How to save yourself after accidentally deleting an email folder on your iPhone

In the tradition of ‘physician, heal thyself’, I’ll come clean and confess to a slight user error with my iPhone. I will also let you in on the secret of how I recovered from it, which you may also be able to do WITHOUT calling your IT department.

So, this iPhone thing is all new to me. I’m usually an early adopter, but my HTC phone was still under contract when the first iPhone came out and then I procrastinated about the iPhone vs Windows Phone debate so I managed to launch straight into a 4S.  Setting it up was rather straighforward – until I tried to add another email account.  Said second email account is on a server that isn’t mine, and all I had was a wedmail address & the login details.  I can figure this out, surely.

Well, partway through, I got confused. See, if you add a New Mailbox into an existing account, that New Mailbox has an icon that makes it look just like a folder. And if you already have an existing folder with exactly the same name, and you decide to delete the New Mailbox cause you’ve put it in the wrong place, you may accidentally delete your folder. Even when it warns you that you are deleting the contents too, you click ok, cause you think you are deleting the new, incorrect Mailbox. Ooops.

If that whole last paragraph lost you completely – ignore it.  Pretend for a moment that you’ve just managed to accidentally delete an entire folder out of your email account including it’s contents, on your iPhone.  Ooops.

Having such great connectivity meant that my iPhone had already told my actual mailbox on our Microsoft Exchange email server that yes, I really did want to delete that folder and all of it’s contents.  Gulp.  However, my saving grace was my Microsoft Outlook offline storage file (OST).  Sitting dormant on my powered-off laptop, this little gem of a file had not talked to my server yet and had no idea that I wanted to delete that folder. And all of it’s contents.  So, here’s the magic trick:

I started up my laptop with it connected to the LAN and I logged in.  (It was quicker to do this connected than to wait for the laptop to realise it had no network and had to used my local info.)   I then DISABLED my Wi-Fi connection and UNPLUGGED my LAN cable.  The I started Outlook.  Outlook was sad that it had no connection to the Exchange server, but it happily displayed the cached, offline copy of my mailfile, including my deleted folder. And all of it’s contents.  #joy!

In Outlook, I then made a COPY of this folder (and it’s contents) to another location within my mailfile and gave it a new name.  Then I plugged in my LAN cable.

Outlook greeted the Exchange server, received the request to delete the orginal folder and sent back a request to please create a new folder in a new location with this new name and a copy of all of the contents, which is just what I had done when my Outlook client was disconnected.  Ta da!!

The folder still lives and so does it’s contents.

Now, don’t roll your eyes at me if you’re a seasoned Exchange Administrator because I’ve just posted something that’s sooo 1997.  This workaround did the trick nicely, is fairly straightforward to do, and might help somebody someday.  Unless they start their Outlook client when they are connected to the network and synchronise the deletion first. That would be bad. Then they might need to call their IT department.


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