Exporting Office 365 mailboxes to PST files using e-Discovery & Content Search

Note: Starting July 1, 2017, “Content Search” will replace e-Discovery searches currently performed within the “Exchange Admin Center”.

There may come a time where you may need to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST files. For instance, if you want to free up an Office 365 license assigned to an inactive mailbox but need to preserve the contents of the mailbox, exporting an Office 365 mailbox to a PST may be the solution for you. Also, if you are migrating mailboxes from one Office 365 tenant to another Office 365 tenant, exporting to PST may be a good migration solution since Office 365 does allow importing of PST files into Office 365 accounts.

Unfortunately, Office 365 does not currently provide an easy way to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST files. However, you can use Office 365’s e-Discovery feature and “Content Search” as a workaround to export mailboxes to PST files.

Before getting started, it is highly recommended that you use Internet Explorer 11.x (Windows 7) or Microsoft Edge (Windows 10) when using “Content Search”. During the process, you may be required to install the Microsoft e-Discovery Export Tool which may not run/install properly if you are using other web browsers (ex: Firefox, Chrome).

  • To get started, login to the Microsoft Office 365 Portal/Dashboard – http://login.microsoftonline.com – using your Office 365 tenant Administrator account.
  • In the menu bar on the left, go down to “Admin centers” then “Security & Compliance”
  • Go to “Permissions”. Double-click on “Organization Management”. Under “Members”, add the Office 365 tenant Administrator account then click “Save”
  • Double-click on “e-Discovery Manager”. Under “e-Discovery Manager”, add the Office 365 tenant Administrator account then click “Save”. You many need to wait for these permissions to propagate across Microsoft’s Office 365 servers. If the permissions have not propagated across the Office 365 servers, you will receive permission errors when you attempt to export the PST files.
  • Go to “Search & investigation” then select “Content Search”. Click the “+” button to create a new search.
  • In the “Name” field, provide a name for your content search (ex: Mailbox Name PST Export)
  • Under “Where do you want us to look”, select “Choose specific mailboxes to search” then click the “+” button to lookup the mailbox you want to export. If the Office 365 mailboxes within your Office 365 tenant do not populate in the list, perform a search for the mailbox you want to export and add the appropriate mailbox to the list. After adding the mailbox, click “Next”
  • Click “Search” to begin the content search
  • When the content search is complete, locate “Export results to a computer” on the right-hand side of the window then click “Start Export”
  • In the “Export search results” window, select the desired export criteria then click “Start Export”.
  • When the export is complete, click on “Download exported results” under “Export results to a computer”
  • In the “Export search results” window, copy the “Export key” to the clipboard. The export key will be required by the Microsoft e-Discovery Export Tool. You may be asked to install this tool if it is not already installed on your computer.
  • Click “Download Results”
  • When the “e-Discovery Export Tool” window appears, paste the export key, which you saved earlier to the clipboard, into the field for “Paste the export key that will be used to connect to the source:” then browse for and select the location where you want the PST file exported to. Once you have selected your export location, click “Start” to begin the export.
  • The e-Discovery Export Tool will export the PST file along with several log files into a folder located in the selected location. The export may take some time depending on the size of the mailbox. When the export is complete, click “Close” to close out of the e-Discovery Export Tool window.
  • Go to the location where you selected to have the PST file exported to. Locate the PST file within the export folder. Use Microsoft Outlook to open and verify the contents of the PST file. If you are using this PST file to import into another Office 365 tenant, you may need to scrub the additional folders included as part of the PST export.
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