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Use the RecoverServer switch to rebuild a failed Exchange 2007 server

After an Exchange Server 2007 fails, administrators need to get back everything up and running quickly. Learn the steps needed to rebuild a failed Exchange 2007 server, including recovering a Windows OS, joining the replacement server to the domain and reinstalling Exchange using the /RecoverServer switch.

A failed Exchange 2007 server can be a disaster of epic proportions. Luckily, there are options available to rebuild it. While some of the steps involved can tricky, this tip from Microsoft Exchange Server expert Brien Posey walks you through the process to successfully rebuild and reinstall a new Exchange 2007 server after a failure.

One of the trickiest aspects of rebuilding Exchange Server 2007 after a failure is recovering your Windows OS to a functional state. Reinstalling Windows isn't too tough, but connecting the new or newly rebuilt Exchange server to your domain can be a bit difficult.

Let's assume that you want to name the new Exchange Server the same name as the failed server. Whenever you attach a server to a domain, a computer account is created in Active Directory. This means that a computer account already exists for your failed server. This also means that Windows won't allow you to join your new Exchange server to the domain.

You can't remove the existing computer account, though, because this could destroy some of Exchange Server's configuration information stored in Active Directory. This configuration information is needed to rebuild the failed Exchange Server.

There is a way around this. First, make sure that your failed server is disconnected from the network. This shouldn't be an issue if Windows won't boot at all, but it's still important to check.

Next, go to one of your domain controllers and open the Active Directory Users and Computers console. Select the Computers container (or the container in which your failed Exchange server's computer account resides). Then right-click on the computer account and choose Reset Account from the menu.

A prompt will ask if you want to reset the computer account. Be sure that you've selected the correct computer account and click Yes. You should be able to join the domain. You'll also have to reboot the server when prompted.

Install Exchange 2007 via the RecoverServer switch

Previously, you could reinstall Exchange 2000 or Exchange Server 2003 after a system crash by running the Setup program and selecting the /DisasterRecovery switch. However, this switch does not exist in Exchange Server 2007. If you need to recover an Exchange 2007 server, you must insert the installation CD and run Setup using the /RecoverServer switch.

Normally, when you run Exchange Server's Setup program, it will copy the Exchange Server binaries to the server's hard drive. Setup will also establish an initial configuration. But this presents a problem since the majority of Exchange Server's configuration information is stored in Active Directory.

Active Directory contains the configuration settings of the failed Exchange server. When you run Setup with the /RecoverServer switch, you inform Setup to install Exchange binaries. You also instruct it to use existing configuration information -- instead of overwriting it.

Using /RecoverServer causes the existing configuration information to run on the new server, so it's important to set up the new server similarly to your old server. This means you should ensure that the disk subsystem is configured in a similar manner.

If the previous Exchange Server used a particular volume, you should ensure that the same volume exists on your new server. The volume should also be big enough to accommodate whatever data you will restore. This is why documenting a healthy server is important. You can refer to this documentation for information on server volumes as well as drive letters and sizes.

You're now ready to install all Windows and Exchange Server service packs that existed on your old server. Once the appropriate service packs are installed, you should be able to initiate the server restoration. Exchange Server will now assume that any backups being restored belong to the old server.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at

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