Friday, March 28, 2014

Advanced Topic - Exchange 2010 SP3 Installation Walkthrough & Solutions for Common Issues

If you are running Exchange 2010, Service Pack 3 has been available for quite some time and promises to include all the roll-up fixes released for SP2.  These updates address a wide variety of functionality issues for both users and Exchange administrators, as well as increasing process efficiency to reduce response times.  While SP3 was released in 2013, it is still not being pushed out automatically through Windows Updates so you will have to manually download and install the upgrade.  Note:  This upgrade affects the Active Directory schema, not just Exchange services.  Be sure you have solid backups of your data in place before attempting an upgrade of this magnitude.  Lastly, make sure you schedule the upgrade for a time when people are least likely to be connecting to their mailboxes as the Exchange services will be stopped during the process.  If you run into any issues that need to be fixed first, those will prolong the amount of time the mailboxes are unavailable so choosing an appropriate time for the upgrade is important.

If your Exchange roles exist all on one server, then you only need to install the upgrade once.  However, if your Exchange roles are broken across multiple servers, you will need to run the upgrade on each one individually and in a specific order to help prevent issues caused from upgrading.  Install the upgrade in the order listed below which is based on the role types:
  1. Client Access Servers 
  2. Hub and Edge Transport Servers
  3. Mailbox Servers
  4. Unified Messaging Servers

Once the service pack has been downloaded onto your Exchange server, extract the files somewhere easy to access and click the setup.exe file to start the upgrade process.  On the menu click the link to install the service pack.

Once the upgrade starts, click the radio button to accept the license and then click next to start the readiness checks.  The readiness checks verify the required prerequisites are met before running the upgrade.  

This readiness check process can take five to ten minutes.  If any of the prerequisites fail, those issues will have to be fixed before the upgrade can be installed.  Warnings in yellow will not prevent you from proceeding with the install.  Some common issues that will fail the prerequisites test:

Impending reboots from previous updates. If updates ran in the background and a reboot to finish them did not happen, this will fail the readiness check.  To fix this issue, reboot the Exchange server and restart the setup.exe process which will run the prerequisites test again.

Error contacting the Active Directory domain controller.  If you experience this error it will likely fail more than one of the prerequisites.  To fix this issue the primary or root domain controller needs to seize the schema master role.  To do this, follow the steps listed below:
  1. On the domain controller, open a command prompt and type "ntdsutil" and press enter.
  2. At the ntdsutil: prompt, type "roles" and press enter.
  3. At the fsmo maintenance: prompt, type "connections" and press enter.
  4. At the server connections: prompt, type "connect to server Domain Controller" and press enter.
  5. Still at the server connections: prompt type "quit" and press enter.
  6. Back at the fsmo maintenance: prompt, type "seize schema master" and press enter.
  7. Type "quit" and press enter twice to close the command prompt window.
  8. Go back to the Exchange server and restart the upgrade process.
Once the prerequisites have been satisfied, click the Upgrade button to install the service pack.  

Similar to the prerequisites section, the install section has many different areas to upgrade and each is listed in order.  As each section of the upgrade process is completed successfully, a green check and completed status will be listed next to that section.

A common failure during the upgrade process is an issue with the Discovery Search Mailbox.  This issue will fail the upgrade until you resolve the issue with this particular mailbox.  There are a few ways to fix this issue, but one of the easiest is to delete the mailbox out of Active Directory Users and Computers.  Search for "Discovery" and look for the following in the results:  "DiscoverSearchMailbox{D919BA05-46A6-415f-80AD-7E09334BB852}".  Right-click and select Delete to delete this mailbox.  Restart the upgrade process.  Once the upgrade process has completed, run the following command in Power Shell to recreate the user:  "setup /PrepareAD /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms".

If you choose to disable or delete the Discover Search Mailbox using the Exchange Power Shell, you will have to start all the Exchange services before opening Power Shell or you will not be able to connect to the Exchange server.  After disabling or deleting the mailbox, exit the Power Shell window and restart the upgrade process.  If you do not exit Power Shell the readiness checks prerequisites test will fail.  Note:  Once you restart the upgrade, the Exchange services will be stopped once again.  The process of starting and stopping the services can take some time and depends greatly on how many information stores you have running.

After the upgrade finishes, click Finish to close the wizard.  Perform the following to be sure your Exchange services are running as expected:

  1. Verify all Exchange services are running on all Exchange Servers.
  2. Open the Exchange Management Console and verify all information stores are mounted.
  3. Send a test email outside of your domain, and reply back to make sure send and receives functions are working properly.
Installing Exchange 2010 Service Pack 3 can be beneficial to your environment by solving some common issues.  However, make sure you have ample time to work through the upgrade and any potential issues that arise along the way before starting this upgrade.  Also, be sure you are comfortable with your Exchange environment and the process above before moving forward with an upgrade of this significance.  Lastly, always make sure you have a full backup before beginning any upgrade.  For information about how to backup Exchange into the cloud, visit our website.

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