How to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST using eDiscovery

In this article, I am going to show you how to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST files using a workaround which utilizes Office 365’s native in-place eDiscovery mechanism.

The reason why you may need to use it, is that Microsoft doesn’t provide any tools dedicated specifically for this purpose (like the New-MailboxExportRequest cmdlet in on-premises Exchange). In fact, if you want to export mailboxes to PST files to e.g. add a layer of extra protection to your Office 365 data or migrate away from Office 365, the eDiscovery mechanism is your only option, other than opening the mailboxes in Outlook and using its Import/Export functionality.

IMPORTANT: eDiscovery is supported in all Exchange Online plans and in selected Office 365 plans. For more see this TechNet article.

Note that this solution can also be used in Exchange 2016 and 2013.

System requirements:

  • 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and later versions
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5
  • Internet Explorer 10 and later versions, or Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, with the ClickOnce add-in installed

As already mentioned, this is a workaround, so most of the below steps are going to be related to setting up in-place eDiscovery. The PST export comes at the end (it is performed via a ClickOnce application).

1. After logging in to your Office 365 portal, access the Office 365 Admin center as shown in the below image.

Accessing the Office 365 admin center

2. In your Office 365 admin center, expand Admin centers and click Exchange.

Accessing Exchange admin center from the Office 365 admin center

3. In your Exchange admin center go to permissions and double click Discovery Management.

This and the next step are necessary, because you need to be a member of the Discovery Management role group to be able to use eDiscovery features.

Accessing Discovery Management role group's properties

4. In the Discovery Management role group properties window add your account to the Members list using the plus button and click Save.

Make sure that Legal Hold, Mailbox Import Export and Mailbox Search roles are added in the Roles section (if not, correct this using the plus button).

Editing Discovery Management role group's properties

Note: You can also do this via PowerShell using the New-ManagementRoleAssignment cmdlet (e.g. New-ManagementRoleAssignment -Role “Mailbox Import Export” -User “administrator”). The role names are: Mailbox Import Export, Mailbox Search and Legal Hold. To learn how to manage Office 365 using PowerShell see: How to connect and remotely manage Office 365 with PowerShell

5. Back in Exchange admin center, go to compliance management, click the plus button to start a new in-place eDiscovery & hold wizard, type in a name and click Next.

Starting a new in-place eDiscovery & hold wizard

6. If you want to export data from all mailboxes, select Search all mailboxes.

Or select specific mailboxes using the Specify mailboxes to search option, and then clicking the plus button. This will open a new window  – highlight the mailboxes you want to export data from, click add -> and OK.

Additionally, you can enable exporting from Public folders by checking the Search all public folders option (in the Public folders section at the bottom of the window)

Defining the scope of mailboxes that will be searched

7. The next step gives you several filtering options (unless you want to export all data, in which case select Include all content):

  • keywords/phrases (separated by logical operators: AND, OR, NEAR, NOT, etc.)
  • time ranges
  • From/To/CC/BCC fields
  • and message types (which can be defined in the window that opens when you click the select message types… button).

Defining the scope of content that will be searched

8. The final step of the wizard is related to in-place hold settings, which don’t concern us in this scenario. After clicking Finish a dialog box will show the progress of settings being saved. When it finishes click Close.

9. Now that you have set up an eDiscovery search, you can export its results to PST files. To do this, click the downward arrow button (marked red in image below).

10. A ClickOnce application called eDiscovery PST export tool will start. Point it to a folder where you want to save the PST files.

The eDiscovery PST export tool

Do not check the Enable deduplication option, unless you want the search results to be exported to a single PST file.

For more on unsearchable items see this TechNet article.

After you click Start, the tool will begin the export. When it completes, close the application.

Illegal email signature baner

After performing the export, you can delete the eDiscovery search in compliance management, in-place eDiscovery & hold by highlighting it and clicking the trash button.

Suggested reading

CodeTwo backup solutions for Office 365 and Exchange: Offline mailbox backups and recovery

CodeTwo migration software for Exchange and Office 365

How to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST using eDiscovery by

35 thoughts on “How to export Office 365 mailboxes to PST using eDiscovery

    • Hi Tim,
      Please make sure you have completed the step 4 and that your account has the Mailbox Import Export role assigned. In my case, it took about half an hour before the changes were applied. Sometimes, logging out and in the tenant again might help. If the icon is not there after a considerable amount of time, you might want to consider raising a support ticket with Microsoft.

  1. Hi,

    I’ve been trying to follow you guide but I’m stuck on step 4 : the + button for adding roles in discovery management is non existant on my admin console.
    Am i missing something ?

    • Hi Thomas,
      If you cannot add new roles to Discovery Management Role Group, please try creating a new Role Group. Then add the three Roles mentioned in step 4 to the new Role Group and continue with the article accordingly. You can also use PowerShell, just consult the Note below the step 4.

