Exchange 2003 priv store does not reduce when mailboxes are deleted

I have a client that has their own Exchange 2003 mail server, and suddenly one of the users lost a block of emails from the entire month of February and half of March. They are running Windows 2003 Server standard with Symantec Backup Exec as their tape backup solution. The user who had lost emails had looked through their deleted items folder and the messages were not there. I checked via OWA to see if her OST didn't have the messages, and they were in fact completely gone.

Since we have a daily backup, I decided to use Symantec Backup Exec to restore the one user's mailbox. The problem comes in because the mailbox is around 12GB in size. The restore operation completed, but all of the messages that were included in the backup were duplicated. Rather than weed through thousands of emails to remove duplicates, the messages that were received were saved to a PST and the entire mailbox was deleted. I used Backup Exec to recreate the mailbox, but apparently the size of the priv did not shrink when the mailbox was deleted, causing the RAID array where the information was stored to quickly become full.

My main question is, how can you make the size of the priv smaller when deleting a mailbox and totally purge the messages from the database? This is causing a major stoppage in work, but because the email is filtered before being sent to their server, Postini will hold the emails for a few days until they are able to be delivered.
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There are several variables to take into account:
1. What is your mailbox Deleted Item Retention (DIR) set to?
2. What is the Deleted Mailbox Retention time set to?
3. Is the box checked to not remove a deleted mailbox until a full backup is performed?

Exchange will NEVER giver you back disk space without unmounting the database and running an OFFLINE defrag (ESEUTIL /D). But even then there are other things to take into consideration.
By default every night the ONLINE Maintenance runs. This compares the deleted items and deleted mailboxes against what is configured in items 1 and 2 above. When these times have expired, then this space is marked as WHITE SPACE which Exchange will reuse.

To tell how much space you will recover with an offline defrag, look for event id 1221 in the application log. This gets created after the online maintenance completes. There will be seperate values for the public folder store and the mailbox store.
One thing to remember is that when an offline defrag is run it takes 1-4 hours per GB. You also have to have free space equal to 110% (minimum) of the size of the database being defragged.

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cmacklesAuthor Commented:
I had completely forgotten about using eseutil to defragment the priv store.

1-4 hours per GB... there's 50 something GB to defragment, which really isn't going to do me very much good if it takes 50+ hours to do an offline defrag... I'll be hanging from a rope from the 23rd floor of a skyscraper in downtown New Orleans :)
Then it would probably benefit you to add more disk space.
Another way it to add an additional Exchange server to the mix, move the mailboxes to it, delete the bloated database on the original server and create a new database, then move the mailboxes back.
cmacklesAuthor Commented:
What we are actually doing is getting two more serial ATA hard disks (300GB) and configuring them in a RAID 1 array in the server. Only the Exchange databases will be on there, possibly split if possible. I haven't exactly split Exchange databases before. Is it possible, or rather ideal, to split the database into different chunks on the same RAID array? The previous company that managed this network before we took over the account did not do much forward planning with the Exchange infrastructure.

The Exchange server is for a rather large law firm that handles a lot of class action suits (which can drag on for years) therefore their email is their bread and butter, so to speak. The best way to do it is to break up the Exchange database, but with it being one large (50+GB) database, what would be the best way for me to segment the data into smaller databases, in your opinion?
There are 2 ways to split the database.
1. Add a new server to the Exchange domain. Then follow the steps I listed above.
2. If you are running Exchange Enterprise version, then you can create multiple databases.
A search of the MS Knowledge Base will reveal how to tell if you have the Enterprise or Standard version of Exchange.
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