Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Installation

Introduction to  Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Installation

It is more difficult to install Exchange 2003 than any other Microsoft product.  A list, as in shopping list, will not be good enough; if you want to win the battle to install Exchange 2003, what you need is a plan, as in a general plotting a military campaign.

Here follows advice from an independent consultant to help you install Exchange 2003.

Topics for Exchange Server 2003 Installation


Windows 2003’s role in the Exchange 2003 installation

Before breaking out the Exchange CDs and actually installing Exchange 2003, you must decide your strategy and tactics.  If you have not done this see (Check Exchange Migration Strategy here)

You may already realise that Exchange 2003 needs to extend the Active Directory schema.  This makes sense when you realize that a mailbox is now an attribute of the user, hence the user object needs extra attributes which translate to tabs in the user property sheets.  Best to install Exchange 2003 in an Windows Server 2003 domain, rather than a Windows 2000 domain. (Check Exchange Compatibility here)

If you are migrating from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange Server 2003, then remember that the old Exchange 5.5 has its own directory database (Dir.edb).  As a pre-requisite to installing Exchange 2003, this account information must be transferred to Windows 2003’s Active Directory.  Incidentally, Exchange 2003 also relies on Windows 2003 for IIS, account security, Event Viewer and the SMTP service.

Exchange 2003 DependenciesInstall Exchange Server 2003 Dependencies

Exchange Server 2003 Requires the following Windows 200x services

  • .NET Framework
  •  ASP.NET
  •  Internet Information Services (IIS)
  •  World Wide Web Publishing Service
  •  Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) service
  •  Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) service

For security reasons in Windows 2003 IIS is locked down, so not only make sure that you install the services, but also that the corresponding services are set to Automatic.  Finally start the service.

Beware – the two Editions of Exchange 2003

Just like its predecessors, Exchange 2003 comes in two editions.  Always choose the Enterprise edition because it has no limit on the mail Store database.  The standard edition should come with a warning that the 16 GB limit will be insufficient for all but the smallest organization.

As a consultant, I have had several assignments helping people when they reach the 16 GB limit.  Whilst each job gave me work, I had this feeling that the problem should have been avoided, that Microsoft should place a warning on that Standard Edition – ‘ Beware you will be in trouble when you hit the 16 GB store limit ‘.

The Enterprise edition also supports multiple mailbox stores which means that you can have different backup strategies for different users.  Naturally, you would need the Enterprise version of Exchange and Windows if you wished to create a cluster of Exchange servers.

Exchange Server 2003 tip  Get a test machine to install Exchange 2003, then you can practice with its quirky setup interface.

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Install Exchange Server 2003 in stages:

a) Setup /forestprep Exchange 2003 - setup /domainprep and /forestprep

b) Setup /domainprep

c) Finally plain: setup

If you are new to Exchange 200x, a further difficult is that the setup menu is quirky.  Exchange has several strange drop down menus which are not seen in other Microsoft setup programs.  However, once you run this setup menu a few times, you begin to understand how its mind works and configuration becomes easier.

There are two reasons why you may want to install Exchange 2003 in stages, security and the time it takes to run the first full setup.  The adage: ‘The more security you have the more work there will be’, applies here.  To install Exchange 2003 you must be not only an Administrator, but also a member of the Enterprise Admins and Schema Admins.  Incidentally, consider creating a special domain account which will used in installation, and then this account will become the first Exchange ‘Full Administrator’.

What setup /forestprep does is create the Exchange Organisation name in Active Directory.  So be very careful with this Organization name as you cannot change your mind later.  In addition /forestprep extends the schema and modifies the users attributes to include a mailbox.  In practical terms, this means that 4 new tabs will appear on the User’s property sheet as viewed in Active Directory Users and Computers.

Exchange 2003 /forestprep tip Make sure that you run /forestprep on the domain controller which is also the schema master and preferably a Global Catalog server.

Setup /domainprep creates two new security groups: Exchange Domain Servers and Exchange Enterprise Servers. You can inspect the new groups in the USERS folder of Active Directory Users and Computers.  /domainprep also creates the Exchange System Objects container in Active Directory.

The other benefit of running /forestprep and /domainprep switches early in the deployment is that it will save time later; allowing ordinary administrator to install the exchange binary files more quickly.

Now would be the time to run Exchange 2003’s setup and install the binary files.  Once that’s completed verify the installation by checking the services, and if it were me I would be desperately keen to send my first email in my new Exchange Organization.

Unattended Install

If you have lots of servers to install, and you distrust Ghost for such an important job, you could try creating an unattended ‘Answer’ file by using setup /createunattend on the first, perfectly installed server.  Then, use the /unattendfile switch when installing the other Exchange 2003 servers.  For more details try setup /? at the command prompt.

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Remember that the Strategy is Co-existence

Keep in mind that your strategy for this phase of the migration is co-existence between Exchange 5.5 and a new Exchange 2003 server.  Temporarily, both generations of Exchange will be in the same site of the same organization.  Eventually, you will decommission the Exchange 5.5 servers but for now both servers will be active and communicating.  Remember that even if you wanted to, it is not possible to make an in-place upgrade of the Exchange 5.5 servers to Exchange 2003.

When you run setup on the Exchange 2003 server, you will need the name of an existing Exchange 5.5. server as well as the NT 4.0 service account name and password.  A final complication is that you may need to be an administrator in the NT 4.0 domain and this may involve creating trusts and adding the Active Directory installation account to the NT 4.0′ Administrators Local Group.

Read all menus and error messages – extra   c a r e f u l l y.

Troubleshooting Installation of Exchange Server 2003

  • Made sure you have enough Disk Space
  • Check the Edition of Exchange Server (Enterprise is best)
  • Check Active Directory, a user’s property sheet is a good place to start.
  • Check DNS.
  • LDAP port 389 in use, so cannot connect to Exchange 5.5.  Solution change and synchronise port numbers.
  • If installation fails make sure you delete EXCHSRV\mbdata before trying again.
  • Why does no-one ever check the Event Viewer?  If there is a problem you will see a red error dot in the logs.  Remember to check the Application log as well as the System log.  If the messages are not self explanatory, look up the error number in TechNet.
  • Check that ALL the IIS components are installed including SMTP and NNTP.  Make sure that ASP.NET and .NET Framework are also installed.
  • Run DCDiag or NetDiag for extra clues as to what is wrong with the server.  See more on DCDiag

Revisiting the setup menu

One you have completed the main installation, I recommend running Exchange setup again.  This time check through all the menus; for example, the option to JUST install the Administrative Program will be useful for XP Professional and save that long walk to the dark, noisy server room!  Also you may wish to check out the routing connectors.

Summary of Installing Microsoft Exchange Server 2003

When you install Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, preparation is everything.  Think along military lines of strategy and tactics.  At first the setup menu seems quirky, but persevere and you will find all the items you need to configure Exchange.  Begin with /forestprep and make sure that Active Directory is ready for the main Exchange installation.