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Recover deleted messages in a user's mailbox

 

Applies to: Exchange Online, Exchange Server 2013

Topic Last Modified: 2015-03-19

Administrators can search for and recover deleted email messages in a user's mailbox. This includes items that are permanently deleted (purged) by a person (by using the Recover Deleted Items feature in Outlook or Outlook Web App), or items deleted by an automated process, such as the retention policy assigned to user mailboxes. In these situations, the purged items can't be recovered by a user. But administrators can recover purged messages if the deleted item retention period for the item hasn't expired.

NoteNote:
In addition to using this procedure to search for and recover deleted items (which are moved to the Recoverable Items\Purges folder if either single item recovery or litigation hold is enabled), you can also use this procedure to search for items residing in other folders in the mailbox and to delete items from the source mailbox (also known as search and destroy).

  • Estimated time to complete: 15-30 minutes.

  • Procedures in this topic require specific permissions. See each procedure for its permissions information.

  • Single item recovery must be enabled for a mailbox before the item you want to recover is deleted. In Exchange Online, single item recovery is enabled by default when a new mailbox is created. In Exchange 2013, single item recovery is disabled when a mailbox is created. For more information, see Enable or disable single item recovery for a mailbox.

  • To search for and recover items, you must have the following information:

    • Source mailbox   This is the mailbox being searched.

    • Target mailbox   This is the discovery mailbox in which messages will be recovered. Exchange Setup creates a default discovery mailbox. In Exchange Online, a discovery mailbox is also created by default. If required, you can create additional discovery mailboxes. For details, see Create a discovery mailbox.

      NoteNote:
      When using the Search-Mailbox cmdlet, you can also specify a target mailbox that isn't a discovery mailbox. However, you can't specify the same mailbox as the source and target mailbox.
    • Search criteria   Criteria include sender or recipient, or keywords (words or phrases) in the message.

  • For information about keyboard shortcuts that may apply to the procedures in this topic, see Keyboard shortcuts in the Exchange admin center.

TipTip:
Having problems? Ask for help in the Exchange forums. Visit the forums at: Exchange Server, Exchange Online, or Exchange Online Protection.

You only need to perform this step if you have an Exchange Online or Office 365 organization. If you have an Exchange 2013 organization, go to the next step and run the command in the Exchange Management Shell.

  1. On your local computer, open Windows PowerShell and run the following command.

    $UserCredential = Get-Credential
    

    In the Windows PowerShell Credential Request dialog box, type user name and password for an Office 365 global admin account, and then click OK.

  2. Run the following command.

    $Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/ -Credential $UserCredential -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
    
  3. Run the following command.

    Import-PSSession $Session
    
  4. To verify that you’re connected to your Exchange Online organization, run the following command to get a list of all the mailboxes in your organization.

    Get-Mailbox
    

For more information or if you have problems connecting to your Exchange Online organization, see Connect to Exchange Online using remote PowerShell.

You need to be assigned permissions before you can perform this procedure or procedures. To see what permissions you need, see the "In-Place eDiscovery" entry in the Messaging policy and compliance permissions topic.

NoteNote:
You can use In-Place eDiscovery in the Exchange admin center (EAC) to search for missing items. However, when using the EAC, you can’t restrict the search to the Recoverable Items folder. Messages matching your search parameters will be returned even if they’re not deleted. After they’re recovered to the specified discovery mailbox, you may need to review the search results and remove unnecessary messages before recovering the remaining messages to the user’s mailbox or exporting them to a .pst file.
For details about how to use the EAC to perform an In-Place eDiscovery search, see Create an In-Place eDiscovery search.

The first step in the recovery process is to search for messages in the source mailbox. Use one of the following methods to search a user mailbox and copy messages to a discovery mailbox.

This example searches for messages in April Stewart's mailbox that meet the following criteria:

  • Sender: Ken Kwok

  • Keyword: Seattle

Search-Mailbox "April Stewart" -SearchQuery "from:'Ken Kwok' AND seattle" -TargetMailbox "Discovery Search Mailbox" -TargetFolder "April Stewart Recovery" -LogLevel Full
NoteNote:
When using the Search-Mailbox cmdlet, you can scope the search by using the SearchQuery parameter to specify a query formatted using Keyword Query Language (KQL). You can also use the SearchDumpsterOnly switch to search only items in the Recoverable Items folder.

