tombstone is not visible in normal operations, however the deleted information still exists until the tombstone expiration period is reached.

In Windows SBS 2008, the default tombstone expiration period is 30 days. During this time, it is possible to recover mailbox items that were deleted by using the SHFT+DELETE command.

To recover deleted mailbox items

  1. Open Outlook, and then select the mail folder from which you want to recover a deleted item.

  2. On the menu bar, click Tools, and then click Recover Deleted Items.

  3. Select the items that you want to recover, and then click the Recover Selected Items icon. The selected items are recovered to the mail folder.

Recovering the full Exchange Server 2007 application and data files from a backup

During a server backup, Windows Server Backup communicates with the Exchange Server Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) writer. The Exchange Server VSS writer ensures that the Exchange Server data is in a consistent state before it allows Windows Server Backup to take a snapshot of the data.

You can use the Recovery Wizard in Windows Server Backup to recover your Exchange Server application and database files.

How Exchange Server transaction logging works with Windows Server Backup

To improve performance, Exchange Server stores real time transactions in Transaction logs. Periodically, Exchange Server uses a feature called “circular logging” to write the transactions to the database. To permit the recovery of incremental backups, Windows SBS 2008 disables automatic circular logging when you run the Configure Server Backup Wizard. As a result, the transaction logs can consume a great deal of hard disk drive space. To prevent this, Windows Server Backup communicates with Exchange Server to ensure that Exchange Server truncates all transaction logs at the end of a successful backup. After a server backup completes successfully, the Exchange Server transaction logs begin to compile all new transactions from that point until the next backup runs.

For more information about transaction logs and circular logging, see “Understanding Transaction Logging” at the Microsoft Web site (

Understanding “roll-forward” recovery

The roll-forward option in Exchange Server enables you to fully recover your Exchange Server database to its most current state. When you use the Recovery Wizard in Windows Server Backup to perform a roll-forward recovery, the wizard first restores the backed up data, and then runs the transaction logs to recover the cached data.


Because transaction logs contain only data for transactions that occurred after the last successful backup, the roll-forward option is only present when you choose to recover from the most recent backup.
You should use roll-forward recovery only if you want to restore all of your Exchange Server data to the current state.

To recover the full Exchange Server application from a backup

  1. From the Start menu, click Administrative Tools, and then click Windows Server Backup.

  2. In the Actions pane of the snap-in default page, under Windows Server Backup, click Recover. This opens the Recovery Wizard.

  3. On the Getting started page, select This server, and then click Next.


This procedure assumes that the backup drive is connected directly to the computer that is running the Windows SBS 2008 server software.

  1. On the Select backup date page, select a date from the calendar and a time from the list for the backup that you want to restore, and then click Next.

  2. On the Select recovery type page, click Applications, and then click Next.

  3. On the Select application page, under Applications, click the application that you want to recover. If the backup that you are using is the most recent and the application that you are recovering supports a "roll-forward" of the application database, you will see a check box labeled Do not perform a roll-forward recovery of the application databases. Select this check box if you want to prevent a roll-forward recovery. Click Next.

  4. On the Specify recovery options page, under Recovery destination, do one of the following, and then click Next:

    • Click Recover to original location.

    • Click Recover to another location. Then, type the path to the location, or click Browse to select it.


You can copy an application to a different location, but you cannot recover an application to a different location or to computer with a different name.

  1. On the Confirmation page, review the details, and then click Recover to restore the listed items.

  2. On the Recovery progress page, you can view the status of the recovery operation and whether it was successfully completed.

For more information about using the Recovery Wizard, see “Recovering Your Server” at the Microsoft Web site (