Migrating Public Folder Contacts from Exchange 2003 to Office365 / Importing CSV Contacts into Office365 Public Folders

Migrating Public Folder Contacts from Exchange 2003 to Office365 / Importing CSV Contacts into Office365 Public Folders

A really long title for a post! But essentially we’re killing two birds with one stone here. We recently came across this problem, and were pulling our hair out for hours over it, but now have a simple solution and hopefully one that you can use too.

We had a case with a client running Exchange 2003 and wishing to move to Office365. They used public folders and there’s no officially supported way to migrate them to Office365. Luckily there were only contacts in the public folders so this is all we had to migrate. The process is actually quite simple in the end and can be done with any desktop running Outlook 2013 or 2016 (haven’t tested with 2010). Essentially it involves backing up the public folder to a PST from Exchange 2003 using, for instance, Office 2003 and then opening it as a data file and running a drag drop operation. For importing CSV contacts, this skips a few steps, so read ahead.

  1. Grab an Outlook client that’s connected to the old Exchange 2003 server you want to migrate public folder contact items from
  2. File -> Export and choose to a .pst file. Choose the public folder. Save it somewhere safe and stick it on a flash drive or network share to take to a PC running a more recent version of Office
  3. Open up the data file within Outlook 2013 / 2016 of the backup you took. If you’re coming from Exchange 2003, skip the next step.
  4. At this point, if you’re just merely wishing to import CSV contacts into the Public Folder, ensure that you have your CSV file setup correctly from whatever piece of software you wish to import from. Perhaps run an export of some contacts from Outlook to CSV to see the column format. Import them into a new Contact folder item you have created in Outlook
  5. Create the contact type folder on Office365 in your folder view
    Exchange 2003 Public Folders Office365
  6. Now all you need to do is go into the public folder contacts backup you made, or the place you imported your CSV contacts, select all and then drag and drop into the new folder in the folder pane, it’s that simple!

Note: If you’re dropping in some extra contacts, and there’s duplicates, we’ve found that the ‘Update All’ feature of Outlook doesn’t work well here. It seems to grind to a halt. Probably best to just add the duplicates and sort the rest out manually.

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