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Search-Mailbox.

To verify that you have successfully searched the messages you want to recover, log on to the discovery mailbox you selected as the target mailbox and review the search results.

You need to be assigned permissions before you can perform this procedure or procedures. To see what permissions you need, see the "In-Place eDiscovery" entry in the Messaging policy and compliance permissions topic.

NoteNote:
You can't use the EAC to restore recovered items.

After messages have been recovered to a discovery mailbox, you can restore them to the user's mailbox by using the Search-Mailbox cmdlet. In Exchange 2013, you can also use the New-MailboxExportRequest and New-MailboxImportRequest cmdlets to export the messages to or import the messages from a .pst file.

This example restores messages to April Stewart's mailbox and deletes them from the Discovery Search Mailbox.

Search-Mailbox "Discovery Search Mailbox" -SearchQuery "from:'Ken Kwok' AND seattle" -TargetMailbox "April Stewart" -TargetFolder "Recovered Messages" -LogLevel Full -DeleteContent

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see Search-Mailbox.

How do you know this worked?

To verify that you have successfully recovered messages to the user’s mailbox, have the user review messages in the target folder you specified in the above command.

In Exchange 2013, you can export contents from a mailbox to a .pst file and import the contents of a .pst file to a mailbox. To learn more about mailbox import and export, see Mailbox import and export requests. You can't perform this task in Exchange Online.

This example uses the following settings to export messages from the folder April Stewart Recovery in the Discovery Search Mailbox to a .pst file:

  • Mailbox   Discovery Search Mailbox

  • Source folder   April Stewart Recovery

  • ContentFilter   April travel plans

  • PST file path   \\MYSERVER\HelpDeskPst\AprilStewartRecovery.pst

New-MailboxExportRequest -Mailbox "Discovery Search Mailbox" -SourceRootFolder "April Stewart Recovery" -ContentFilter {Subject -eq "April travel plans"} -FilePath \\MYSERVER\HelpDeskPst\AprilStewartRecovery.pst

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see New-MailboxExportRequest.

This example uses the following settings to import messages from a .pst file to the folder Recovered By Helpdesk in April Stewart's mailbox:

  • Mailbox   April Stewart

  • Target folder   Recovered By Helpdesk

  • PST file path   \\MYSERVER\HelpDeskPst\AprilStewartRecovery.pst

New-MailboxImportRequest -Mailbox "April Stewart" -TargetRootFolder "Recovered By Helpdesk" -FilePath \\MYSERVER\HelpDeskPst\AprilStewartRecovery.pst 

For detailed syntax and parameter information, see New-MailboxImportRequest.

How do you know this worked?

To verify that you have successfully exported messages to a .pst file, use Outlook to open the .pst file and inspect its contents. To verify that you have successfully imported messages from the .pst file, have the user inspect the contents of the target folder you specified in the above command.

  • The ability to recover deleted items is enabled by single item recovery, which lets an administrator recover a message that's been purged by a user or by retention policy as long as the deleted item retention period hasn't expired for that item. To learn more about single item recovery, see Recoverable Items folder.

  • An Exchange Online mailbox is configured to retain deleted items for 14 days, by default. You can change this setting to a maximum of 30 days. In Exchange 2013, a mailbox database is configured to retain deleted items for 14 days, by default. You can configure deleted item retention settings for a mailbox or mailbox database. For more information, see:

  • Users can recover a deleted item if it hasn't been purged and if the deleted item retention period for that item hasn't expired. If users need to recover deleted items from the Recoverable Items folder, point them to the following topics:

  • This topic shows you how to use the Search-Mailbox cmdlet to search for and recover missing items. If you use this cmdlet, you can search only one mailbox at a time. If you want to search multiple mailboxes at the same time, you can use In-Place eDiscovery in the Exchange admin center (EAC) or the New-MailboxSearch cmdlet in Windows PowerShell.

  • In addition to using this procedure to search for and recover deleted items, you can also use a similar procedure to search for items in user mailboxes and then delete those items from the source mailbox. For more information, see Search and delete messages.

 
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