Windows NT Option Pack Nightmares

I had a rough time last week, and I think some of you can benefit from the utter frustration I endured while attempting to install and test Office 2000 Server Extensions. Of course, Microsoft’s documentation makes installing and testing Office 2000 Server Extensions sound easy--at a minimum, you need Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 4.0 upgraded to Service Pack 2 (SP2--which forces the install of NT SP4), Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0, Office 2000, and the associated Office Server Extensions. Simple, right? Not exactly.

Consider where I started--with NT 4.0, SP5, and IIS 3.0. My first step was to upgrade to IIS 4.0, and this procedure started the nightmare. Microsoft distributes IIS 4.0 with the Windows NT 4.0 Option Pack, and you can install it three different ways with a Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Enterprise subscription: from Disk 1 of BackOffice Server released in June 1999; from Disk 3 of BackOffice Server, which has an updated Option Pack; and from Disk 13 of the March 1999 NT 4.0 Option Pack. In the event that you want to experience the temporary insanity these installations impart, remember that BackOffice Server disks are pink and the NT Option Pack disk is blue.

I tried Plan A¾ using the standalone NT Option Pack disk, first--because it looked pretty straightforward, even though the files are 5 months old. However, once I got to the custom installation options screen, I found that I also had to install Index Server, an outdated version of Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC), the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS), and a new SQL-compliant database¾ even though you don’t need all these products to test Office Server Extensions. There went another 350MB of system disk space. And, sadly, if I cleared any of these options, I could no longer install IIS 4.0. How’s that for a catch-22? So, I installed and removed all the mandatory products several times, thinking that I had missed a checkbox that would let me upgrade to IIS 4.0. After the last remove, I discovered that I no longer had IIS on my system--backward progress at warp speed!

Time for Plan B. I read the BackOffice Server directions, which told me to install IIS 4.0 with Disk 1 to get the latest and greatest components. I tried that, and lo and behold¾ I had BackOffice Server 4.5 with the exact same components (IIS 4.0, Index Server, MTS, MMC, and the new database) that I had with Plan A. I also reverted to NT SP1 and had only a few hundred free megabytes left on my system disk. So I reapplied SP5, reinstalled Office 2000 and the Office 2000 Server Extensions, and got ready to test. During the Server Extension setup, I received an error message notifying me that the setup program was unable to configure the IIS extensions. for IIS. After going through this installation a couple of times, I concluded that the source of this error was that the database wasn’t running. The event log was now full of messages warning me that the system disk was at or near capacity and that IIS 4.0 permission problems were preventing me from browsing my local Web site--functionality required for testing Office Server Extensions.

I turned to Plan C. I reinstalled NT Server SP1, installed IIS 2.0, and then upgraded to IIS 3.0, NT SP5, and IE 4 with SP2. And, of course, I had to apply all the hotfixes and bug fixes that I had overwritten while attempting Plan B. This procedure took several hours, and, after 3 days of hacking, reading contradictory installation instructions, and perhaps 30 reboots, I was back where I started. Isn’t technology wonderful?

In desperation, I read everything I could find about installing IIS 4.0, the NT Option Pack, reverting to IIS 3.0, and Office 2000 Server Extensions. Here’s what I gleaned from my research; I can’t promise success, even if you follow these instructions exactly:

1) When you upgrade IIS 3.0, the NT Option Pack gives you a one-time option to upgrade installed components only, and this is how you upgrade from IIS 3.0 to IIS 4.0. If you miss this checkbox the first time, go to step 2.

2) Remove IIS 4.0 and any other installed NT Option Pack applications. To get back to a running Web server, reinstall IIS 2.0 and then upgrade to IIS 3.0.

3) Reapply your current service pack and all NT hotfixes and bug fixes.

4) Reinstall all IIS hotfixes and bug fixes.

5) IIS 4.0 sets up a filter for the IISADMIN virtual directory that allows access only by 127.0.01 (localhost). Although localhost was defined on my system, I was unable to browse any of the IIS directories with the built-in localhost URL. Because I couldn’t run the IIS Administration tool, I couldn’t fix the problems--another catch-22.

6) Office 2000 Server Extensions changed the password of the default IIS 4.0 account (IUSR_<server>), and I had to reset the password to finally gain access to my test Web site.

I finally understand why there are Microsoft Support Online articles with instructions for removing IIS 4.0 and reinstalling IIS 3.0, which of course requires IIS 2.0 (available only on the NT 4.0 SP1 CD-ROM or the BackOffice Server Disk 1). I don’t think Microsoft could have made this process more difficult if it had spent months deliberately complicating it. I don’t like having to spend more than 24 hours experimenting just to upgrade one piece of software. I’m really frustrated by the contradictory documentation, and I don’t like having to start over and over and over. The NT Option Pack and the IIS 4.0 upgrade procedure get my vote as top candidates for the "needs work immediately" list, and I’m absolutely convinced that smart high school developers could do a better job.

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