Home > Uncategorized > Migrating Exchange 2003 to 2007 mailboxes on the same server

Migrating Exchange 2003 to 2007 mailboxes on the same server


Recently, I had the problem of needing to migrate my old high school’s Exchange 2003 mailboxes over to Exchange 2007. I had promised them that no mail would be lost, so wiping the server and just installing Exchange 2007 wasn’t an option. If the school had more servers, the process would have been pretty straightforward, as the 2007 server would slot into the existing Exchange organization, and I could have moved the mailboxes over. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so simple.

The school only has 2 servers, and only 1 of them is 64-bit capable. This was the server that had run Exchange 2003. The other server would just run Windows Server 2008 to do Active Directory, DHCP, DNS and so on. The decision was made not to do inplace upgrades, and we also chose to use a new clean internal domain name, thus clearing out all the cruft that had accumulated over the years.

Searching the net told me that Exchange 2007 SP1 could import and export PST files, which would be perfect for migrating the mailboxes over. I duly set up a management workstation with Windows 7 and Office 2007, as well as the Exchange management tools. Previously that week, I had extracted all the mailboxes from Exchange 2003 using the ExMerge tool. I now fired up the Exchange Management Shell, typed in the commands and expected to see results. Not so.

Every time I tried to import a PST file, I would get an error message. Being very generic, searching the net yielded only limited results. I tired all sorts of voodoo to get the import going, to no avail. I was getting desperate and running out of time, when I happened to stumble upon a solution. I had read that some people running Exchange 2010 were having similar problems exporting and importing PST files, and they had Outlook 2010 on those machines. That caused me to think for a moment.

On that hunch, I removed Outlook 2007 from the management workstation and installed Outlook 2003. Tried importing again, only to be told that I needed Service Pack 2 or above. Cue another large download of Office 2003 SP3. Eventually, after that was applied, I tried again. Eureka, all of a sudden mail was being imported successfully.

If my theory is right, then the problem relates to the Exchange-Outlook MAPI relationship. The mailboxes I extracted were on Exchange 2003, and ExMerge is a tool from that time frame. Outlook 2003 was the matching version. It seems that in order to import to Exchange 2007, you need the version of Outlook that matches the Exchange version you had. I haven’t yet tested this, but I assume that if you export from Exchange 2007, you need to have Outlook 2007 on the management workstation, as it the matching Outlook version to Exchange 2007.

The end result of all this toil is that the school now has a much more stable version of Exchange, with a stable Server 2008 base underneath. No longer will the mail store dismount as it hits the 18GB limit of Exchange 2003 Standard, and the mail system now should be able to last a good few years now.

Hopefully, this post can spare someone else developing a splitting headache and grey hairs trying to do the same thing I did.

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