Using NTBACKUP to recover from system failure in Exchange 2003

Disaster Recovery
Exchange Storage Group
Microsoft Exchange 2003
I’m working for small company and is documenting and testing a disaster recovery plan for all my servers. The problem I keep running into is finding a plan that works using NTBACKUP to restore my exchange 2003 running on Windows server to its original state if system completely failed. I done quite a bit of research and find out restore system sate with the drives configuration the same as previous using a similar or the same hardware but keep running into the same problem The restore does not restore the mail box or and storage groups. I would like to restore the entire system from backup and back online using NTBACKUP. Is this Possible? Thanks for your help

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Windows 2003 has a Built-In Backup program called NTBACKUP which you can use to backup your Windows environment and when you had installed Exchange 2003 on this system, NTBACKUP is enhanced to allow backups of your Exchange Server databases.

NTBACKUP features

* Local and remote backup of data
* Exchange Backup ready
* Scheduled Backups
* Volume Shadow Copy support
* Integration with Removable Storgae from Windows 2003

How do you enhance NTBACKUP with the capability to Backup Exchange 2003 without installing Exchange Server?

You must install the Exchange System Manager on the Backup Server to backup Exchange Server. It is possible to backup the Exchange Server without Exchange System Manager with the following trick:

Copy ESEBCLI2.DLL from the Exchange 2003 CD into the EXCHSRVR\BIN folder

Add the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\BackupRestore\DLLPaths – REG_EXPAND_SZ – esebcli2 – c:\exchsrvr\bin\esebcli2.dll.

After modifying the registry you can use NTBACKUP to backup the remote Exchange Server by clicking – Tools – Remote Store.
Online or Offline Backup?

It is possible to Backup Exchange Online or Offline. The recommended method is to Backup the Exchange Server Online. An online backup can backup the Exchange Server databases without the interruption of Exchange services.

An offline backup is a simple copy of the Exchange database files. The Exchange Information store must be stopped before NTBACKUP can be used to Backup your Information store.
Volume Shadow Copy

Beginning with Exchange 2003 it is possible to do Exchange 2003 Volume Shadows Copy backups with 3rd party Backup applications, but not with the built-in Windows Server 2003 NTBACKUP utility.

The Volume Shadow Copy service coordinates its communication between Requestors (backup applications), Writers (applications like Exchange Server 2003), and Providers (software or hardware components that create the shadow copies). To use the Volume Shadow Copy service to backup Exchange Server 2003, the backup program must include an Exchange Server 2003 aware Volume Shadow Copy service requestor. Because the NTBACKUP program has no such requestor, organizations must use third-party backup applications or implement Exchange 2003 SP1 in its organization.

Backup choices

* Minimum selection is the storage group (SG) to truncate log files
* VSC can create a Snapshot from multiple SG at the same time

Restore choices

* You can choose the entire storage group or a single database or multiple databases from a single SG
* Exchange 2003 RTM supports full backups and copy backups
* All databases must be mounted to purge logfiles


To start the Backup process click Start – Run – NTBACKUP.

During an online backup, the .edb, .stm, and .log files that comprise the Exchange store are being backed up and checked for corruption. The Exchange database store is checked for corruption at file system level. File system level damage may be caused by unreliable hardware, firmware, or disks. This check is done by verifying the checksums on each 4 KB block or page in the database. If there is a checksum failure, backup will terminate (Exchange will not allow you to back up an Exchange store with a wrong checksum in it). This is tpyical for the 1018 error.

Choose a place to save the Backup files.

It is possible to disable Volume Shadow Copy.

The Backup process will begin.

You can see the status of your Exchange Backups when you start the event viewer and select the application log.

Transaction Log files and NTBACKUP

Backup Type

What to Backup

Exchange Logs


Backs up selected files and marks each file as backed up

Backup Logfiles and delete Transaction Logfiles


Backs up selected files, but does not mark any as backed up

Backup Logfiles but doesn’t delete Transaction Logfiles


Backs up selected files only if they were created or modified since the previous backup

Backup only Logfiles but cannot be used with enabled circular logging


Backs up selected files only if they were created or modified since the previous backup, but does not mark them as backed up

Backup only Logfiles but cannot be used with enabled circular logging. Logfiles will not be deleted after Backup

The type of Backup depends on the configuration of circular logging. You can specify circular logging settings at the Exchange Storage Group level.


After a successful Backup it is possible to do an Exchange Server restore in case of emergency.

You must ensure that the Exchange database store to restore is not mounted. You can dismount a Exchange Database Store in the Exchange System Manager by right clicking the database.

Start the NTBACKUP program and select Restore and Manage Media.

In the following screen you must select the Server to restore the data, a temporary location for log and patch files (this directory must be empty).

Click Last Restore Set when this is the last restore device (this is also possible with ESEUTIL)

Click Mount Database after Restore if you want to automatically start the restored database.

Depending on the size of the database, the restore process can be very time consuming.

You can read the Logfile after an successful or unsuccessful Exchange restore.

The following screenshots shows the Exchange Server MDBDATA directory. As you can see, there are now more Exchange Server Transcation Logfiles except the actual logfile.


The Built-in Windows 2003 NTBACKUP program is suitable for small and medium sized Exchange organizations which don’t want to buy an expensive Third Party Backup program.

Discuss This Question: 4  Replies

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  • Wrobinson
    The answer above contains a lot of useful information but I think that we can get to a much quicker answer based on the problem as described. There is more to restoring a server from backup in a disaster recovery scenario, than simply restoring the system state. You also need to backup all of the files and folders on the server. This can be accomplished by performing a full or copy backup. To restore the Exchange Server, you need to backup the Exchange inforamtion store. This allows you to take an online backup, as opposed to having to stop and start the services to take an offline backup. This can be accomplished using NTBACKUP. Alternatively, it is possible to restore an Exchange Server only. This requires that Exchange Server be installed and the default database and log files removed. Then restore the Exchange information store to the new server; make sure it is at the same service pack and patch level and you should be off and running. You may need to perform some light maintenance and troubleshooting of the database but it can be done.
    5,625 pointsBadges:
  • Shestopalov
    What I remember from running a backup of the Exchange Server and database you cant do it unless the database is not running, or run a shadow copy, otherwise when you restore from backup your database will be corrupt. Am I correct? We currently use Symantec Auto Exec and it seems to work, but we havent tested the actual back ups yet.
    55 pointsBadges:
  • RonnieG
    @KarlG - plagiarist!
    10 pointsBadges:
  • Stevesz
    As I recall, you need to restore to a recovery group on the server. The restore of an Exchange DB is not as simple as just popping the databases in from a backup. (It is much easier now.) First thing is that the new server should be the same as the old server. The name needs to be the same, the patch level needs to be the same as the failed server. Good documentation will give you the information you need.. You'll need to run esutil to check the consistency of the recovered db. There are a couple of other tasks that need to be done prior to bringing the server up live. I seem to recall that the whole process is covered in the Exchange 2003 topic area on Microsoft's TechNet. It would be worth your while to check it out and follow that information.
    2,015 pointsBadges:

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