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Working with PST Capture

Alexander Zammit

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A Software Development Consultant with over 20 years of experience. Many of his projects involved Exchange integrated applications, including a FAX server, a mail security product and anti-spam products.

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We introduced the PST import tool Microsoft made available last January in Installing PST Capture. In the first part we looked at the installation requirements and walked through the installation of the Central Service and the Agent components. Today we take a look at the configuration options and walk through an import.

PST Capture Configuration Options

Once the Central Service component is installed we can open the configuration console and start exploring what's available. The interface is quite simple. Here we find all we need to manage the tasks this application is designed to handle, seeking PSTs, transferring them to the Central Service and importing to Exchange.

PST Capture Console

To get to the configuration options go to Tools | Settings. Here the settings are grouped in seven categories. Unsurprisingly the first of these is the one that takes us to the environment Microsoft likes best, Exchange Online.

PST Capture Online Connection

Online Connection - If running Exchange on the Cloud enter the credentials and server to connect to.

PST Capture Message Import

Message Import - Specify how the imported items are to be merged into the destination mailboxes. The basic choice is between creating a separate folder tree under the user mailbox and merging directly the imported items in the current mailbox folder structure.

Keeping the imported items in a separate folder tree is normally considered to be the safest approach. This is especially true since here we are configuring global settings that may apply to many users. At the end of the article we see what the folder structure looked like after an import with the default settings shown here.

PST Capture Archive Mailbox

Archive mailbox - If using the Exchange 2010 Archive Mailbox functionality, then this will normally be the best destination for these imports.

PST Capture Non-mail Items

Non-mail items - By default only emails are imported but we can choose to import other items as well.

PST Capture Staging Area

Staging Area - Basically this is the temporary disk location where PSTs are saved until the Central Service completes the import. Keeping an eye on this directory during an import, you will see PST files being created here and deleted automatically.

PST Capture Import Tolerance

Import tolerance - Here we specify the number of errors the import process should allow before aborting the operation.

PST Capture General

General - Here we have a mix of settings. At the top we have the port number the Central Service listens to. Agents installed on user machines will need to have the same port number, we highlighted this in Installing PST Capture, when discussing the Agent installation.

Following that we have the refresh intervals PST Capture works with. Agents will check for changes at the Central Service every few minutes as specified here.

 

Discovering PSTs

Now that PST Capture is configured, we can kick off the PST discovery process.

  1. Click on New PST Search to open the Search wizard.

  1. In the first step we get the list of machines and the Agent detection flag. If missing any Agents, check if these are being blocked by some firewall.

New PST Search - Agent List

  1. Next we configure some settings to be applied by the Agents. Here we are identifying storage locations on the user machines to be included or excluded from the search.

New PST Search - Location

  1. In the next step we specify when the PST search is to be performed.

New PST Search - Schedule

  1. Completing this wizard the console interface creates a new page for this search. Note how the Win7_X64 machine status says Completed in the image that follows. If you are running PST Capture for the first time this will say 'Not Started' instead.

New Search Console

  1. Based on the General settings we saw earlier, the Agents will discover the new search just created. If the Search was scheduled to run later, we could wait for the Agents to do their job. Otherwise we hit Search All Now. This will populate the lower pane with the details of all discovered PSTs.

Discovered PSTs

 

Importing PSTs

Now that we know where the PSTs are, we can start with the Import.

  1. Select the PSTs to import.

  1. From New Import List select between Cloud Import List and OnPrem Import List. Here I am performing the latter.

New Import

  1. This opens a new console page. From here the selected PSTs must be assigned a destination mailbox.

Import All Now

  1. Clicking on 'Set mailbox...' we get a list of mailboxes to choose from.

Select Destination Mailbox

  1. Once the mailboxes are assigned we click Import All Now to start the process. From the console lower pane the Import status can be monitored.

Import Progress

  1. Once the PST status goes to 'Complete' we can open Outlook and take a look at the result.

Import Results

Here we can see a new folder tree named ExchangeInbox under which we have all the folders that were created by the import process.

 

Final Tips

Before PST Capture, Microsoft PST tools were mostly useful in performing brick level backups and in migration scenarios. PST Capture is the first tool Microsoft is making available to combat the proliferation of PSTs.

This is a simple, decent, entry level tool, a good starting point for an Organization that wants to start dealing with PSTs. I believe smaller organizations are likely to find PST Capture to be sufficient for their needs. More complex environments may need more control over the process.

An important point to appreciate is that PST Capture won't stop users from creating new PSTs. The continuous creation of new PSTs is a good sign that the underlying needs are not being addressed. This is why I consider the PST Capture Discovery to be the most useful feature as it allows us to monitor the system.

Finally I advise against suppressing PSTs aggressively. There exist other ways for users to take emails out of the store without using PSTs. For example they could simply drag and drop emails to their HDD which would makes things worst.

References

Installing PST Capture

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