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Microsoft Offers Free 'PST Capture' Tool for Exchange

Microsoft released a new free tool on Monday that helps IT pros find .PST files created using Microsoft Exchange.

The tool, called "PST Capture," installs an agent to track the location of these files, which are the personal e-mail folders of Exchange e-mail users. The new tool works with the existing MailboxImportRequest cmdlet, rather than replacing it.

Apparently, tracking PST files has become a problem for organizations trying to manage e-mail archives. The files often need to be tracked to ensure compliance with an organization's e-mail retention policies, for instance. Not finding the files also represents a problem for organizations that want electronic discovery capabilities for legal purposes.

Personal folder .PST files can be scattered across PCs and laptops, according to Ankur Kothari of the Microsoft Exchange team, in a video accompanying Microsoft's announcement. "PSTs, we know, are a bit of a pain point…," he said, in an accompanying video. The PST Capture tool shows where the .PST files are located via a console. Users can then import these files into the primary mailboxes or archives of Exchange Online (the Office 365 version) or Exchange Server 2010, according to Microsoft's description.

Microsoft claims that Exchange 2010 offers more efficient and lower cost storage than earlier editions of the product, leveraging direct attached storage instead of storage area networks (SANs). The tool can help bring over the older .PST files to Exchange 2010, and it helps with e-mail indexing in Outlook clients.

"Keeping with the Exchange 2010 theme of large, low-cost mailboxes, pulling a user's old personal archives back into their mailbox not only brings these emails back into the control of the Exchange Admins, but it also increases user productivity as all of these emails will now be indexed and searchable through both Outlook and Outlook Web App," a Microsoft blog claims

Microsoft said back in July that it planned to roll out "an admin-driven and straightforward tool" for discovering and importing .PST files. The company ended up delivering PST Capture after acquiring the tool from Red Gate, which is a Microsoft Gold ISV partner. The tool previously was at the beta stage, but Microsoft has since completed its testing and rolled it out as a no-cost solution.

"We put Red Gate's tool through further feature development and a rigorous testing process that included beta testing with customers, passing through our internal product security gates, and overall quality assurance," Microsoft's announcement stated. "It's now ready for prime time and available as a free download here!"

Microsoft recommends installing the PST Capture Central Service and the PST Capture Console on a dedicated computer, according to this TechNet library article. The dedicated computer also needs to run Outlook 2010 on x64 hardware, but that's only required for the dedicated computer and not for other PC clients.

The .PST imports can consume a lot of bandwidth, so Microsoft recommends running import operations "during off hours."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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