Back to 10/96 Enterprise Windows: Center of the Universe
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to 10/96 Enterprise Windows: Windows NT

10/96 Enterprise Windows: Enterprise Administrator

I Survived an E-Mail Nightmare…
Exchange Server compensated for my mistakes.

By Tom Henderson

I was all set to write a column about Electronics Forms Designer, the groupware component of Microsoft Exchange Server, when tragedy struck. I accidentally killed my corporate e-mail server-or at least I thought I did.

Here's what happened. Our Exchange system was a bit slow on its current server, so I attempted to move the hard disk containing Exchange Server to a faster server. I backed up Exchange Server, itself a primary domain controller (PDC), onto another PDC using an old version of backup software. I won't reveal the backup vendor's name. Let's just say that based on my experience, I now recommend you use only backup products that have earned the "Designed for Microsoft BackOffice" logo.

Now, to return to my backup nightmare. For some mysterious reason, the hard disk failed in the new computer. I quickly flattened the hard disk and tried to restore from backup-only to discover that the users were gone. My stomach dropped. I was terrified.

I re-installed Exchange and NT, bringing NT up to the necessary build level, which is at least 1057. Next, I populated Exchange with all the mail users from our other messaging server, an MS Mail system running on NetWare. During this process, user accounts were added by Exchange to the NT User Information base.

With help from Microsoft's technical support, I recovered the mail, the folders and the rest of Exchange's Information Store (a structured repository for storing information created by users) from the backup, placing them on the newly generated Exchange server. But there was a remaining problem for a handful of road warriors, including me, who store mail on local desktops. First, I couldn't enter Exchange. Following a suggestion from a Microsoft tech support staffer, I deleted my Exchange client user profile by right-clicking on the desktop's Inbox icon, going to Properties/ Show Profiles and deleting all the profiles. Next, I created a new profile by clicking on Add to fix the problem. At this point, I could get new mail, but my old mail appeared to be gone because Exchange Server refused to acknowledge my offline storage file, EXCHANGE.OST.

Here's why: When a new Exchange user is added to NT Server, it generates a correlating Security Identification number (SID). Since the new server SID didn't match the SID in my offline storage file, I couldn't retrieve my old mail.

Desperate for a workaround, I spoke with Patty Morre of Microsoft's support organization in Charlotte, N.C. She asked me two critical questions: "Do you still have an intact MAILBOX.PST file living somewhere on your PC? If so, is its date stamp older than the Exchange Server rebuild?"

After some checking, I answered yes to both questions.

She breathed a sigh of relief, then walked me through the following steps. First, I went into Exchange Client in Windows 95 and then to Tools/Options. Next, I clicked on the Delivery tab and chose Personal Folders in the "Deliver new mail to the following location" box. Exchange asked me where the folder was located. I pointed to my 7.9MB MAILBOX.PST file, and when I clicked on OK, my mail was back. The nightmare was over, and I felt lucky, but sheepish.

Backup blunder

Click Here to see a 30.6 KB bitmap image of artwork which goes with this article, entitled:
Help Desk Form

Clearly, I made some serious mistakes during the backup process. For one, I failed to verify that the backup procedure was working properly. Also, I put mail on a PDC, a practice I recommended in this column last month. Now I realize that's not the best advice. Don't do it! Instead, put Exchange on a backup domain controller or on a non-controller NT Server. Also, have a backup domain controller available to restore users. My final mistake was to freak out.

Now that I've recovered my e-mail, I'm ready to discuss Electronic Forms Designer (EFD), which is the foundation for Exchange Server's groupware capabilities.

EFD resides on the Exchange Server distribution CD, and works under Windows 3.1x, 95 or NT. Visual Basic is included to compile the forms. If you're not familiar with compilers, you can use the sample forms or Wizards that are included with EFD.

EFD can help you make two types of forms. The first supports a one-shot information transfer to a user or group of users. The second offers ongoing communications, such as a public post. When EFD is invoked, it triggers a Forms Designer/Form Template Wizard. After answering several questions, a Designer template, toolbar and program bar appear. Custom fields and drop boxes are available, as are mail-oriented fields such as From, To, Date, Subject, Cc and Bcc. Fields within the form can be hidden, locked or required if desired.

A form is very malleable. It can be resized, and can contain objects such as pictures or logos. One nagging weakness, however, is the lack of ruler guides for positioning objects in the form. Another missing component is data type checking. For instance, when a number is placed in a text field, the format of the data isn't checked. Checking requires additional tools such as Visual Basic Professional. VB Pro can also let you link a form to a client or server database because it supports ODBC (Open Database Connectivity).

Once the form has the desired layout and objects, it's time to install it. The Installation routine compiles the completed form into a Visual Basic executable. Once compiled, the form can be distributed as a Public Folder item, or to individuals or groups, depending on its intended purpose. The form can also be placed in public storage via Exchange's Public Folder store.

EFD includes about two dozen generic forms, which are eminently useful if you're not a programmer. There are sample pictures, logos, fields and more that you can add to a generic form. Tabs can be placed in the form to layer information onto a single screen. Frames can also be created; fields, captions and other objects can go within the frame. If you drag the frame, the corresponding objects will move, too. As you design your forms, remember to keep them simple and embed plenty of user help.

Win95 power tips

Many of you have asked where to find the Winsock protocol changer for Win95. It should be available at by the time you read this. This $15 shareware is a bargain if you need to swap out Winsocks.

In a related development, Microsoft has posted a new version of the Win95 kernel that fixes a problem with Winsock memory leaks. The fix is found on the Microsoft Web site at and is a must-have for heavy TCP/IP users. If you use TCP/IP as your sole network transport, you'll notice that application faults and slowdowns increase toward the end of the day. The fix replaces KERNEL32.DLL with one that won't slowly gnaw away at available memory.

While you're visiting Microsoft's Web site, get the latest Service Packs, PowerToys and KernelToys for Win95. Power-Toys, for instance, lets you change menu speed, mouse sensitivity, window animation and document templates. You can find PowerToys at Despite the playful name, the Toys are actually very useful applications. Be aware that Microsoft doesn't offer technical support for them, because the PowerToys have never been officially released. (See the Explore Your Options in this issue.)

Next month: NT 4.0 tips (assuming I don't experience another e-mail nightmare in the next few weeks). In the meantime, good luck with your forms.

Contributing Editor Tom Henderson is vice president of engineering for Indianapolis-based Unitel. Contact Tom in the "Enterprise Administrator" topic of WINDOWS Magazine's areas on America Online and CompuServe. Click Here to find the e-mail IDs for our editors, who can put you in touch with this author.

Your message will be backed up religiously.

Back to 10/96 Enterprise Windows: Center of the Universe
Up to Table of Contents
Ahead to 10/96 Enterprise Windows: Windows NT