  2. Hi Adam,

    I am recieving this error below:

    Following errors were detected during this operation.
    * [10/30/2016 11:01:59 PM] System.Deployment.Application.InvalidDeploymentException (Zone)
    – Deployment and application do not have matching security zones.
    – Source: System.Deployment
    – Stack trace:
    at System.Deployment.Application.DownloadManager.DownloadApplicationManifest(AssemblyManifest deploymentManifest, String targetDir, Uri deploymentUri, IDownloadNotification notification, DownloadOptions options, Uri& appSourceUri, String& appManifestPath)
    at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.DownloadApplication(SubscriptionState subState, ActivationDescription actDesc, Int64 transactionId, TempDirectory& downloadTemp)
    at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.InstallApplication(SubscriptionState& subState, ActivationDescription actDesc)
    at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.PerformDeploymentActivation(Uri activationUri, Boolean isShortcut, String textualSubId, String deploymentProviderUrlFromExtension, BrowserSettings browserSettings, String& errorPageUrl)
    at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.ActivateDeploymentWorker(Object state)

    I am not exactly sure what I am seeing here. Have you seen this before?

    • Hi Jeff, Do I assume correctly that this happens when you try to run the PST export tool in Step 10? What browser are you using?

  3. Thumbs up for Stephens information.
    I was running it on chrome and it didnt work.
    I read this and moved over to Edge and BAM! It worked.

    Thanks :)

  4. The ediscovery tool or compliance center is NOT going to work if you have a large amount of data to export. For example, there is a 250GB download limit. In our organization, that is enough for less than one week of data.

    The export tool is terrible, if you have a large organization, searches are very buggy and take 30 minutes per search. Because the tool is so bad, we are trying to go to another archiving system. Guess what, using this same buggy tool is the solution we are given to export, and even a 100GB export will not work or have a ton of errors. That’s two weeks. We are down to trying to export one day. Tons of errors for 100GB.

    Do NOT listen when Microsoft says this will replace your current archiving system. It is a scam.

    P.S. Microsoft was useless.
    P.P.S. Godaddy was super helpful even though it wasn’t their problem.
    Good day! :)

    • Thats a great tip Stephen, thanks a lot.

      Was wondering why it wont work on Chrome, then read your comment.!!

    • Seriously? Make sure you blame Microsoft when you’re incapable of using Google. It took me <5 seconds to Google it and figure out that you can, indeed, use Google to export PST by using a ClickOnce Chrome extension.

  6. thanks Adam, works a treat however the mailbox I exported is massive so it split it into multiple 10Gig pst files.

    Is there a way to consolidate them all into one PST?

  7. In my account I cannot complete Step 4 because there is no plus and minus buttons to add new Roles. What should I do?

  8. I was able to successfully export using an administrative account that had no mailbox or license. I did have to log off and back on after adding the permissions to the account for the export option to appear. I also did have to add the “Mailbox Import Export” permission to the Discovery Management Role manually.

  9. @Adam; the account you use to do the export alse needs to have an active mailbox. If this is an administrator account without an active mailbox temporarily assign a license to this account.

  10. Thanks “Adam the 32-bit Aardvark”! I really appreciate you posting this!

    One minor comment: I was not able to add the Mailbox Import Export role but found that if i ticked the box to “Search All Public folders” when creating the eDiscovery it then let me do the save to PST option anyway.

    If i did not check the box for “Search All Public folders” the download button (arrow) would not show up.

    • Hi Jason,

      Did you get any errors when you tried to add the Mailbox Import Export role?

      Best regards,

  11. It takes some time for the system to update with a new role. It also helps to log out and completely close the browser.

    At the ClickOnce application step it did not work in Chrome but the obvious solution is to open it from Internet Explorer.

    Thanks so much for these detailed instructions!

    • Hi David,

      In step 4, please check if all 3 roles I talk about are included.

      Best regards,

    • I have the same problem, no Download link/symbol is showing. YES I ensured all 3 roles are checked in Step 4 also… Tips?

    • Hey David,

      I had this same issue while i was logged in as the admin.
      I couldn’t even add the admin to the member list in step 4.

      Not sure if this is the solution, but this was a workaround that i did.
      I created a new user and temporarily assigned it a license.
      Gave that user admin rights and then added him to the list in step 4.

      Afterwards, i signed out of my admin account and signed in with the new user i created. Went to that Ediscovery screen and now i was able to see the Download button. Oh, and DONT FORGET to run this on IE. It doesnt work on chrome as Stephen explained.

    • I had this same issue while i was logged in as the admin.
      I couldn’t even add the admin to the member list in step 4.

      Hi Erwn,

      Can you provide more details on how this issue manifested itself?

      Best regards,

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