Exchange 2003 Offline Defrag Reclaims Small Amount of Space

Hi Experts,

I finally put email space limitations on our SBS 2003 server.  Users deleted GBs of stuff...  I personally created PST files for a handful of users, practically deleting their mailboxes.

I then did an offline database defrag, but only gained about 1 gb of space.

I exported the mailboxes to a TXT file and added them up.  Around 20 gb.  But the size of the DB is almost 60gb.

Being that this is an SBS2003 server, I cannot move the mailboxes to a different store.

How can I reclaim this space?

Thanks!!
svillardiAsked:
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Glen KnightConnect With a Mentor Commented:
It's more than likely to be due to the retention period set on your mailbox store.
If this is set to 30 days then anything you delete will be retained.

The free space is reported in event 1221 in the application log.

I have written an article here that explains it all: http://www.experts-exchange.com/articles/Software/Server_Software/Email_Servers/Exchange/Exchange-Offline-Defrag.html

If you find the article useful please vote for it :)
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kugaconsultantsCommented:
Before you perform an offline defrag for Exchange, be sure that your logs are committed by running a backup of the Exchange database.  Once a backup is complete, run an offline defrag and you should see reclaimed space.
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svillardiAuthor Commented:
ahhhh.....  so that might be the problem?

Should the DB end up being close to what the mailboxes add up to be?
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kugaconsultantsCommented:
Yes, the database should be close to the size of the mailboxes after the offline defrag completes.  Of course when you perform the backup before the defrag, keep in mind that the backup size will be the database file plus the streaming file.  Make sure you have enough space for the backup and also enough space to perform the offline defrag.
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philetaylorConnect With a Mentor Commented:
When items or mailboxes are deleted from an exchange store, they are not actually removed until the "retention period" has expired.

The default retention for email items is 7 days and for whole deleted mailboxes is 30 days. This can be changed by going to Exchange System Manager, right click on the Mailbox Store and select properties. Under the limits tab, you sill see deletion settings.

If you set the keep deleted items/mailbox retention settings to 0 then they will be deleted the next time that the cleanup agent is run. This will happen periodically but can be forced by right clicking on Mailboxes and selecting "Run Cleanup Agent"

You could then do an offline defrag to recover the deleted space.
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Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
Demazter is correct. Retention on the store is your problem - his article explains it all for you.
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svillardiAuthor Commented:
2 questions:

If the mailbox has been "emptied out" via an archive to PST, does THAT show up immediately?  The mailboxes actually are still there, just "empty"

and.....

If the mailboxes show as being MUCH smaller than they were, where is that extra space stored?

I'm thinking:
Set the deleted items to "0".
Back up Exchange
Offline Defrag
Remount
Mailbox space should = priv1.edb space ---- no?
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philetaylorCommented:
All of the individual items that were deleted are still stored until the message retention period expires. This allows the outlook "Recover Deleted Items" to be used to undelete items even if the mailbox has been "emptied out"

The size of the mailbox is reported as the actual mailbox size (not including the deleted items) once you do the process you described, the store size should be approximately the total reported size of all the mailboxes.
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kugaconsultantsCommented:
I'm not 100% sure if you extract e-mails from mailboxes either using Outlook Archival/Moving to PST or EXMerge if delete retention plays a factor.  I want to say it does not.

How often do you backup Exchange?  If you rarely back it up and you have lots of message traffic, your logs will build quickly.  I've enen encountered issues where certain attachment sizes cause logging to go through the roof even if attachment size policies are in place (a bug in Exchange 2003).

Either way, you should see space freeing up especially after a backup and offline defrag.
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philetaylorConnect With a Mentor Commented:
According to:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/260037

EXmerge still obeys the deleted item retention settings.

Phil
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svillardiAuthor Commented:
Well guys, I just changed the settings for the deleted items to "0".  They were at 30!!!

Then I ran the cleanup agent, but it didn't clear any old deleted items, just reported that 0 mailboxes were deleted, 0 mailboxes retained....

Why don't I see anything about individual email items??
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Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
Have you read Demazter's article yet?
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svillardiAuthor Commented:
Yup...

"Depending on your deleted item retention period, this may take a long time to be seen as free space.  If you are trying to alleviate an immediate problem, then you can speed this process up by setting the deleted item retention periods to 0.  This will make any items that are deleted, permanently deleted rather than sent to the dumpster, where you can recover them with the tools, Recover Deleted Items option in the Deleted Items folder within Outlook."

And that's what I did.  But the cleanup agent takes a sec to run but doesn't show any immediate return on deleted items.
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philetaylorCommented:
The space won't be recovered until the information store maintenance task runs (usually overnight). I just checked and the cleanup agent doesn't do this. Sorry!

You can force the maintenance to run by. right click on the Mailbox store, click properties, on the database tab click customize to modify the schedule. You can then monitor the event logs to see when it has completed (can take several hours as it does an online defrag and various other tasks)
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Alan HardistyCo-OwnerCommented:
Or just run eseutil /d at this point.
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svillardiAuthor Commented:
OK, I just changed the maintenance to kickoff at 6:00pm (local time).

Then later tonight, I will run the backup.

I'll let you guys know what happened.  I sure hope I get a big return here, as my users practically SHOT me when I put the limits on them!  :)  If their database goes down again, because it reached it's physical limit (and it's close) then I will lose credibility on the need for the limits.
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svillardiAuthor Commented:
Excellent suggestions.  Looks like I will have almost HALF my database of WHITE SPACE!  Thanks guys!!
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