Now, where's that email?

An old topic, but one that is going to take many years to go away.

Just this morning I found myself helping a sysadmin who was in a flat spin trying to find old emails.

The messages he needed were all dated 2002-2003 and the only place he could even begin his search was in his predecessors tape archive.

After a trip to the basement to find an old tape drive that would support the tapes where the data was, a lengthy device cleaning session to make sure the drive didn’t just destroy the tape and a lot of holding thumbs he was set to go. 

Opening up the tape store he immediately found that the “email backup 2002” tape he was looking at had full backup of the companies old Exchange 2000 server mail store.


This is when he started asking around for help and where I came into the picture. I quickly explained that there really is no easy way to do this considering that he had already progressed long past Exchange 2000 and that we would have to restore the backup of the old mail store into a version of Exchange that supported it, i.e. Exchange 2000.

“OK, I'll do that, build a Windows 2000 server and then install Exchange 2000 on it. I'll then restore from tape to it. On another note, do you know where I could get a copy of Exchange 2000? Is it still available on a Microsoft site?”


Ok, Windows Server 2000 was finally made end of life by Microsoft on the 13th of July 2010. Exchange 2000 server was made end of life some time in 2006.

Nothing available on Microsoft’s sites to help here...

For ages I hear nothing until...

“I went to the cellar. I spent a good few hours there and went through old boxes and old CDs and found an Exchange 2000 Enterprise installation CD. I now have my Win2000 machine and I’m going to try installing it.”

So I wish him the best of luck knowing that he has a large amount of work to do now and that even before he can begin the task of exporting the mailboxes into a more portable format to be examined in another system.

18 hours later...

“It seems I need to have a win2000 DC on the network. This is getting more complicated as I dig more. Not sure I'll be able to complete...”

Again much frantic discussion around creating virtual machines, restoring old Windows 2000 server Primary Domain controllers, isolating these from his Windows Server 2008 domain, making sure he guesses all the naming conventions right and generally just exposing even more complexities.

Luckily I managed to find an old Microsoft Knowledge Base article ( that explains how you can force an installation of Exchange 2000 onto a Win2k Domain Controller or Global Catalogue server.

This may be his only option before sending these tapes out to a legal discovery firms who will certainly charge (out of his budget) for the effort they will have to go through.

Now I sit and wait, hoping he has been able to resolve this himself, rather than having wasted two days only to find he should have just farmed the work off in the first place...