Using PST files with Exchange and Outlook

Discussion in 'Windows Small Business Server' started by Whiz Dunbar, Jan 3, 2006.

  1. Whiz Dunbar

    Whiz Dunbar Guest


    This is about using PST files with Exchange. It may be a bit long but it's
    quite interesting. And I have 4 questions so I will number them as I go

    We installed our first SBS server back in 1998. SBS 4.x.? Then we got a

    I didn't know much about Exchange but at that time I read that the best (and
    only) way to restore lost or deleted mailboxes or a dysfunctional Exchange
    server was to have a spare identical server under the desk ready to receive
    and repair the Exchange databases.

    Also I realized around that time that it was not possible to restore
    individual mailboxes : everyone would get his mail rolled back after a
    restore because of Careless Joe.

    Then I discovered PST files and the possibility with Outlook to use the
    personal stores as the user's main mailbox and use the user's Exchange
    mailbox as a transitional box.

    So Careless Joe can still wreak havoc in his own mailbox and nobody is
    affected by that.

    By design these PST mailboxes were stored on the user's local PC and that
    was OK for a while. Then I discovered that I could put them on the SBS
    server in a big Email Folder with a sub-folder per user and assign
    permissions according to duties and hierarchy etc. That was better, and
    those folders all got stored with the backup. And the Admin knew what was
    where and could move them around when people changed jobs and moved on, or

    Now I never quite knew what kind of load this was putting on my network. Was
    a client's Outlook actually downloading files from Exchange and sending them
    back to the PST on the SBS server? And then having to reload them from the
    PST? Or was there some kind of name resolution going on so that Exchange
    would shift the mail directly from the Exchange database into the PST
    without sending it down the wire to the user's Outlook and back again to the
    That's Question 1. What stress does this solution put on my network?

    So now on my new SBS 2003 I have the same setup and I want to know if it's a
    good idea to leave it that way. Or is it downright stupid? Has Exchange made
    so much progress in restore and recovery that I no longer need to have this
    laborious yet useful setup?

    That's Question 2. Should I leave things as they are or am I safe with

    I also noticed that in Outlook when I set up a new Exchange account I have
    the option or using a "cache". Is that useful, necessary, only for remote
    users? Or is it the best thing since mashed potatoes .

    That's Question 3. Should I use the cache option in Outlook ? My users have
    files that are 200 Mo. 400 Mo. 700 Mo. There are 25 users and no one wants
    to archive anything anytime.

    I also see that Unicode is causing me a problem now whereas it didn't on my
    SBS2000. Exchange won't let me designate a non Unicode PST for receiving
    messages. So in Outlook now my users have two Inboxes and the "transitional"
    Exchange mailbox is no longer transitional. The mail is stuck in there and
    will not move to the PST mailbox. When I specify the user's PST file I get a
    message about the file not being compatible with .ost files. What's all that

    OK. I realise that one day I will have to convert my PSTS to the Unicode
    compatible version and maybe now would be the best time to do it. Is there a
    tool I can use where I can sneak up on a PST that is offline and convert
    (upgrade it) it from Outlook 97 to Outlook 2003?

    That would be handy. Or do I have to use the conversion function from the
    file menu in Outlook?

    That's Question 4. If my PST solution is still a viable and useful option,
    how should I go about upgrading all those files?

    Thanks for any help.

    Whiz Dunbar
    Whiz Dunbar, Jan 3, 2006
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  2. Some general comments:

    - Using PST files over a network is unsupported and should be avoided. PSTs
    need to be on the local PC for performance and reliability reasons. My
    understanding is that data corruption issues are common with networked PSTs
    and that's why MS doesn't support them.

    - Use of PSTs in business networks is discouraged exactly for the reason
    you're trying to use them on the server, which is that desktop files are
    generally not backed up.

    - You're right that the previous version of Exchange did not accommodate
    mailbox restore very elegantly. In the current version, you can restore the
    mailbox store to a Recovery Storage Group, then use exmerge to extract the
    specific mailbox to a PST, then import it back into the server mailbox. See;en-us;824126. Recovery
    Storage Groups don't work for public folders, but neither does the PST
    solution since all PFs are stored in the server databases.

