Recover a single item in Exchange Server 2010

In this article, I will try to resolve the issue of exchange users, who are need to restore the mailbox from MS Exchange server. When users are working with Exchange Server and exchange mailbox becomes not accessible or corrupted, then below tips are useful to recover the data by using exchange recovery methods. User can easily apply these methods step by step, but remember that, before applying, take a backup of database. Read this article to know more information.

Recovering a single item in Exchange Server 2010 is a common question put by a number of administrators. Well, the answer is simply YES. Microsoft has introduced a new feature as 'Single Item Recovery' with Exchange 2010, which is allowing administrators to recover individual items in Exchange database, without restoring them from point-in-time backup.

This is not wondering or something new that, a user has performed an accidental file deletion and realizes later that, the deleted data is required in future. Consequently, the need of restoring the deleted file becomes mandatory. Single Item Recovery makes it easy and efficient to restore the deleted items and that too with eliminating the requirement of restoring from point-in-time backup. In the older Exchange versions, the similar approach was caught by dumpster or deleted item recovery. However, in Exchange 2010, Single Item Recovery is much more improved that, you will see yourself with reading this post further.


The section describes the dumpster, its offers and where it lacks.

It is easy to understand and use dumpster in the previous Exchange versions. If you have been digging into any version, you know it well. Let's consider a scenario, where a user delete an email accidentally without pressing Shift key, the item simply moves to the 'Deleted Items' folder and when this folder is purged, the mail gets placed into dumpster. It clearly indicates that, the mail is not available in user's mailbox. However, it can be recovered by user himself within a certain time limit using 'Recover Deleted Items' feature, which is available in Outlook. The retention limit is set by administrator in the form of number of days. If in the meanwhile, user attempts to recover item from Dumpster, it is possible. The dumpster is undoubtedly great. However, also has some limitations, that often let the users down. One example of such limitation is, when a mailbox moves, the items placed in dumpster do not move with it. Moreover, it is necessary for user to make sure that, recovery is to be done within the specified time limit. Otherwise, it is required to restore form point-in-time backup in order to recover those items.

Single Item Recovery

As you were briefed about the Single Item Recovery feature above in this post, this section has a detailed description about the core component, working of the feature, and how it makes Exchange Recovery extremely easy.

Recoverable Items folder, located in the mailbox, is the backbone of Single Item Recovery feature. The folder is existed in non-IPM subtree within the mailbox. Hence it is not visible. The Recoverable Items folder contains the following folders:

1. Deletions
2. Versions
3. Purges

When it comes to how Single Item Recover functions, we need to consider a scenario, demonstrating the complete flow.

If a message lands to the Inbox, it might be possible that, the user delete the message immediately, without using 'Shift' key. As a result, the message moves to the 'Deleted Items' folder. In turn, if it is attempted to delete the message from the respective folder, the following message occurs:
"Are you sure you want to permanently delete all the items and subfolders in the "Deleted Items" folder?"

User is prompted to click 'Yes' or 'No' and the action all depends upon user's decision. Well, we will consider that, the user clicked 'Yes', the action forces the item to move to Recoverable Items folder. Actually, the message is placed in 'Deletions' folder existed in Recoverable Items folder. As explained above that the folder, due to being placed in non-IPM subtree, is not visible. However, the message is still recoverable and will move with the mailbox. The user can now use the 'Recover Deleted Items' feature in Outlook to restore the message to mailbox easily.

How to enable Single Item Recovery

You can use two strategies to configure the feature in Exchange 2010, that are explained below:

Short Term Protection

As the name depicts, the time of data protection is short. In this mechanism, the deleted items reside in the Recoverable Items folder and the default retention time limit is considered. Note that, in Exchange 2010, the default limit is 14 days. To set it, do the following:

"Set-Mailbox -SingleItemRecoveryEnabled $true"

You can change the behavior by using the following commands:

For mailbox database: Set-MailboxDatabase -DeletedItemRetention
For mailbox: Set-Mailbox -RetainDeletedItemsFor

Long Term Protection

With enabling this feature, you are provided with unlimited data protection, which is because of litigation hold.

"Set-Mailbox Email Account – LitigationHoldEnabled $true"

One important thing to point out is, with enabling the Single Item Recovery, calendar items reside for 120 days in the structure of Recoverable Items folder.

On the other hand, if you look into another and totally different source of Exchange Recovery, you can simply consider a commercial application, that could do the task with sole responsibility. You just need to provide some required inputs.

Read How to recover deleted messages from Exchange Server

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