Recovery Databases in Exchange 2010

Exchange 2010 supports a special kind of database known as a recovery database. As you might infer from the name, a recovery database is a mailbox database used for data recovery operations. It enables the Exchange administrator to restore a mailbox database from a backup to the recovery database, so that an entire mailbox database, an individual mailbox, or even just specific items within a single mailbox can be restored when necessary, such as when a user deletes files to reduce the size of their mailbox rather than using Exchange archiving.

Recovery databases may be able to hold a mailbox database, but they are distinctly different from a normal mailbox database. For starters, there can be only one per server. For another, it is only to be used to recover data, not for client access. Here’s a quick rundown of the major differences:

  • A recovery database can only be used as the target of a restore, not as the source for a backup.
  • Client connections are not allowed. Recovery tools can use MAPI connections, but all client connections are blocked.
  • You cannot create copies of a recovery database or configure it as part of a DAG.
  • None of the normal mailbox database operations, like online maintenance, circular logging, retention policies, etc., is performed on a recovery database. It’s only there to allow you to mount a restored database so you can pull data from it.
  • ACLs are not restored as part of the recovery operations.

You may want to use a recovery database in a variety of different situations, including:

  • Same or alternate server dial tone recovery
  • Mailbox recovery
  • Item recovery.

Note that recovery databases are only useful for mailbox database recovery. Public folder databases cannot be restored to a recovery database.

To create a recovery database, use the Exchange Management Shell to create a new database using the –recovery switch, such as:

New-MailboxDatabase –recovery –name recoverydbname –server mailboxservername –edbfilepath pathtodatabase –logfolderpath pathtologfiles

Note that this does not count against the maximum number of databases your specific Exchange license permits you to have. Once you have a recovery database created, you can perform a mailbox restore request using an EMS command. You may want to place the recovered data in the mailbox for Exchange archiving, using a command like this:

New-MaiboxRestoreRequest -SourceDatabase databasename -SourceStoreMailbox “displayname” -TargetMailbox emailaddress –TargetIsArchive

Placing restored content in the Exchange archiving mailbox makes it immediately available to the user, but assures that it will not overwrite any existing content on the user’s primary mailbox. The user can then drag and drop as he/she sees fit.

Recovery database operations are useful when a user deletes content that they later need, but consider using Exchange archiving to avoid that situation entirely. Exchange archiving can provide users with significantly more mail storage space so that they do not need to worry about mailbox quotas and as the administrator, you won’t have to deal with mailbox recovery, or even worse, PST repairs. Exchange archiving is also a great target for data recovered using a recovery database, so take advantage of that the next time you need to restore deleted content.


This guest post was provided by Casper Manes on behalf of GFI Software Ltd. Read more on how to improve your Exchange archiving.

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