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Understanding Disconnected Mailboxes

Exchange 2010
[This topic is in progress.]  

Applies to: Exchange Server 2010 SP3, Exchange Server 2010 SP2

Topic Last Modified: 2012-07-23

Each mailbox consists of an Active Directory user and the mailbox data stored in the Exchange mailbox database. (The following figure shows the components of a mailbox.) All configuration data for a mailbox is stored in the Exchange attributes of the Active Directory user object. The mailbox database contains the mail data that's in the mailbox associated with the user account.

Parts that make up a mailbox

A disconnected mailbox is a mailbox object in the mailbox database that isn't associated with an Active Directory user account. There are two types of disconnected mailboxes:

  • Disabled mailboxes   When a mailbox is disconnected or removed by using the Disable-Mailbox or Remove-Mailbox cmdlet, Exchange retains the deleted mailbox and the mailbox is switched to a disabled state. With disabled mailboxes, you can recover mailbox data without having to restore the entire mailbox database. Disabled mailboxes are retained in the mailbox database until the deleted mailbox retention period expires or until the mailbox is permanently deleted.
  • Soft-deleted mailboxes   When mailboxes are moved from a Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1 (SP1) database to any other database, Exchange doesn't fully delete the mailbox from the source database upon completion of the move. Instead, the mailbox in the source mailbox database is switched to a soft-deleted state. With soft-deleted mailboxes, you can use the MailboxRestoreRequest cmdlet set to access mailbox data during a mailbox restore operation. Soft-deleted mailboxes are retained in the source database until either the deleted mailbox retention period expires or until the Remove-StoreMailbox cmdlet is used to purge the mailbox. For more information, see Restore a Soft-Deleted Mailbox.

For more information and detailed steps about how to manage disconnected mailboxes, see Managing Disconnected Mailboxes.

There are three operations you can perform on a disabled mailbox:

  • Connect it to an existing user account in Active Directory
  • Restore it to a new or existing user account in Active Directory
  • Permanently delete it from the Exchange mailbox database

During the time a disabled mailbox is retained in the Exchange mailbox database, you can connect it to an existing Active Directory user account that isn't associated with another mailbox. Scenarios in which you may want to connect or restore a disabled mailbox include the following:

  • You disabled a mailbox and now want to reconnect the mailbox to an Active Directory user account.
  • You removed a mailbox by using the Remove-Mailbox cmdlet without the Permanent or StoreMailboxIdentity parameters and now want to reconnect the mailbox to a different Active Directory user account.
  • You want to convert a user mailbox to a linked mailbox associated with a user account external to the forest in which your Exchange organization exists. The resource forest scenario is an example of when you would want to associate a mailbox with an external account. In a resource forest scenario, user objects in the Exchange forest have mailboxes, but the user objects are disabled for logon. You must associate these mailbox objects in the Exchange forest with enabled user objects in the external accounts forest.

In Exchange 2010 SP1, there are two methods by which you can reconnect a disabled mailbox. In the first method, you can still use the Connect-Mailbox cmdlet in the Exchange Management Shell or the Connect Mailbox wizard in the Exchange Management Console (EMC) to connect a disabled mailbox. This method was introduced in Exchange 2007. The Connect Mailbox wizard is available from the action pane when you select the Disconnected Mailbox node under Recipient Configuration.

The second method to reconnect a disabled mailbox uses the MailboxRestoreRequest cmdlet set in the Shell. This cmdlet set uses the Mailbox Replication Service (MRS) to reconnect the mailbox. You can’t use the EMC to perform this process.

After you reconnect a mailbox to an existing Active Directory user account, that user account becomes the owner of the mailbox and has full access to any content within the mailbox.

For detailed instructions about how to connect disabled mailboxes, see Connect or Restore a Disabled Mailbox

As stated previously, Exchange retains disabled mailboxes in the mailbox database based on the deleted mailbox retention settings configured for that mailbox database. After the specified retention period, a disabled mailbox is permanently deleted from the Exchange mailbox database. However, you can also permanently delete a disabled mailbox at any time by using one of the following two methods:

  • You can use the Remove-Mailbox cmdlet in the Shell. To do this, you need to set the Permanent parameter to $true when you run the command.
    If you want to permanently delete the data within the mailbox database for a previously disabled mailbox, you must use the StoreMailboxIdentity parameter with the Remove-Mailbox cmdlet. You can use the Get-MailboxStatistics cmdlet to determine the value you need to supply to the StoreMailboxIdentity parameter for a disconnected mailbox. For an example of this scenario, see the third code example in the reference topic Remove-Mailbox.
  • You can use the Remove-StoreMailbox cmdlet to purge a mailbox and all of its message content from the mailbox database. This results in permanent data loss for the mailbox being purged. You can only run this cmdlet against disconnected mailboxes. For more information, see Permanently Delete a Disconnected Mailbox.

A soft-deleted mailbox is created when the mailbox is moved from one Exchange Server 2010 SP1 mailbox database to any other mailbox database. Exchange doesn’t fully delete the mailbox from the source database after a move in case an error occurs causing the mailbox on the destination database to fail. You can always restore the source mailbox and try again. Exchange will retain the soft-deleted mailbox for the retention period.

There are two operations that you can perform on soft-deleted mailboxes:

  1. You can restore the soft-deleted mailbox to an existing active directory user.
  2. You can permanently delete the soft-deleted mailbox.

Personal archives become disconnected when they are disabled. Similar to disabled mailboxes, a disconnected personal archive can be connected by using the Connect-Mailbox cmdlet with the Archive parameter.

The primary mailbox and the personal archive share the same legacy distinguished name (DN), so you must connect the personal archive to the same user mailbox that it was previously connected to. You can't connect the personal archive to a different user mailbox.

There are two operations that you can perform on disconnected personal archives:

  • Connect it to an existing mailbox in Active Directory
  • Permanently delete it from the Exchange mailbox database

A disconnected personal archive is retained in the mailbox database for a specified amount of time. By default, Exchange retains the disconnected personal archives for 30 days. During this time, you can recover the personal archive by associating it with an existing mailbox.

noteNote:
If you disable a personal archive for a user mailbox and then enable a personal archive for that same user, that user mailbox will get a new personal archive. You must use the Connect-Mailbox cmdlet to connect a disabled personal archive to an existing mailbox.

For more information, see Connect a Disconnected Personal (On-Premises) or Cloud-Based Archive.

Exchange retains disconnected personal archives based on the deleted mailbox retention settings configured for the mailbox database. The default retention period is 30 days. After the specified retention period, a disconnected personal archive is permanently deleted from the mailbox database.

You can also permanently delete a disconnected mailbox at any time by using the Remove-Mailbox cmdlet with the Archive switch in the Shell. To do this, you need to set the Permanent parameter to $true when you run the command.

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