Export emails from Exchange Message Store in SBS 2008

We had a client come in with a server from their former business. He needed to get all his emails back but didn’t have the means to do so. In every other version of Windows Server it’s really easy to do with just having the server itself. In SBS 2008 with Exchange trying to export your emails from the message store is anything but easy. The official solution is to connect a second computer to the domain, download and run tools on that computer (but it has to be 32 bit), run the tools to collect the emails from Exchange and export them. To say that’s ridiculous would be too kind an understatement. What if you don’t have the domain computers anymore, not to mention that 32 bit Windows might be hard to find, depending on your environment.

Well, that’s the challenge I had. In doing research for an alternative I noticed that a lot of people had a lot of opinions. However there wasn’t much in the way of solutions, leading to a frustrating and fruitless waste of time. Instead we had to come up with our own, rather brutally simple, solution which I’ll share with you.

First give your SBS 2008 User administrative rights.

In SBS 2008 go into the SBS console and grant whichever user you need to retrieve emails from with the Network Administrator role. To do this do the following:

  1. Click on the Users and Groups tab;
  2. In the column of tasks on the right choose “Change user role for user accounts”;
  3. In Select New User Role dialogue box select Network Administrator;
  4. Click Next;
  5. Select the user name that has the email profile you want to retrieve;
  6. Click Add;
  7. Click Change user Role.

The reason you do this is so that you can log on to the server locally with that user name. Make sure that a network cable is plugged into the server, the other end you can connect to any old router you have laying around. Internet connectivity isn’t important so don’t worry about that part of it.

Second log in as that user.

Log out of your admin account and log in as that user. Once at the desktop install Outlook. I know, everyone has an opinion about that. “Don’t do that, it will break Exchange”. You know what they say about opinions…everyone has one. It doesn’t break Exchange (in theory it could cause ill effects for Exchange in Server 2003 and older). Besides, if the server has been decommissioned who really cares what else it breaks?

Next get Outlook installed and configured.

When you start up Outlook it’s going to ask you to create a profile. Create a default profile. It will then ask you if you want to set up an email account now, so select yes. Here’s the neat thing. It should automatically populate the server name and pertinent email account info. If it doesn’t, manually enter the FQDN (Fully qualified domain name) of the Exchange server ie. SERVER.MYDOMAIN.LOCAL and the User name. Click on Next will validate the user and take you to your mailbox. If it gives you an error message that you must connect to your profile before it can sync, you probably have the network cable unplugged which will cause all kinds of interesting issues in SBS 2008.

Export the Exchange profile to a PST file.

At this point you can sit back and wait, maybe even grab a coffee while it populates Outlook with your entire Outlook profile. What a thing of beauty. When it’s finished you simply have to export the entire profile as a .PST file (include subdirectories). Save it somewhere you can easily find it. You can then take it to another computer, attach the data file and peruse the emails at your leisure.

Believe it or not, it’s really that simple. Now remember, this is for a server that’s been decommissioned. You can put the server back into production, but you’ll want to change the user role back to the original SBS 2008 role as there are several inherent security threats by leaving the user as a Network Administrator.