Product Review: SysTools Exchange Recovery

by [Published on 11 Dec. 2013 / Last Updated on 11 Dec. 2013]

In this article the author reviews the latest version of SysTools Exchange Recovery, version 4.5.

Product: SysTools Exchange Recovery

Product Homepage: Click here

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Introduction

SysTools is a software development company with a large number of products around areas such as Cloud Computing, SharePoint, Exchange Online, Office 365, Google Apps, e-mail migration, data recovery, etc. The e-mail arena is no exception and SysTools has numerous tools surrounding e-mail conversation or recovery. The product we will be reviewing today is the latest version of SysTools Exchange Recovery, version 4.5.

Exchange Recovery helps administrators extracting data from inaccessible Exchange EDB (database) files. This can be due to a server crash or because of corruption, for example. In these scenarios, this tool can be used to read the EDB file and extract its data (e-mails, attachments, calendars, tasks, notes, etc.) to a PST/EML/MSG file or even directly into another mailbox in a live Exchange environment, keeping all items’ metadata intact.

Version 4.5 supports recovering EDB files created in Exchange Server 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003 or 2000. However, please note that exporting data directly into Exchange is only supported up to Exchange 2010 at this stage.

Installation

Installing SysTools Exchange Recovery is very straightforward. For this review, I have installed the software on a Windows 8.1 Preview workstation.

Simply download/buy the software using this link and double click on the setup-exchange-recovery.exe executable file to start the installation process.

On the welcome page, click Next to proceed:

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Figure 1

The setup now shows the license agreement which you have to accept to proceed. Select the I accept the agreement option and click Next to continue:

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Figure 2

On the Select Destination Location page, select the location where you want to install the software. By default, this is C:\Program Files\SysTools Exchange Recovery or C:\Program Files (x86)\SysTools Exchange Recovery for 64-bit systems. If you wish, select a different destination location by clicking on Browse button. Click Next to proceed:

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Figure 3

On the Select Start Menu Folder page, select the Start Menu folder in which the shortcuts for the software will be placed and then click Next:

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Figure 4

The setup will now ask to select any Additional Tasks such as creating a desktop icon or a quick launch icon. Select any if desired, and click Next:

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Figure 5

After this, the setup will notify that it is ready to start the installation. If you do not have Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 installed, it will try to automatically download and install it before continuing. Click Install to start the installation process:

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Figure 6

Finally you will get a confirmation message saying that setup process has complete. Select Launch SysTools Exchange Recovery if you wish to start the program straight away and click Finish:

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Figure 7

When starting the program for the first time, it will verify if the machine meets all the prerequisites below:

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Figure 8

User Interface

The GUI of SysTools Exchange Recovery is very similar to Outlook, making it easier to use as any Exchange administrator is already used to Outlook’s look and feel.

On the main window, we can also see the overall steps involved into recovering an Exchange EDB:

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Figure 9

SysTools consists of two menus which are divided into several other menu items:

File Menu

  • Add File - opens an Exchange EDB file;
  • Close File - closes the EDB file currently open;
  • Export - exports items from the EDB file;
  • Exit - closes SysTools.

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Figure 10

Help Menu

  • About Us - displays contact and other details regarding the product;
  • Help Contents – opens the help manual of SysTools Exchange Recovery;
  • Check Pre-requisite - checks for software requirements (Figure xxxx).

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Figure 11

The remaining sections of the interface will be explored throughout this review.

Recovering an Exchange EDB File

Let us now go through all the steps involved in recovering items from an EDB file using SysTools Exchange Recovery.

Opening EDB File

In order to recover items from an EDB file, we need to locate the file and open it within SysTools. For this test, I simply copied an EDB file into my workstation leaving all its transaction logs behind.

Within SysTools, click Add File to add an .edb file and then click the Browse button to navigate to where the edb is located. If you are using Exchange 2000 or 2003, SysTools will automatically look for the corresponding STM file in the same location. If you are using Exchange 2007 or above, simple skip this field as STM files are no longer used.

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Figure 12

As SysTools Exchange Recovery is designed to recover data from corrupted EDB files, it provides us with two options for scanning the EDB:

  • Quick Scan allows fastest recovery of EDB files that have minor corruption;
  • Advance Scan recovers data from EDB file highly corrupted.

After choosing a Scan Mode, click Add File to start the scanning process:

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Figure 13

For this test, the EDB file was only 300MB in size, but opening much bigger databases will not take long. Obviously this will depend on the machine’s CPU power.

Once SysTools has successfully scanned the database, you will get the following notification:

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Figure 14

Previewing Mailbox Items

Now that we have opened our database, we can search and select items such as e-mails, contacts, calendars, notes and attachments in order to preview them and, eventually, recover them if necessary.

