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Manually move Exchange public folder data to SharePoint

For years Microsoft has urged Exchange admins to migrate public folder content to SharePoint -- without supplying any tools to do it. Save money on third-party tools by doing it manually.

Despite advising customers to migrate public folder data to SharePoint, Microsoft hasn’t supplied any tools to...

automate the process. And although there are a number of third-party utilities on the market, tight budgets can make acquiring these utilities difficult. Fortunately, small- and medium-sized businesses can manually move public folder data to SharePoint without the help of third party.

Public folders contain different data types -- messages, calendar items, contacts and tasks. How you migrate content depends on the type of data you’re moving. This tip gives the specific steps for migrating Exchange message data.

  • Step 1. Creating a .pst file for public folder content
    You need to start by moving all your public folder content to one or more .pst files. If you’re using Outlook 2010, be aware that the option to create .pst files is hidden; go to the ribbon’s Home tab and click New Item. Choose the More Items option, then select Outlook Data File (Figure 1).

    The option to create a .pst file in Outlook 2010 is hidden
    Figure 1. The option to create a .pst file is hidden beneath the New Items -> More Items menu in Outlook 2010.

  • Step 2. Moving public folder content to the .pst file
    After you’ve created the .pst file, click on Outlook’s folder icon to display all available folders. Next, copy your public folder data to the .pst file. At this point, you’re not actually moving the public folder data to the .pst file. Public folders should remain intact until the entire process is complete. That way, if something goes wrong during the migration process, you won’t lose important data.

    To copy public folder data to the .pst file, go to your public folder and select all of its contents. Next, right-click on the data and choose the Move -> Copy to Folder option (Figure 2). When prompted, choose the .pst file that you created. Outlook will copy all of the data from the public folder into the .pst file so that both contain identical copies of your data.

    Make sure to copy public folder data instead of moving it.
    Figure 2. Copy public folder data to the .pst file instead of moving it.

    Although you can copy multiple public folders to a single .pst file, creating a separate .pst file for each folder is easier to organize. Once you’ve made a copy of all public folder data, take the public folder database offline to prevent users from adding content to the folders.

  • Step 3. Migrating public folder content from the .pst file to SharePoint
    After creating a copy of your public folder data, you can migrate it from the .pst file to SharePoint. Begin by opening a browser window and navigating to your SharePoint document library.

    Note: If you want to put public folder data into subfolders within the document library, you should create those subfolders at this point.

    SharePoint document libraries are viewed within a Web browser, which means that the library’s location is displayed within the browser’s address bar as a URL. You must convert this URL into universal naming convention (UNC) format. For example, the URL for the document library on my lab server is

    After converting it to UNC format, the URL becomes \\\Shared Documents. Then you can map a drive letter to it (Figure 3).

    Map a drive letter to your SharePoint document library
    Figure 3. Map a drive letter to your SharePoint document library.

    How to map drives to SharePoint
    If you have trouble mapping a drive to your SharePoint document library, there are a couple of things you can do:

    • Use your SharePoint server’s fully qualified domain name (FQDN) in the drive mapping. When I used the computer name (SharePoint, instead of, I mapped a drive, but the drive appeared empty.
    • I used Windows Vista for this process because I couldn’t get it to work with Windows 7, as shown in Figure 3. This is because a default SharePoint 2010 deployment isn’t running WebDAV.
  • Step 4. Completing the public folder migration
    The final step is to drag data from the .pst file into the mapped network drive. Don’t forget to take into account any applicable subfolders within the network drive. As you can see in Figure 4, the .pst file remains intact after the migration.

    Your .pst file has remained intact after migration
    Figure 4. The .pst file has remained intact after the migration.

    This brings up an interesting point. Why did we even create a .pst file? Doing so gives your public folder data an extra level of protection. I also chose to use a .pst file because the migration to SharePoint can take some time. Creating a .pst file allows you to keep the public folder database offline during the SharePoint migration, which prevents users from modifying the data.

    The .pst data should appear within the SharePoint document library (Figure 5). You must refresh your Web browser to display items.

    Your public folder data has been moved to SharePoint
    Figure 5. Your public folder data has now been migrated to SharePoint.

Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a seven-time Microsoft MVP for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. For more information visit


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