Feb 13, 2013

Posted by in Tech Tips | 22 Comments

Quick step-by-step Exchange 2010 SP3 install guide

This morning the Exchange team launched the long awaited Service Pack 3 release for Exchange 2010. Service Packs are normally fairly well trailed and anticipated for the new functionally they bring with them, however I doubt any other Service Pack has been as awaited as SP3 has been for Exchange 2010.

Back in October last year Microsoft announced that they had reached RTM for Exchange 2013 (along with the rest of the 2013 product suites) which was great news and for the first time MS had lock stepped the launch cycles of all their major productivity server platforms (Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Office 365). The only major snag with this plan was that Exchange 2010 wasn’t forwards compatible with 2013. In order to install and co-exist Exchange 2013 with Exchange 2010 you had to have SP3 installed for 2010 but… you guessed it… SP3 wasn’t available. Until now.

My environment:

  • Single Exchange 2010 SP2 CU5 (v2)
  • Server 2008 R2 fully patched to November 2012
  • Forefront protection 2010 for Exchange server
  • Forest / Domain 2008 functional level
  • Mixture of 2012 / 2008 DC’s

I downloaded and set away the install of SP3 this morning to capture an overview of the steps required. This guide is just meant to be a “record in pictures” of what you will come across when installing SP3, it is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to all scenarios and situations.

You can find the official documentation for upgrading here. Issues fixed here. and release notes here.


Before you start make sure that you have a full backup of your Exchange 2010 environment, there is no way to roll back a Service Pack installation as effetely it installs a whole new version. For this reason it’s also important to have a backup of the customisations made to your Exchange servers

It’s also crucial that you have a backup of your Active Directory (worst case, grab some system state backups of your DC’s and definitely of your Schema Master server – how to find your schema master)

As with previous Exchange SP’s and installations it will upgrade your schema as one of the first things it does. Depending on your environment you can either let the Exchange installer take care of this for you, or you can manually update the schema yourself. If you want setup to take care of this for you, make sure you are running setup as a member of the Enterprise Administrators group which has rights to modify the schema.

I’d also recommend that you follow the steps outlined here to help protect your schema master (While that guide is written with Lync in mind the same principals apply. Stop outbound replication, update, check health, allow replication)

If your Exchange server is a virtual machine you might want to consider taking a snapshot of the server but this is absolutely NOT a replacement for a full backup of your exchange environment! You need to be very careful when using snapshots with something like exchange as it won’t protect you against all the changes being made in your environment.


You will also need to stop incoming mail flow so that if you have to perform a restore then you haven’t lost any mail data.

If you have a larger Exchange organisation you need to consider the order for deploying your upgrade as a rule of thumb upgrade you servers in the following order:

  • Edge server
  • Client Access server
  • Hub transport server
  • Mailbox servers (Note that DAG’s only support running different patch levels to support upgrades)
    • remember that it’s supported to move a DAG from an older service pack to a newer one, but not the other way round
  • Unified Messaging servers


    • Download the SP3 binaries from the MS site. They will come down as a single .exe file and will extract into a full Exchange 2010 installation (1.45 GB)


  • Browse to the folder where you extracted the setup files

Update – Thanks to Charlie in the comments who pointed me at this KB from Microsoft – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2810617. It seems there can be an issue running the SP3 update if you have changed the PowerShell execution policy on your server by Group Policy. Have a read of the article and if it applies to you make sure you disable any GPO that affects scripting policies or move your machine into a temporary OU. You can check what policies you have set for PowerShell by running “Get-ExecutionPolicy -list” on your machine

As you can see I’ve manually set my policy to be “RemoteSigned” but more importantly I don’t have any policies set by GPO or Local Policy…

Anyway, on with the show:

  • Run setup


  • select “Install Microsoft Exchange Server Upgrade”
  • Exchange will then take a local cache of the install files





  • The only warning for my environment was to install KB2550886 which fixes an issue with Windows clustering. As I don’t run any DAG’s (which use clustering) I can safely move past the warning.
  • At this point Exchange just ploughs ahead with the upgrade so be extra careful here about your schema stuff if you want to upgrade it manually




  • At the end of installation it won’t ask for a reboot but you really want to give it one anyway

Post install

  • Reboot your mail server
  • Check AD health and re-enabled replication if you disabled it for the schema update
  • Do some mail flow checks with test emails
  • Remove any snapshots (Remember Hyper-v pre 2012 won’t consolidate them until you turn off the VM)


My shiny new Exchange 2010 SP3 server running Version 14.3 (Build 123.4) – nice touch on the build numbers there

You can also check your AD Schema using the handy guide here

Install stats

The installer took about 1 hour 40 to complete and was broken up as follows:

Organisation preparation – 5 minutes
Preparing Setup – 1 minute
Stopping services – 1 minutes
Languages – 0 minutes
Removing Exchange files – 4 minutes
Preparing files – 0 minutes
Copy Exchange files – 8 minutes
Language files – 25 minutes
Restoring services – 0.5 minutes
Languages – 12 minutes
Hub Transport role – 21 minutes
Client Access role – 10 minutes
Mailbox role – 10 minutes
Management Tools – 1 minute
Finalizing setup – 2 minutes

The snapshot file on my server totalled 30 GB

  1. Hany Abd El-Wahab says:

    Thanks ,, Great article ,, excellent working

  2. Hey, I read that if any of your Execution policies are other than undefined, this process will fail at the end. (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2810617)

    I have read several ways to mitigate it but, not from anyone that has done it. Can you elaborate on this detail. Looks like it is a game changer anyway.

