MS Exchange 2003 mdbdata folder is too large.

Hello-

I inherited an issue with an exchange server 2003 standard which I learned has a limit of 75GB of storage space and my mdbdata folder is at 74.3GB. I need instructional help on what I should do to conquer this issue in a timely manner. New hardware and software is excluded in the solution for there is no money at the time to be spent.

List within MDBDATA Folder:

E00.log = 5,120 KB
E00tmp.log = 5,120 KB
E0013D86.log = 5,120 KB
priv1.edb = 49,410,984 KB
priv1.stm = 27,691,016 KB
pub1.edb = 247,816 KB
pub1.stm = 96,264 KB
res1.log = 5,120 KB
res2.log = 5,120 KB

Thanks in advance.
rbondsAsked:
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shadowlesssCommented:
1. You need to have users clean up their mailboxes ( creating whitespace)
2. Allow the online maintenance to complete (default 5am)
3. Dismount your database and complete offline maintenance to reclaim the whitespace created by your users cleaning up their mailboxes
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shadowlesssCommented:
oh yeah...after users clean up their mailboxes Go to the limits tab and set retention time to 0. Ofter online maintenance completes you should see the 1221 event and see the free space size information.
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WiiredCommented:
First perform an offline defragmentation of the exchange database: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/328804
This will free up whitespace.

If you have recovered enough space to restart the exchange services, simply perform some mailbox management: archive all old emails off to .pst files and get them out of exchange.

If you dont free enough space to start services:
use ExMerge to archive off your email inboxes - http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=429163ec-dcdf-47dc-96da-1c12d67327d5&displaylang=en

perform your archiving as before, then use exMerge to move the modified files back, overwriting the original.

Hope this helps!
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Hey guys thanks for the timely response.

I had users delete/clean out their emails and deleted folders already. I just checked for event 1221, which I received 6 times this morning between the hours of 1am and 6am. The last one I received was at 6am and it stated that there was 8897 MB of free space after online defrag has terminated. All the rest of the event 1221 logs for today before the last one was 1 MB of free space and 2 MB of free space.

Questions:
-How long does an offline defrag usually take so that I can alert my user environment about the situation at hand and tell them not to expect any emails during the offline defrag.
-Also, as I stated before, I inherited this exchange user environment. Is there any bad effect of having previously done an offline defrag already? I spoke with an old consultant for this company and he stated that he has done an offline defrag before.
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Shadowless-

Where is the limits tab at and what does setting the retention to 0 accomplish?

Thanks
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WiiredCommented:
the offline defrag will take a few hours, depending on your server hardware ... best to run at night
there is no adverse effect to defragging the exchange DB at all, it is good maintenance
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shadowlesssCommented:
Where is the limits tab at and what does setting the retention to 0 accomplish?

Right click the mailbox store and choose properties..you will see the limits tab. Setting it to 0 will ensure that everything is removed from the database thus allowing you to gain the most space.

How long does an offline defrag usually take so that I can alert my user environment about the situation at hand and tell them not to expect any emails during the offline defrag.
Depends on your server configuration..a good assumption is about 5-10GB per hour

Is there any bad effect of having previously done an offline defrag already? I spoke with an old consultant for this company and he stated that he has done an offline defrag before.
No...just make sure you have a backup copy just in case something goes wrong with your database during this defrag
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MesthaCommented:
Oh dear, I see the offline defrag answer is being thrown around again.

Do not bother with an offline defrag, it is a waste of time.

The Exchange 2003 75gb limit is not a physical restriction on the size of the store, but a logical restriction.
The limit is the physical size of the files MINUS the white space, which is reported by event ID 1221. It is perfectly possible to go over the 75gb in total size and for Exchange to continue to operate.

As you have 8gb of white space in the store, you are quite a way from the limit. I would be looking to monitor the amount of white space and the physical size of the store.

Offline defrag is not risk free. There is a good chance that you will lose data and it requires an extended period of downtime.

If the files you have shown are all that you have, then it would also appear that you have circular logging enabled. Is the server being regularly backed up?

Simon.
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Simon-

The server is being backed up every night. Is circular logging a bad thing? If there's a possibility that I might lose data doing an offline defrag, what do you suggest I do in these circumstances because an Offline was my next step. I was just asking the GM over at my site if it would be possible for emails to be down over the weekend so that I can perform the defrag.

Thanks
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MesthaCommented:
Circular logging basically means you have no options to recover data between backups. A backup is a snapshot of your database. However if your backup is being taken at 3am and the database fails at 2am the next day, you have LOST all email that was received by that server between the backup and failure, with no chance of recovery from the Exchange server side.

