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Exchange 2010 Personal Archive: End the PST Nightmare!

Kenneth Spiteri

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Kenneth is an Exchange Administrator who loves to share anything he finds interesting with the rest of the community. He also helps with the administration of the site.

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Exchange 2010 Personal Archiving was one of those features that helped the latest Exchange release hit the headlines. Today we explore how to employ this feature and take a look at the advancements to be included in SP1.

Automatically Moving E-mail to the Personal Archive

There are a number of steps involved in configuring Exchange to automatically move e-mails to the Personal Archive. These include:

  1. Creating retention tags
  2. Linking retention policy tags to a retention policy
  3. Associating a retention policy to a mailbox
  4. Applying a retention policy

Before diving into these steps, let's first look at the different types of tags available:

Retention Policy Tag - this tag applies to default mailbox folders such as Inbox or Sent Items (excluding Tasks and Calendar items, which are not supported at present).

Default Policy Tag - this tag will apply to all remaining items which are not affected by any other tags.

Personal Tag - these tags are used within Outlook and Outlook Web App by users to apply retention rules to non-default folders and individual e-mail messages.

The image below should help depict how all these retention policy tags can be applied to a common retention policy and then to a user's mailbox:

Retention Tags

In all three instances, you cannot use the Exchange Management Console to create the tags, and you must have been assigned appropriate permissions. Refer to for information about which permissions are required. Alternatively, just use the Administrator account on the Exchange server.

Now that we understand a bit better the different types of tags available, we'll look at some examples of how to create a retention tags from the Exchange Management Shell (there isn't an option to do so from the GUI yet).

Creating Retention Tags

The first thing to note before creating a retention tag is two important parameters; "AgeLimitForRetention" and "MoveToArchive".

AgeLimitForRetention - this is used to specify for how long Exchange should keep the e-mails in the current mailbox.

MoveToArchive - this is the retention action used to tell Exchange that it should move items to the Personal Archive.

In the examples below, we will create a default tag and a personal tag.

Default Policy Tag example - In the example below, the default policy tag will move all items that have not been associated with any other tag to the Personal Archive after 2 years:

New-RetentionPolicyTag "Ret-Pol-Tag-Default" -Type All -Comment "All unassociated items are moved to the Personal Archive after 2 years" -RetentionEnabled $true -AgeLimitForRetention 730 -RetentionAction MoveToArchive

Personal Tag example - In the example below, this personal tag will move items that have been marked as being associated with "Company A" to the Personal Archive after 1 year:

New-RetentionPolicyTag "Personal-Tag-CompanyA" -Type Personal -Comment "Company A items are moved to the Personal Archive after 1 year" -RetentionEnabled $true -AgeLimitForRetention 365 -RetentionAction MoveToArchive

Notice how I have not given an example of creating a system folder tag. This is because Exchange doesn't allow you to use the MoveToArchive retention action on a system folder tag. If you do so, you will be presented with the error below:

Unable to execute the task, reason: MoveToArchive can not be applied to a system folder tag. Please change the tag type
to default ('All') or Personal. Or choose a different RetentionAction.
+ CategoryInfo : InvalidArgument: (:) [New-RetentionPolicyTag], RetentionPolicyTagTaskException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : 28086EDF,Microsoft.Exchange.Management.SystemConfigurationTasks. NewRetentionPolicyTag

Linking Retention Policy Tags to a Retention Policy

Once you've created the required retention tags, you can proceed to creating a retention policy as outlined in the example below:

New-RetentionPolicy "Ret-Pol-Management" -RetentionPolicyTagLinks "Ret-Pol-Tag-Default","Personal-Tag-CompanyA"

This will create a new retention policy called "Ret-Pol-Management" that has the "Ret-Pol-Tag-Default" and "Personal-Tag-CompanyA" tags associated with it.

Associating a retention policy to a mailbox

Next, we associate the retention policy to a mailbox, as shown in the example below:

Set-Mailbox "Rachel Peach" -RetentionPolicy "Ret-Pol-Management"

Applying the retention policy

The final piece of the puzzle is to initiate the Managed Folder Assistant which takes care of applying the retention policy settings to the mailboxes. To do this, execute the following cmdlet from the Exchange Management Shell:


You can also schedule the Managed Folder Assitant to run at a pre-defined point in the future. This is shown in the example below:

Set-MailboxServer -Identity win2008srv01 -ManagedFolderAssistantSchedule "Mon.01:00-Mon.01:00"

This will set the Managed Folder Assitant to run every Monday at 01:00 in the morning until it completes, or until the following Monday at 01:00.

Personal Archive Enhancements in SP1

Exchange 2010 Service Pack 1 targeted for release in Q3 this year, is set to bring a number of welcome enhancements to the current capabilities of the Personal Archive feature.

First on the wish list for many administrators is the ability to view the personal archive from Outlook 2007 clients; currently this is only available via Outlook 2010 and the Outlook Web App. The second most interesting improvement in my eyes has to be the option to store a user's Personal Archive on a different mailbox database other than the one used for the primary mailbox (this will simplify backups and better performance).

In addition, there will also be server side tools that allow you to import e-mails into Exchange directly from PST files, and the ability to delegate access to someone's Personal Archive. Lastly, instead of having to rely only on creating and configuring retention tags and retention policies via the Exchange Management Shell, you will have the option to do so from the Exchange Management Console too.


In this article I have shown you what personal archives are and how to configure and manage them. We also looked at the improvements that service pack 1 will bring to the scene. The only downside I see to the Personal Archive feature is the cost. Since this feature only comes with an Enterprise license, you are looking at up to 5 times as much on the initial investment as opposed to a Standard license. This may force smaller organizations to look at alternative methods of archiving.

In my opinion, the Personal Archive feature introduced in Exchange 2010 is a step in the right direction when it comes to compliance and e-mail discovery regulations. It also helps reduce administrative overhead and increase productivity. All in all, I do like online archives and look forward to see how Microsoft expands this feature going forward.

User Comments - Page 1 of 1

Alexander Zammit 2 Aug 2010 02:36
The archive is different from your main mailbox because of the fact that the Exchange server deals with it differently. This is really what this article is all about.

If you prefer to have the archive out of Exchange you are not alone, your best option is to go for 3rd party solutions.
ExchangeGenie 2 Aug 2010 00:00
If your both are mailboxes and they will be reside on same server or either on different servers then what is different between mailbox and archive mailbox as both are mailboxes and i think as a mailbox both have same advantages and features.
Adam Toth 7 Jul 2010 05:30
PST's purpose was the speed: it is on the local computer. But Online Archive is the same as the Exchange Mailbox: both of them are on the server, and the network is never such fast than the local machine.
ProgentCT 2 Jul 2010 16:12
You don't need an enterprise server license for Archiving. Just the enterprise CAL (in addition to the standard cal). So, + 30/user.
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