Using OWA 2003 to Recover Deleted Items

Posted on January 8, 2009 by Daniel Petri in Exchange Server with 0 Comments

Can I recover deleted items through Outlook Web Access (OWA) in Exchange 2003? Can I recover hard-deleted items through OWA?

Of course you can. Deleted items that are deleted via OWA or the regular Outlook client can be easily recovered, as long as the items that were deleted we not purged from the Exchange store.

See Using Outlook 2003 to Recover Deleted Items for more info.

Look out for the surprise tip at the bottom of this article!

Set retention times

First, lets see how long an item is kept in the store after a user deletes it:

  1. On your Exchange server open Exchange System Manager (ESM) and navigate to your server object.
  2. Right-click the server object and select Properties.

  1. In the Limits tab notice the value in the “Keep Deleted Items” box.

In our case it’s 7 days. This means that a user has 7 days to recover his or her deleted items. After that – it’s restore from media time!

Note that the higher you make this value, the bigger the store gets, as deleted items take a longer time to be purged from the store.

Note: Purging deleted items from the store does NOT make the store any smaller. For that you need to Defragment Exchange 2000/2003 Server Databases Offline.

Use OWA to recover deleted items

The good news is that you can recover deleted items both from the regular Outlook client and from OWA.

In order to recover a deleted item via OWA we need to first open OWA (Duh). Then, click on the Deleted Items folder.

Click on the Recover Deleted Items icon (which looks like the recycle bin, lookout not to click on the left icon – that’ll empty your deleted items folder).

You’ll get a new window, where you’ll be able to browse to the item(s) you want to recover, and then press the Recover button (sorry Scot, Ben, Steve and Benjamin…).

The recovered items will return to the Deleted Items folder, where you can read, reply or move to their original location.

Now, for the bonus trick:

How do I recover hard-deleted items via OWA?

This is a nice tip I once found.

Hard-deleted items are items that have been deleted by using SHIFT+DEL, thus the item avoided landing in the Deleted Items folder, and because of that, it cannot be simply recovered.

There is a registry hack for this to work on Outlook (MS KB 178630), but with OWA you don’t need to prepare anything. Even if I regularly use Outlook, knowing this trick has helped me many times.



To show you the trick we will first hard-delete an item from the user’s Inbox by clicking on the item and pressing SHIFT+DEL on the keyboard. You will be prompted to accept the action. Do so.

Now, lets see if we can normally recover this item.

No, the Recover Deleted Items folder is empty.

Now, instead of using the regular method, enter the following URL in OWA’s address bar (or click CTRL+O):

If the item was hard-deleted from the Calendar, you should have placed calendar in the URL instead of inbox, and so on.

As you can clearly see, the Inbox has its own Recover Deleted Items folder, and so does each and every folder in the user’s mailbox.

Now isn’t this a nice one?

Related articles

You may find these related articles of interest to you:


How to use Exchange Server 5.5 or Exchange 2000 Server to recover items that are not first transferred to the Deleted Items folder in Outlook – 178630

How to recover items that have been hard deleted in Outlook