Exchange server recovery- how to?

Posted on 2005-04-04
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-04-10

I have Exchange 2000 on a windows 2000 server. I had some problems mounting my IS (it is exceeding 16 GB) last week but all worked out fine after a 6 hour troubleshooting which made me start working on formulating and testing a disaster recovery that i have been postponing forever. The problem is that i do not have a clue on how to start about it, i have read some microsoft articles but i am a little confused. I have my DC, DNS  and Exchange on one machine. I use NTbackup to back up the information store only. Now i want to prepare a standby server to test recovery, how should i go about that? do i need to follow the same naming standards? do i just start installing windows 2000 server on the standby machine and then install exchange, how can i configure the DC?

help is highly appreciated
Question by:iets
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LVL 71

Expert Comment

by:Chris Dent
ID: 13701510

Disaster recovery when Exchange is on a DC is a little more complex than when it's just on a member server. Of course it's far from impossible.

Since you're attempting to simulate disaster recovery the server you are test restoring Exchange to cannot be plugged into your live domain. They really wouldn't agree.

It's worth noting at this point that once Exchange installed you cannot change the state of a server. That is, you can't Promote a member server to a DC, and you can't Demote a DC to a Member Server without breaking Exchange.

So, the first step has to be restoring the dead server. To start with you need to check out how to Restore your System State, this MS article will help somewhat I hope:


You can only perform an AD restore on a Server running AD. This means when you rebuild the server you create a basic installation and install only the very basics of AD, don't bother with configuration, the goal is to get the startup option available so you can restore the system state.

This method of restoring will bring back the Unique IDs bound to the Computer Account that Exchange expects to see when loading the databases.

If you were restoring onto a machine that wasn't a DC you wouldn't need to restore the System State, although you would still need the Computer Account to be present on the Domain.

Otherwise, follow the steps described in this article:


Disaster Recovery steps take the same form, except you can't follow Step 3, that only applies if the server you are restoring to is not a Domain Controller.

For further fun reading check out:


Which includes a lot of detail on the process you're looking into.

Please don't hesitate to ask again if I haven't covered everything you need.


LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 13701808
A simpler (and more expensive) method ,would be to use something called Live State Recovery from Symantec.
About $1100 .

You can create a live server image ,along with incremental backups during the day.
That way, if you have a major disaster,you can restore from an up to date image file.
Since it is disk based,it is a whole lot faster than tape.

Author Comment

ID: 13705117
Thanks, but let me just reiterate the logic to see if i understood it correcty (i am a newbie in exchange, so please bear with me)
1- i will need to install the Windows server OS of course (and partition it in the same was as my existing Exchnage)
2- Recover system state (from tape)
3- Install basic AD
4- will  recovering to a non DC machine work? and what is the difference?

I forgot to mention that i have a secondary DC machine (low configuration, Pentuim 3, 500MHz) but we are using it as an SQL server for our library portal. So i will not be able to recover the system state of my exchange on this machine.


LVL 71

Accepted Solution

Chris Dent earned 500 total points
ID: 13705312

A slight difference in order...

1. Yep install the OS
2. Install basic AD - This is only so you can get access to the "Directory Services Restore Mode" from the Startup menu (F8 during boot). Which allows you to perform step 3...
3. Recover System State to restore the DC onto the domain

For 4...

Exchange is heavily tied to the Computer Account in the domain, for a DC this requires you to restore the system state and AD so you can access that Computer Account again. For a member server you'd simply have to reset the computer account in AD (allowing a new server to attach to the same account) which preserves the SID history.

So, since you have Exchange installed on a DC it has to be, in effect, recovered to exactly the same DC. It can't be restored to a member server.

Basically that's what is meant by:

> ... you cannot change the state of a server. That is, you can't Promote a member server to a DC, and you can't Demote
> a DC to a Member Server without breaking Exchange.

Hope that makes sense.

Author Comment

ID: 13707891
thanks chris, now i understand what you meant by the complexity of having exchange on a DC, I will accept your answer becuase it made sense to me but you will probably see me popping in again in this forum in the next two weeks becuase am sure it will not go smoothly,


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