I hope this never happens to you, but if you ever receive a legal discovery request, you may find this post useful. One of my IT friends shared this story of when he had to do an exchange discovery for a set of keyword combinations on historical email communications that he thought might have happened 2 years ago. This kind of discovery would be a real challenge for a lot of IT organizations.

Houston, we have a problem!

Since the company was using Exchange 2010, my IT pal googled for some advice and found an article on TechEd. The article advised him to use a Multi-Mailbox Search: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd335072(v=exchg.141).aspx

However, you usually don’t have an Exchange server with a 1-to-2-year-old database readily available. A small company with 50 employees can create up to several hundred emails per working day. Once the emails have been sent, they’re saved on servers and, later, they’re permanently deleted from your Exchange (moved to disks, tapes or the cloud for long-term archival).

This means you need to roll up your sleeves and first find the old backup. Then, you either need to build a whole environment for your new-old Exchange server (isolated from your production), or use an e-discovery tool to search for emails within the Exchange database. By the way, some of those e-discovery tools are not cheap; get ready to part with good money, per mailbox.

Get a free tool

To make a long story short, my IT guy successfully took care of this inquiry by using an e-discovery tool called Veeam Explorer for Exchange, which can search the Exchange .EDB file and is completely FREE ($0 USD).

Here is how it works (super easy!):

1. Download and install

Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange (VEX) is free and available as a stand-alone utility in all Veeam Backup & Replication editions, including Veeam Backup Free Edition. So, your first step is to download Veeam Backup Free Edition and the rest is really simple. Here is the download URL:


You can install VEX on either a physical or virtual machine, it doesn’t matter. The installation process is straightforward and looks like “Next, Next, Next, Done.” When the prompt during the installation asks you for a license, you can just continue the process without a license.

Veeam Explorer for Exchange is available as an additional component of Veeam Backup Free Edition after its installation.

Veeam Explorer for Exchange is available as an additional component of Veeam Backup Free Edition after its installation.

Pic. 1. Veeam Explorer for Exchange is available as an additional component of Veeam Backup Free Edition after its installation.

2. Extract the EDB file from the backup and open it with VEX.

Important: When you extract the .EDB file from your backup, don’t forget to put ESE.DLL at the same location. This file is used to query the Microsoft Exchange database (.EDB) and it’s included in the Microsoft Exchange distribution. You’ll find it easily on the installation disk by searching for “ese.dll” and copying it to the Veeam server. And remember, you can always refer to the below help article for :


To open the .EDB file, you’ll need to point the location of ESE.DLL in the VEX options menu. After that’s done, you can add a mailbox store by pressing the Add Store button on the ribbon.

Extract ESE.DLL and copy it to the Veeam server.

Pic. 2. Extract ESE.DLL and copy it to the Veeam server.

Point Veeam Explorer for Exchange to the database file.

Point Veeam Explorer for Exchange to the database file.

Pic. 3. Point Veeam Explorer for Exchange to the database file.

  1. Open Veeam Backup Free Edition, go to the main menu, select Options and specify the path to the ESE.dll file.
  2. Point Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange to the .EDB file (in the Veeam Backup browser double-click the .EDB file)
  3. After Veeam opens your .EDB database in Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange, you can browse and search for the items you need.

You can now start your search with Advanced Find and search for emails with specific creation dates, text in to, CC, BCC and more.

Advanced search in Microsoft Exchange database.

Pic. 4. Advanced search in Microsoft Exchange database.

Because Veeam Explorer for Exchange is an entirely free tool, it doesn’t require any licenses for e-discovery. Veeam Explorer for Exchange uses standard APIs when working with the database. Supported versions include Microsoft Exchange 2010 and 2013.

People, companies and non-profits use Veeam Explorer for Exchange in a lot of different use scenarios. For those wishing to know more, I’ve listed a couple of the scenarios below:

  • Legal discovery: Some countries’ require that records about money, people and data specific to the company should be retained for 3 years. Others require 5, 10 or even 15 years. To be able to meet your countries’ mandatory court or compliance requirements, sysadmins should consider legal department requests to find messages or attached files for a selected user by specific search criteria as top priority requests.
  • Internal investigations: In addition to the legal department, any manager in the company can ask sysadmins to find a message in the Exchange database for internal investigation.


Veeam Explorer for Exchange fully supports Microsoft Exchange search and query syntax. For example, you can search within the selected Exchange mailbox:


John AND Green

“John Green”

from:”John Green”

hasattachment: yes

These search criteria examples are similar to those used in Microsoft Outlook 2010. Read more here: How to narrow the search criteria for better searches in Outlook


All in all, it seems like some of the Veeam features can be easily used in non-virtualized environments, especially in cases of Exchange e-discovery. What about you? How do you use Veeam? Feel free to leave your comment below, reach me via email or follow Veeam on Twitter.

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  • Sarah Bright

    Please include a ese.dll extension file
    and a .edb file and provide me step-by-step instructions to find items.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Polina Vasileva

      Hi Sarah,
      Just use search options to find these files on your machine. If the ese.dll is missing, you can simply download it from the web.

  • riyan

    Thank you so so so much. This guide helped me recover my mailboxes, because unfortunately my exchange database was corrupted last month and a mailbox sent items were missing when i tried to restore. And i did kept the full backup of Exchange Database before formatting my server. And now i tried my luck on restoring mailboxes, and VOILA, it worked really good and i was able to export about 24 GB mailboxes within a span of 10 minutes. Best of all, its FREE. It looked too good to be true when i was looking at this guide, but trust me guys, this software is a life saver. Installation part takes about 10 to 20 minutes, not an issue BTW. And, i did this whole process in my laptop. I was wondering if i need to install this software on my Sever, but thankfully it works on client windows as well. Thank you Veeam for giving me this software.