    PS Very good article!

  3. Ben Lee says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Thanks for pointing me at that KB. I’ve added a note to the process with a link to it and a screenshot of my policy settings.

    Thanks again


  4. This is a great site. Thanks for responding. There is a very good exchange of information and ideas here. Thanks again!

  5. Hi, thanks for the article – I’m getting ready for this and while reading various articles I noticed some people had the problem with policy being other than undefined. MS is lacking some quality control here… 🙁
    I guess you did have RemoteSigned there even during the process, right? This one does not matter.

  6. Ben Lee says:

    Yes, I didn’t know about that issue when I did my upgrade but the screenshot you see is how mine was configured at the time.

    Good Luck


  7. Hi all!
    i have E2010 RTM, 2 domains (domain.local and comp.domain.local) and 2 servers:
    -CAS/HUB in domain.local
    – MB in comp.domain.local
    all users are in comp.domain.local

    All domains and forest level = 2003!

    What is step-by-step upgrade for my Exchange??

  8. Can we install SP3 on SP1. OR SP2 is compulsary.

  9. Ben Lee says:

    Hi AKS, no SP3 for Exchange 2010 is a full install of Exchange so you don’t need to be running a specific version before hand.

    It also means if you are doing a new install in future you can start straight away with the service pack.

    Incidentally this is new model Microsoft are using for Exchange 2013 where all quarterly CU updates are actually full Exchange installation binaries.


  10. Regarding “Exectuion Policy”… Do not change that LocalMachine policy to undefined. Your install will fail during the Stopping Services portion of the upgrade because it will not be able to run PS scripts! The good news is that if you do it (with the PS applet, like I did) you can just set it back to RemoteSigned and restart your upgrade.

  11. mohammed says:

    sir we have 2 mailbox server roles and 2 hub cas servers we would like to upgrade our exchange servers from sp1 to sp3 please give us the guide lines to upgrade .


  12. So if we have an environment that doesn’t have an existing 2010 Exchange server in it, we can use this SP3 download to perform the entire Exchange server installation?

  13. Hi,
    Yes that’s correct the SP3 binaries (and in 2013 the CU binaries) are all full versions of the product so everything you need to get installed from scratch…


  14. Muhajer says:

    Hi Ben,

    Great post.

    I am planning to install Exchange 2010 SP3 next week.
    Our current Exchange environment consists of the following:

    1 x CAS/HT Server
    2 x Mailbox Server (members of a DAG)

    The OS of the 3 servers is Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. All servers are running Exchange 2010 SP1 Update Rollup 6.

    The Execution Policies on our Exchange servers are set as follows:

    – CAS/HT Server:
    Scope ExecutionPolicy
    —– —————
    MachinePolicy Undefined
    UserPolicy Undefined
    Process Undefined
    CurrentUser Undefined
    LocalMachine Unrestricted

    – Mailbox Servers:
    Scope ExecutionPolicy
    —– —————
    MachinePolicy Undefined
    UserPolicy Undefined
    Process Undefined
    CurrentUser Undefined
    LocalMachine RemoteSigned

    I would be very grateful if you could help me with following question:

    1- Do I have to change the execution policy on our Exchange servers before installing SP3? If I have to change a policy, what should I change? And how would you recommend I should do this?

    Many thanks,

  15. Ben Lee says:

    You should be okay. The issue seems to occur when you have changed the scripting policy via GPO which you don’t seem to have.

    Good luck 🙂


  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for getting back to me on this.

    That’s correct, we haven’t set the Powershell execution policy via Group Policy.
    We only configured the execution policy of “LocalMachine” to “Unrestricted” on the CAS/HT server using the “Set-ExecutionPolicy” command on the server.
    The mailbox servers’ execution policies have not been changed and are set to those values by default.

    I must admit, I got event more confused when I read the “http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2668686” and “http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2810617” articles.

    But looks like I shouldn’t worry as our current Powershell execution policies shouldn’t affect the upgrade.


  17. Muhajer says:

    Hi Ben,

    Just a quick update.

    The upgrade from SP1 to SP3 was carried out successfully. It took ~1.5 hrs per server. I also installed UR 5 for SP3 (KB2917508) and this took ~1 hr per server.

    To summarise, our Powershell execution policies (listed above) did not affect the upgrade.


  18. Ben Lee says:

    Thanks for checking back in I’m glad to hear it worked out okay for you! 🙂


  19. olatunde says:

    i hope this upgrade will not affect the current settings

  20. I am getting ready to install SP3 this week.

    Would you install MS security patches before installing Exchange SP3? The servers haven’t had MS security patches installed in about a year.

  21. Hi,
    Great article. We have out Exchange environment broken out into 3 servers- ET, HT, and a mailbox server.

    Should the application of SP 3 be completely run Edge, reboot, then the Hub, roboot, and finally the mailbox, reboot.
    In otherwords, once the ET is updated, they’re backwards compatible until the next server is updated?

  22. I am planning to upgrade Exchange 2010 RTM to SP3 as it is required for the migration to Exchange 2013 , 2010 RTM is running in Server 2008 Sp2 and upgrade is stuck because of the prerequisites codes mention below.
    Both codes are retired from MS website and didn’t got any options to get the same
    Can i prepare exchange 2010 SP3 as coexist and migrate the mailbox from 2010 RTM to SP3 and decommission the 2010 RTM.


  1. Exchange 2010: install SP3 | Stiki - […] quick-step-by-step-exchange-2010-sp3-install-guide […]

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