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.

Preparation

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

Installation

    • 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)

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  • 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

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

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  • 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

 

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  • 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)

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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