When the scanning process is complete, SysTools lists all the mailboxes scanned and detected within the EDB:

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Figure 15

Something to note here and that hopefully will get changed in the future is that all mailboxes are displayed fully expanded, including all users’ folders and subfolders. When opening an EDB with hundreds of mailboxes, it becomes bothersome to find a particular user, especially if users also have many subfolders. It would be nice if everything was minimized from the start as displayed above.

SysTools GUI allows us to easily change between different mailbox items for a faster search such as normal e-mails, contacts, tasks, etc., or calendar items as displayed below:

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Figure 16

When exploring a mailbox, every item in a selected folder is displayed on the right pane. In the following example, we are looking at the Inbox folder of the user Mota:

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Figure 17

SysTools will likely display items with no From or Subject information for example. These are system generated entries created by Exchange. Since this is a raw reading of the EDB, SysTools recovers everything, including system generated items.

Here, we can easily navigate through the Inbox, with every e-mail being successfully and quickly previewed in the bottom right-hand corner, just like with Outlook.

If an e-mail contains any attachments such as pictures, Word files, PDFs, etc., these can also be easily previewed simply by using the Attachments tab:

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Figure 18

Exporting Mailbox Items

Once we find the items we want to recover, we can export them into PST, EML or MSG file(s), or even directly to a live Exchange mailbox.

Start by selecting the items you want to export & right click then select the Export option:

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Figure 19

Note that even though you can select a single item by right-clicking on it and selecting Export, you still have to select its check box in order to export it.

Now select the file type to which you want to export the items to:

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Figure 20

MSG and EML files are useful when exporting a few items for analysis purposes for example, as each item will be exported and saved under a folder with the mailbox’s name. PST and Exchange are definitely the more common and useful options on this screen. We can tick the Split PST option in order for breaking large sized files into more manageable file sizes. Note that Outlook must be installed for exporting EDB to Outlook PST.

If we select the EXCHANGE option, Destination will be replaced with Exchange User Details so we can select the mailbox we want to export the items to:

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Figure 21

After typing the name of the target mailbox, when we click on the Validate button, SysTools uses Active Directory to validate the mailbox name written. If it is successfully validated you will see the name underlined (just like when validating recipients’ addresses in a new e-mail in Outlook):

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Figure 22

But if the name cannot be validated, the following will be displayed instead:

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Figure 23

Important:
Note that when exporting directly to a live Exchange mailbox, the Windows Login User running SysTools must have FullAccess rights to the Mailbox you are exporting items to.

Items are then exported using Extended MAPI (therefore the requirement to have Outlook installed on the same machine).

Another useful feature is the ability to export to multiple PSTs or Exchange mailboxes at the same time. Instead of selecting items and then exporting them by using right-click, simply click the Export option on the top menu:

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Figure 24

Now we can select entire folders or mailboxes to be exported:

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Figure 25

Once we select all the folders/mailboxes we want to export and click Next, we are presented with a similar option to select the target mailboxes:

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Figure 26

This allows administrators to recover multiple folders/mailboxes in a single operation. Note that we can export any item to any mailbox in Exchange, as long as we have permissions to do so.

If, for any reason, anything goes wrong with SysTools, an Error Warning.log file is created in the installation folder of the tool, which is used to log any errors or issues with the tool.

Check Results

The final step is obviously checking the data that got exported.

With every export operation, SysTools generates a report file which maps source mailbox names to destination PST files or mailboxes:

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Figure 27

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Figure 28

Although this report is useful in large operations for keeping track of what mailboxes have been exported, a more detailed report that includes, for example, the number of items successfully exported per mailbox (as well as failed, if any) would be welcomed.

One thing to note is that exported items will be created under a Top of Information Store folder:

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Figure 29

Although this might be useful when exporting directly into Exchange and so that users clearly see on a separate folder what items were exported, it would be useful to have the option to export items into their original location or, at least, to be able to choose the name of the destination folder as some administrators might want to specify a name like “Recovered November 2013” for example.

Conclusion

No matter how adverse Exchange administrators are to failures and corruption, every seasoned administrator has had to perform some kind of recovery at least once. Although corruption is becoming rarer within Exchange, several factors can contribute for it to happen. When it does, SysTools Exchange Recovery is definitely a very useful tool to help recover data.

Although this tool was specifically designed to recover data from corrupted EDB files, it can also be used to easily recover data from backups without having to create recovery databases or in scenarios when recovering data from an Exchange environment no longer in place (after a transition to a newer version for example).

With a few minor improvements mentioned throughout this review, this tool can easily become the tool to use.

MSExchange.org Rating 4/5

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Learn more about SysTools Exchange Recovery.

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