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Migrating .PST files to new Exchange 2003 mail stores

Follow these steps to migrate .PST files to new Exchange 2003 mail stores from Exchange 5.5. You'll also learn how to create Exchange 2003 storage groups.

I have a client who is keeping their .PST files on a centralized shared server. They are not currently using a mail store on their Exchange 5.5 server. The email comes in, and once opened, it is redirected to a centralized shared .PST server. Once I set up the Exchange 2003 server, what is the best way to migrate the existing .PST files to the new Exchange 2003 mail stores?

After I migrate the .PST files to the new Exchange 2003 mail stores, I also want to create two or three Exchange Server storage groups for management reasons. Can you recommend some tools, besides ExMerge?

Sounds like an interesting challenge. Here's what I would do:

  1. I'd configure the Exchange 2003 mail stores up front using Exchange System Manager (ESM is the native administration tool that ships with Exchange 2003). I'd create three storage groups, each with one store (as an example) for users with last names ending in A-K, L-S, T-Z or something along those lines.
  2. Then, you'll need to create mailboxes on the Exchange 2003 stores for each of the users. Use a consistent naming mechanism for alias, display name, etc.
  3. I'd then manually have a look at all the .PSTs in the central location to see if I can figure out who is using what. Assuming you can associate each .PST with a particular mailbox, I'd then go through manually renaming each .PST to whatever alias you are planning to use with your Exchange 2003 server. To do this you'll need to work during off-hours so that no Microsoft Outlook clients are connected to the .PSTs. You may want to declare a maintenance window and tell everyone email will be unavailable, and then disconnect the network cable from the server during this exercise. Then rename the .PSTs to something like .PST or similar (e.g., senguptad.pst). This should align directly with the exact alias names you have used for mailbox creation, in step 2. Keep in mind that once these are renamed, Microsoft Outlook clients won't be able to 'find' the .PSTs again since they have been renamed.
  4. Next you'll want to use ExMerge to import all the .PSTs into your target Exchange 2003 stores. If you have used consistent naming for the .PSTs and mailbox aliases you'll be able to easily associate them with the appropriate mailboxes. This should work smoothly, and you should end up with all your .PST data in each mailbox, as expected.
  5. Once that's done, you'll need to have each end user mailbox re-configured to point to the mailbox on the Exchange 2003 server. You could achieve this through sending out instructions prior to the migration so that your users know how to make the change themselves (ask them to print out the instructions as they'll be unable to access email to read them after the 'migration') or through visiting each desktop.
  6. Finally, you'll want to make sure you back up everything.
Obviously you should test this in a lab first.

You asked about other tools outside of ExMerge that you can use for this sort of thing. There are two that I'm aware of, Quest Recovery Manager for Exchange (disclaimer: I work for Quest) and Kroll Ontrack PowerControls.

Do you have comments on this Ask the Expert Q&A? Let us know.

Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Tip: Migrate or merge Microsoft Outlook .PST files
  • 11 tips in 11 minutes: Migrating from Exchange Server 5.5 to 2003
  • Learning Center: A primer on Exchange .PST files
  • Reference Center: Exchange deployment and migration advice
  • Reference Center: .PST file tips and resources
  • This was last published in August 2007

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