Microsoft Exchange PST Capture Tool

Monday, January 30, 2012
It's time to harvest those PST files
PST files are the plague of most managed networks and the bane of most email administrators.  It also clearly demonstrates that if you don't have an email policy (and an email management strategy to back it up), users will follow the path of least resistance.

In the not-so-long-ago days, email storage was expensive and growing exponentially.  The common reaction to this was to enforce mailbox quotas to keep mailboxes from growing so large.  When you put a barrier in place it's human nature to try going around it, so when users run up against their mailbox quota they look for alternate ways to store their emails.

Enter Outlook PST (personal storage) files.  PSTs allow users to archive emails out of their Exchange mailbox into a discrete file.  There are several problems with this:

  • PSTs are not governed by company email retention policies or legal discovery
  • PSTs cannot be accessed from Outlook Web App (OWA) or mobile devices
  • PSTs are usually stored on local computer drives that are rarely, if ever, backed up
  • If users store their PSTs on a network drive you haven't really solved the storage issue, have you?
  • PSTs are normally not password protected.  Anyone who can access the PST can read the emails.
  • PSTs are typically difficult for end-users to manage
Now that storage is cheaper and more abundant, companies are looking to harvest those PST files back into Exchange so they can be managed by corporate retention and discovery policies.  Older emails can also be archived using native Exchange Online Archiving (aka Personal Archives) or other third-party solutions.

Today, Microsoft delivered the Microsoft Exchange PST Capture Tool 2 This new tool allows you to import the contents of PST files into a user's mailbox, into an Office 365 online mailbox, or directly into an Exchange Online Archive.  By optionally installing PST Capture Agents on target machines, administrators can determine where .PST files are located and who their file owner is via the PST Capture Console.

Read the Exchange Team blog, .PST, Time to Walk the Plank, to read a bit more and watch a video about the tool with Ann Vu and Ankar Kothari.  BTW, Ann was the one who came up with the "That's right. My theme is Super Sparkle Happy" Exchange t-shirts at least year's TechEd.  :)


  1. This is awesome information. I plan to try this out on some old PST's I have at have at home for my accounts running on my home Exchange 2010. If all goes well, I might be introducing at work too.

  2. Hows does the tool determine the ownership of the PST file?

  3. The biggest issue I have with the tool is that it will not scan a mapped drive from a users PC. Microsoft says to install the agent on the server hosting the file shares which doesn't help if the shares are hosted on NAS.

  4. We're looking at how we can capture PSTs from mapped drives. Difficulty is that the client runs as a service account and therefore won't have the user's drive mapped. Microsoft suggest you install the client on the network server but this is difficult if its a UNIX based NAS!

  5. Hi,
    i have a problem to find any mailboxes, i choosed the .pst-File and click "set-mailbox", but i don't find any mailboxes: "while trying to retrieve mailboxes, an error occurred in the central service"

    The serviceaccount is domain and exchange admin and mail-enabled.
    I don't work in a child domain, and in the pst-capture log our 800 mailboxes are shown....,
    in the next line, only the CA / HT Exchange server are shwon, but no mailbox server, only the DAG-Group..

    Is there maybe a problem with DAG ?



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