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Can a Public Folder database item be recovered when it has been deleted?

Is it possible to granularly restore an item from a Public Folder database that was accidentally deleted?

In most cases, when a customer asks this question, a Public Folder database has been deleted, which contained data that was still needed but accidentally deleted. Unlike other items in Exchange, Public Folder databases work quite differently in how they are restored; it’s not simply a case of restoring a previous version from the backup.

Firstly, it is important to note that Microsoft have increasingly promoted the use of the SharePoint platform to store contents as an alternative to relying on public folders for certain items. However, given that they still remain one of the most popular features of Microsoft Exchange, the solutions for issues relating to recovering Public Folder databases have been improved in recent years, namely with the releases of Microsoft Exchange 2010 and 2013.

The first thing that we need to note is that, in order to restore Exchange Server Public Folder database without overwriting the current folders, you need to restore the Public Folder database to an alternate machine, into a separate Exchange forest, since only one Public Folder can exist in a forest at any one time; additionally, Public Folders cannot exist on the Recovery Database (RDB).

An Exchange forest (or resource forest) is dedicated to running Exchange and hosting mailboxes. User accounts are contained in one or more forests, referred to as the account forests, which are separate from the resource forest. You can find some tips here about planning to deploy exchange in a multiple forest environment. However, it is usually recommended to contact Microsoft directly when creating an alternative or new forest.


Fig. 1. Conceptual diagram of the multi-forest topology in Exchange 2010 [Source: msexchange.org]

If the entire Public Folder database store has been deleted, there are several options for recovery, depending on what you have available to you and depending on what you want to get back:

Scenario 1: You deleted the entire Public Folder database and you want to restore one or more items

You can carry out granular restores of the items that you need using a tool such as Ontrack PowerControls. PowerControls allows the user to open the Public store and see all of the folders. From there, you can extract the data to .pst format or to an active Exchange store, including a new Public Folder database.

As I already mentioned, most of our clients who come to us with this issue want to have their data back “yesterday” in order to avoid risks of downtime and other associated costs. Our in-house, specialised engineers deal with these types of requests on a daily basis and are very capable of getting your data back using our proprietary data recovery tools.

Scenario 2: You have deleted an item from your Public Folder database and you have a backup

In this scenario, as with the deletion of the entire Public Folder database scenario, you can carry out granular restores of items using a tool such as Ontrack PowerControls.

Scenario 3: You have deleted an item from your Public Folder database and you do not have a backup

This is not an easy feat and should not be attempted by a person unless they have the relevant skills in recovering from this type of situation. Our expert engineers are able to help in this situation using our in-house data recovery tools.

That’s all folks!

So we have now reached the end of our Exchange series. If there’s one thing we all definitely know, it’s that there are so many different variables to consider when working within Exchange! However, I hope that you have found the information in this series useful and that it helped answer some of the doubts that you may have experienced when managing and recovering Exchange data. If you want to find out more about how to manage an Exchange environment, I recommend these videos that provide some helpful tips.

I look forward to joining you on another series in the future. Bye for now!

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