Oops! Was it Mr. Butterfingers who keeps mistakenly hitting ‘delete’? Or an Outlook email sync to a mobile device that axed a few emails? Or was there an outage that cut access to Microsoft Outlook email for a couple of hours? How can you as the IT administrator recover Outlook emails or restore access? Here are step-by-step pointers to restore deleted emails in Microsoft Outlook (Microsoft 365). Particularly useful if you don’t have a backup at hand.
Restore Deleted Emails in Microsoft Outlook from the Deleted Items Folder
- Sign in to your Microsoft Outlook Web App.
- Go to the Deleted Items or Trash folder
- Right-click the item you want to recover
- Select Move > Inbox to restore the file.
If the Deleted Items folder is emptied by the user, check the Recoverable Items folder.
Restore Deleted Emails in Microsoft Outlook from the Recoverable Items Folder
If you can’t find the item in your Deleted Items folder, check the Recoverable Items folder.
- Sign in to your Outlook Web App.
- Go to the Deleted Items or Trash folder
- Select the Recover Deleted Items option.
- Select the item you want to recover. Click “Recover” to restore the file.
- Wondering why they aren’t in your Inbox? Items restored from the Recoverable Items folder are moved to the Deleted Items folder, and not directly to the Inbox.
Restore Deleted Emails in Microsoft Outlook via eDiscovery
If you have setup Litigation Hold on Outlook Mailbox items, you can recover them from here. The data can be downloaded in the PST format. However, the folder structure is lost.
- Log in to your Microsoft 365 account and go to the Exchange Admin Center (you have to be part of the eDiscovery Manager role group). Use the Content Search eDiscovery tool to search and find emails from mailboxes or public folders of Exchange Online.
- On locating the mailbox export this data to PST files.
Next Time Around: Setup Microsoft Outlook Retention Policies
Here are some helpful Microsoft Outlook Retention policies to improve the recoverability of mail.
Set Litigation Hold for Mailbox Items
Litigation Hold allows you to set a time period during which deleted items cannot be purged. Thus for a litigation hold item, even if a user deletes them from Trash, the administrator can restore the items. It is useful for sensitive data, but can only be set for individual items.
Setup Mailbox Retention Policies
Microsoft has formulated data retention, deletion, and destruction policies. Setting retention policies for mailboxes enable you to “retain” emails after a certain period. As with Litigation Hold, this prevents users from permanently deleting emails if such policies are in action. And similarly, it cannot be used for bulk mailboxes. Here are the step-wise instructions and video to setup an Office 365 retention policy
How to Setup a Microsoft Office 365 Retention Policy? (Via the Compliance Center)Step-wise instructions to configure a Microsoft Office 365 Retention Label and Policy
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Microsoft Outlook Email is at the core of employees’ communication and business processes. Loss of even a single essential email due to mistaken deletions, phishing scams, outages, sync errors, or ransomware, can have damaging consequences. Microsoft itself recommends third-party backup, “If you want to support recovering messages beyond 30 days, you would need to use a 3rd party service for the backup…Point in time restoration of mailbox items is out of scope for the Exchange Online service.”
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