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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Outlook Dumpster - Adventures in Deleted Item Recovery

If you are a Outlook user (on a Microsoft Exchange server) and don't know about the Outlook Dumpster, whoa Nelly are you going to be glad that you read this post.

If you manage an Exchange server, and don't know about the Dumpster, then you may want to mark this day on your calendar, so that you can celebrate it in the years to come.

As many of you know, when something is deleted from Outlook, it goes into the handy dandy Deleted Items Folder, but what many users don't know is that even after you empty the deleted items folder, the data still hangs around for awhile. How long depends on what your exchange administrator has decided. This is specified in the Mailbox and Public folder limit policies on the exchange server. Personally, I keep everything for 120 Days.

Recovering Items from an emptied Deleted Items Folder

So you are a good user, and you regularly empty your Deleted Items Folder, when suddenly you realized that you accidentally deleted your favorite Kim Chee recipe, and it was the only copy you had. All you have to do to recover it is:

  1. Highlight the Deleted Items Folder
  2. Click on Tools Recover Deleted Items
  3. Look through the list, and find that Kim Chee recipe, then highlight it.
  4. Click on the "Recover Deleted Items" icon (it looks like an envelope with an arrow on it).
  5. Go back to your deleted Items folder, and there it is.
  6. Make the Kim Chee , eat it a week or two later, and apologize to your co-workers for the smell.

Sounds good, nothing can go wrong right?

It does sound pretty good, but there are some instances when items don't go into the deleted items bin, this is referred to as "Hard Deleting" an item. There are several ways that this may happen. If you use shift + Delete when deleting an item, or if you move an item from a folder to either a personal folder file or to another mailbox. If this happens, then you can not recover them using the above method, because the "recover delete items" option is not available.

Well, that isn't so great.

Don't fear though, you can use a simple registry change to make the option available everywhere. Just follow the below instructions, but be careful, editing your registry can have some really bad results if you do it wrong.

  1. Close Outlook (and all of the outlook windows).
  2. regedit
  3. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftExchangeClientOptions
  4. Right click on the right side of the screen, and choose New DWORD Value.
  5. Type in “DumpsterAlwaysOn”
  6. Double Click the value and enter 1 into the Value Data, then click on OK.
  7. Open outlook again.

If you want to read the steps for this all on your own, as well as Microsoft's Official "bad stuff can happen when you edit the registry" spiel, then just follow the link to the Microsoft Knowledge Base article and see for yourself (see if I care).

So what do I care, I'm an Exchange Administrator?

I'm pretty sure that no one would actually ask this question. This is a must have registry change for a Exchange Admin, but more importantly though, is that you set up your Exchange Server to maintain deleted items for some reasonable period of time. This way when your CEO syncs their new handheld, and it hard deletes all of their calendar, contacts and task information, you can swoop in and fix it in a few minutes. Of course the alternative is to load up some backup tapes (you have those right?), and restore the data, and hope that the CEO didn't make a whole slew of changes since your last backup. This is also handy when someone accidentally deletes all of the items from a public folder, and you don't find out until a month later after the fact. Of course, we need that information now.

Here is an excellent article about How to Implement System Policies in Exchange 2003 , and it also covers the Deleted Items retention policy.

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