Installing Exchange 2013 Preview

Installing Exchange 2013 Preview

The task of installing Exchange 2013 Preview isn’t particularly onerous for anyone who has installed Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010. All it takes is a little upfront planning and preparation, which no doubt you began after reading yesterday's news about Exchange 2013 and the rest of the Office 2013 suite.

The first thing to emphasize is that this is truly a preview release that is intended to give you an insight into what the final shape of Exchange 2013 might look like when Microsoft has completed development and released the product for general availability. As such, you must not attempt to use the preview in production. Any attempt to do so means that you’ll be entirely on your own when you meet the inevitable bugs that characterize prototype software.

Associated with this point is the fact that you cannot introduce Exchange 2013 preview into an existing Exchange organization. The preview depends on a different Active Directory schema and other technical points that make it incompatible with the current releases of Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010. Microsoft plans to release updated versions of these products in due course to work alongside Exchange 2013, but you don’t need this code to use the preview version for its intended purpose.

Now on to the actual installation, which will take several hours for everything, perhaps up to a day if your hardware is slow (like an underpowered virtual machine) or you have to chase around to assemble all the necessary software. 

You’ll need to prepare Windows 2008 R2 SP1 or Windows 2012 servers for use with Exchange 2013 preview and then make sure that these servers are equipped with all the prerequisites such as .NET Framework 4.5, the Microsoft management pack 3.0, and various hot fixes. Microsoft has updated their documentation for installing Exchange 2013 on Windows 2012 servers so make sure that you read the latest material on their site before you begin.

The Office 2010 Filter Pack is also needed for the same purpose as it serves with Exchange 2010 – to allow indexing of various types of documents. Do yourself a favor by following the good advice provided by the Exchange documentation team and install the prerequisite software in order. Some, like myself, who have played with fire and installed software in any old order that came into our mind, have lived to regret it. Prepare yourself for multiple server reboots as you install the various components as quite a few occur.

Once your servers are prepared, you can commence the installation of Exchange 2013 Preview by preparing Active Directory. You’ll be installing a new Exchange organization into what should really be a completely separate and brand-new Active Directory forest. Don’t install Exchange 2013 anywhere near your production Active Directory forest. I know that this is logical and obvious but Microsoft’s support personnel will be able to tell you about the many strange and varied approaches that people have taken to software installation, not all of which were sensible and many that led to disastrous consequences.

I typically prepare Active Directory from the command line (always run CMD as Administrator, just to be sure). Exchange 2013 preview is provided as a single self-expanding file. Expand its contents into a suitable folder, open CMD, navigate to the folder holding the Exchange 2013 files and type:

Setup /PS /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

You’ll notice the difference here from previous releases in that Microsoft now forces you to include acceptance of license terms in the command line. Exchange 2013 Setup will work away to extend the Active Directory schema, a task that shouldn’t take too long. Once that’s done you’re ready to the main event. You can run Setup at the command line again if you like or take the chance to run the graphical version of the installation program. I’ll describe using this method for the remainder of this article.

Exchange 2013 dispenses with some of the server roles that you’ve known in previous versions. There’s no Edge server here (yet) and the hub transport role has been broken up and divided into code that now lives in the mailbox and client access server roles. In most cases, the best idea is to deploy a multi-role server first and elect to install both the mailbox and client access server roles.

The Exchange 2013 installation program follows the Metro design guidelines and features lots of white space (see below). I guess the designers would say something like “we’ve removed all of the extraneous rubbish that used to be incorporated into user interfaces to focus the eye on the important items with which the user must interact. A small, but tasteful, Office 2013 logo is included to link Exchange 2013 preview with its companion products.”

Figure 1: Exchange15Setup1

I’ve just made all that text up and no one at Microsoft is responsible for any of it. But I bet it sounds believable!

In any case, the Exchange 2013 installation proceeds much like Exchange 2010. I guess this isn’t surprising because it seems like this is the Exchange 2010 installation program with a new face. Not a face lift. Just a new face, and one that displeases me at times with its starkness.

Figure 2: Exchange15Setup6

For example, when the installation is working away to lay down the files necessary to install the necessary bits of Exchange 2013 that you’ve chosen, it doesn’t tell you very much about what’s actually happening. I think that this will cause some concern to administrators who might assume that Setup has gone asleep or is silently looping. If you elect to install the mailbox and client access roles and the management components (a pretty typical configuration), Setup goes through 15 steps to do its work. Each step is known as “Step 1”, “Step 2”, “Step 3”, and so on. It’s nice to have a progress bar (but Step 8 seems to stay at 3% for a long time and then at 39% for another extended period), but it would be much nicer if the program provided some additional information like “Installing mailbox role”. Those who are curious can investigate the Exchange setup log at c:\ExchangeSetupLogs\ExchangeSetup.log to discover the steps taken to install Exchange 2013.

Eventually the fifteen steps to Exchange 2013 will be taken and you’ll have a working server. The fun about exploring all the new functionality like the new Exchange Administration Center (EAC) then commences!

Follow Tony @12Knocksinna

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