    - In general, Exchange's Deleted Item Recovery should prevent the need to
    restore a mailbox in almost all instances. You should go into the
    properties of the Public and Private stores and make sure this is enabled
    for a sufficient period to make sure that users can recover deleted items
    themselves. IMO the only reason you'd need to do a restore is in the case
    of some kind of database corruption or disaster recovery scenario, in which
    case you'd want to recover the whole store anyway. This seems to be pretty
    rare as Exchange is very robust.

    - Using the server mailboxes instead of PSTs is better for a wealth of
    reasons: centralized configuration and maintenance with little or no admin
    involvement with Outlook. Mailbox creation and related tasks are handled by
    the add user wizard and from AD, so you're not creating PST files or
    worrying about where they're located, backup, etc. Also centralized control
    of AV and anti-spam solutions outside of user control, which should reduce
    virus risk significantly.

    - Cached mode is generally considered a good thing, although IMO the
    benefits are more noticeable in larger networks where LAN traffic is more of
    an issue. IMO the biggest benefit is that you can use the Outlook junk mail
    filter only in cached mode. There are a couple of potential issues such as
    certain items taking a while to show up in user mailboxes, particularly with
    public folders.

    - Unicode is much better - hugely greater file size limit for one thing, and
    supposedly more robust than the old format PSTs. If you create/share items
    with Outlook 2003 with Unicode turned on, older versions of Outlook wont' be
    able to read them. Hopefully you're convinced to get rid of the PSTs by now
    anyway. The answer to your question AFAIK is that you would have to close
    the old PSTs in Outlook and maybe even rename them, so Outlook is not aware
    of any old-style PSTs. Create a new Unicode PST and import the items from
    the old one. Once you're satisfied that the items transferred OK, delete
    the old file after closing it in Outlook. After this, you can r-click your
    Mailbox at the top of the Outlook folder list -> Properties. On the General
    tab, click Advanced, then go to the Advanced tab there. It should say
    "Outlook is running in Unicode mode against the Microsoft Exchange Server."

    I think that particularly with SBS 2003, you'll find yourself a lot happier
    with the messages stored in the server mailbox as Heaven and Bill Gates
    intended. Centralized admin, AV, and spam, management through AD, deleted
    item and mailbox retention, more robust, less work, better backup with the
    SBS backup wizard..... A long list of benefits.
    Dave Nickason [SBS MVP], Jan 3, 2006
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  3. Whiz Dunbar

    Whiz Dunbar Guest

    Thanks, Dave.

    Whiz Dunbar, Jan 3, 2006
  4. Whiz Dunbar

    Whiz Dunbar Guest

    So, Dave, based on your comments, I could, I think,
    - go to each user's Outlook
    - turn off the alternative PST store in the account settings
    - view the two mailboxes : Exchange mailbox and PST mailbox
    - slide or move all the stuff from the PST mailbox into the Exchange mailbox

    Please confirm if that sounds reasonable.

    Whiz Dunbar, Jan 3, 2006
  5. Sounds right. You'd first go to Control Panel -> Mail and set the default
    delivery location to the server mailbox. That way, all future mail will go
    there instead of the PST. Then drag-and-drop any necessary information from
    the PST to the server mailbox (or use File -> Import and Export if it's a
    lot of data). Then r-click the PST in the Outlook Folder List and click
    Close. That'll keep Outlook from looking for the PST when you start it up.

    If you have both Exchange Server and "Personal Folders" in the Outlook
    profiles, you can remove Personal Folders.

    A painfully learned lesson - consider getting rid of the PSTs by deleting or
    renaming them. I've had situations where Outlook items accidentally went to
    an old PST due to a rule or an MRU (most recently used) list in Outlook.
    For example, if you click the Move to Folder icon on the Outlook toolbar,
    that MRU list will be pointing to folders in the PST rather than in the
    mailbox. If the user has same-named folders each place, the items will
    "disappear" from the mailbox folder into the PST folder.

    You'll probably have to ask the users to look at their Outlook rules in case
    any of those point to the PSTs.

    When you're all finished, you may want to re-run the SBS backup wizard
    and/or verify that Exchange is being backed up properly, and also to verify
    the deleted item retention settings in the properties of both information
    stores, public and private (mailbox).
    Dave Nickason [SBS MVP], Jan 3, 2006
  6. You can get back your all pst data without loosing them with the help of third party pst repair tool. So, try this tool now and have its full benefits and features.

    For More Information -
    david101carter, Apr 30, 2013
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