Most likely someone turned it off to get rid of the pesky logs filling up the store.

That is of course presuming that you have Exchange aware backup doing the backups.

As for next step - that would be do nothing. An offline defrag isn't going to gain you anything, but could lose you data. If you hit the 75gb limit then you either need to invest in archiving software (PSTs are not an archiving solution) or migrate to Exchange 2007 which has an effectively unlimited database size.

Simon.
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Simon-
Well in that case I guess we're screwed because Hardware and Software purchases are out of the question and solution.

Also, I read and heard that when you do an offline defragmentation it gets rid of that white space and consolidates the database so wouldn't that be the gain.

Thanks.
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MesthaCommented:
You don't gain anything because the white space is already taken in to account in the size restriction.
If you have 8gb of white space in the store, then at most the database will shrink by 8gb and maybe a little more, but not really enough to make any significant gain.

If you must keep all the email then purchases have to be made. If you cannot make the purchases then email data will have to be deleted. You could try exporting the content to PST files, but if you value the email you will not store them in PSTs.

Simon.
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WiiredCommented:
From Microsoft:

Although online defragmentation provides some additional database space, you must defragment the Exchange database offline to reduce the physical size of the Exchange database.---

---offline defragmentation reduces the size of the Exchange databases by rearranging the data on the server's Exchange databases and discarding any unused database pages
the Eseutil /d command defragments a database by creating a new database, copying the old database records to the new one, and discarding any unused database pages. This creates a newly organized compact database file.
 
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Wired-

Thanks. I knew I read that somewhere.

Here's the link Simon: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/328804
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WiiredCommented:
Simon,
Not everyone has an unlimited budget, and therefore we have to often do things on the cheap.

I am not saying that archiving emails to .pst files is the BEST solution, however it doesnt cost a penny...and that is often the deciding factor.

Fact is, the email database has to shrink or it will very soon fail to mount. The offline defrag will gain the 8gb which will buy enough time to archive off the rest of the emails.

Personally, I have run offline defrags about 40 times and have not had an issue as of yet, but I know that, as with everything else in this world, there is an inherent risk involved. As long as a good backup is taken before the defrag, you will at least that to fall back upon in case of disaster.
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MesthaCommented:
I am fully aware of what the Microsoft documentation says, unfortunately the statement that the database has to shrink or it will fail to mount is incorrect.

As I have already stated, the database limit is not enforced on the physical size of the database. It is enforced on the logical size. Therefore an offline defrag is unnecessary.
As long as physical size minus white space is less than 75gb the database will remain mounted.

The size that Exchange is using is logged each night at 5am by default. Event ID 1216.
This Technet article explains this: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa998066.aspx

Furthermore, should the database go over the limit, then it will dismount, however as it is a soft enforcement you can simply remount the database and carry on. The days of the the database refusing to mount when it gets to the physical limit are long gone, unless you are still on Exchange 2000 or older.

As for the comment about budgets, I am well aware that people do not have the budgets. However considering the fragility of PST files, the fact that you cannot access them over a network without putting them at risk of corruption, they are not a solution that can be relied upon. If you need to retain the information for legal purposes the cost of using proper archiving software is much cheaper than the likely fines if you are unable to produce the information on demand because of poor practises.

If you have defragged 40 databases then you have wasted an awful lot of customer's time. I haven't done an offline defrag with Exchange 2003 since the release of Exchange 2003 SP2. They are completely unnecessary with Exchange 2007.

If people want to waste time doing offline defrags, putting data at risk for no gain, then that is their decision. It is not something that I would recommend to any of my clients.

Simon.
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Simon-

"The days of the the database refusing to mount when it gets to the physical limit are long gone, unless you are still on Exchange 2000 or older."

Then why should I have to worry about purchases being made as you stating in one of the comments above? When will the database be at it's limit if it can go past the 75GB mark and all that is needed after that is to remount?

I will be reading that technet article too. Thanks

I really appreciate the discussion on this topic and all the help that is provided by you guys.
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MesthaCommented:
You have to worry about it because the database will dismount each day. I expect there are companies out there who are simply remounting the database each day to ensure they can keep running, but it isn't recommended and can actually damage the database over time.

Simon.
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
I'm going to leave things intact for right now but if push comes to shove I will have users delete more emails or export email messages to .pst files and do the offline defrag.

My only issue as of now is who do I reward the points too? I'll figure it out later.

For the most part, I Thank you all for contributing your knowledge to this very important matter.
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rbondsAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the help guys
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