As you probably know, in an effort to keep their products
current and secure, Microsoft releases a practically endless array of patches
and service packs. Recently, Microsoft released the much anticipated Service
Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server. Unlike most of the service packs that
Microsoft releases though, SharePoint Portal Server Service Pack 2 isn’t
something that you can just download and install with minimal effort. There are
several prerequisites and various caveats associated with installing the
service pack. In this article, I will walk you through the deployment process.
Before I begin
Before I get started, there is one very important detail
that I need to share with you. When you install SharePoint Portal Server,
Service Pack 2, the service pack modifies the SharePoint database’s schema.
Anytime that you change a database’s schema, there is the possibility that
something could go horribly wrong, resulting ultimately in the destruction of
the database. That being the case, I very strongly recommend performing a full
backup of your SharePoint Portal Server just prior to deploying the service
The fact that the service pack modifies your database’s
schema has a couple of other implications as well. Most importantly, the
service pack invalidates your previous backups. Specifically, if you have a
SharePoint Portal Server that’s running Service Pack 2, you will not be able to
restore a backup that was made prior to installing Service Pack 2. Because of
this, I recommend making another full server backup as soon as the service pack
So what about the backup that you made just prior to
installing the service pack, and all of your other old backups? Well,
technically, they are not actually invalidated. It’s just that you can’t
restore them to a server that is running SharePoint Portal Server with Service
Pack 2. If your server were to have a catastrophic failure and you had to
perform a bare metal restore, you could restore an old backup so long as at the
time you do the restoration, SharePoint is running the same service pack level
as the database contained in the backup. For example, if you need to restore an
old backup that was made while SharePoint Portal Server was running Service
Pack 1, then you will need to make sure that SharePoint has Service Pack 1
installed prior to restoring the backup.
What does Service Pack 2 do?
Like most Service Packs that Microsoft releases, Service
Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server is primarily designed to correct bugs and
to patch security holes. The only new functionality that Service Pack 2 adds is
that it allows SharePoint Portal Server to index servers that are running IBM
Lotus Notes R6. SharePoint was previously unable to index content stored on
Lotus Notes R6 servers.
Most of the issues that Service Pack 2 corrects have been
previously documented in Microsoft Knowledgebase articles. There are however a
few issues that the service pack corrects for which no Knowledgebase articles
One of the issues that the new service pack fixes has to do
with removing Windows SharePoint Services from a virtual server. Prior to the
release of this service pack, if you were to remove Windows SharePoint Services
from a virtual server, you would receive an error message indicating that
SharePoint was unable to connect to the database upon attempting to open the
SharePoint Portal Server Central Administration tool. Service Pack 2 corrects
Another previously unresolved issue for which there was no
Microsoft Knowledgebase article effected international users. Because of a now
resolved, search engine glitch, queries containing German language composite
words returned no results.
Another issue corrected by the service pack has to do with
subscription and notification alerts not being sent for deleted virtual
servers. Prior to Service Pack 2 being released, if Windows SharePoint Services
were removed from an extended virtual server, then SharePoint Portal Server
would no longer send subscription and alert E-mail messages. This issue has now
One last previously undocumented bug that Service Pack 2
corrects has to do with incorrect URLs being displayed. Prior to Service Pack
2, if a user were to search the document library for an image file, and the
resulting thumbnail would sometimes contain an incorrect URL for the image.
Of course most of the issues that Service Pack 2 corrects
were previously documented. Service Pack 2 contains a complete roll up of all
of the fixes that were included in Service Pack 1, plus fixes for the issues
that I just described, and fixes for dozens of other issues that have been
documented in the Microsoft Knowledgebase. You can obtain a complete list of
the issues that Service Pack 2 corrects at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/906337/
As odd as it may sound, before you can update SharePoint
Portal Server, you have to make a minor update to the Windows operating system.
As you probably know, many of the updates that Microsoft releases are packaged
in Windows installer files (.MSI files) or in self extracting executable files.
Windows relies on a mechanism called the Windows Installer Service to be able
to open these files and to process their contents.
If you haven’t heard of the Windows Installer Service, you
probably aren’t alone. Microsoft introduced this particular service quietly,
and aside from developers, most people don’t even realize that it exists. Just
because the Windows Installer Service doesn’t receive a lot of attention doesn’t
mean that it isn’t important though.
If you think back to a few years ago, you will recall that
there was really no consistency when it came to installing applications. Pretty
much every software vendor handled application installation differently. Often
the result was conflicting paths, or worse, conflicting DLL files, also known
as DLL Hell. To solve this problem, Microsoft created the Windows Installer
Service. The basic idea is that it allows all applications to be installed in a
uniform manner so long as the developers adhere to some specific requirements.
The result is that users should no longer have to worry about DLL conflicts or
other issues related to inconsistent installation practices.
Recently though, Microsoft released an upgrade to the
Windows Installer Service. The service pack won’t install unless Windows is
running version 3.1 of the Windows Installer Service. If you attempt to install
the service pack without first updating the Windows Installer Service, you may
see the message shown below:
The upgrade patch
cannot be installed by the windows installer service because the program to be
upgraded may be missing, or the upgrade patch may update a different version of
the program. Verify that the program to be upgraded exists on your computer and
that you have the correct upgrade patch.
You can download the updated Windows Installer Service from
Web site. The download is roughly about two and a half megs in size and
consists of a self extracting executable file. The installation process is
extremely simple, so I won’t bore you with the details, but if you need help
there is a 2 KB text file that you can download from the URL above that will
walk you through the deployment process.
Service Pack 2 for Windows SharePoint Services
One of the interesting things about SharePoint Portal Server
is that it is built on top of Windows SharePoint Services. Windows SharePoint
Services is available for free as a feature
pack for Windows Server 2003.
The fact that SharePoint Portal Server is built on top of Windows
SharePoint Services means that in order for SharePoint Portal Server to
function correctly, the underlying Windows SharePoint Services must be
functional and must exist in a predictable state. What this means for anyone
who plans on installing Service Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server is that
prior to doing so, you must install Service Pack 2 for Windows SharePoint
Services. You can download
Service Pack 2 for Windows SharePoint Services directly from Microsoft as well.
Service Pack 2 for Windows SharePoint Services consists of a
5 MB, self extracting executable file. You must begin by downloading the file
and saving it to an empty folder on your server’s hard drive. When the download
completes, double click on the file that you just downloaded and you will be
asked if you would like to install the update. Click Yes and you will see a
screen displaying the End User License Agreement for the service pack. Click
Yes to accept the license agreement and the necessary files will be extracted
and the service pack will be installed on your server.
Installing Service Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server
Now that you have installed all of the prerequisite
software, it’s time to install Service Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server. I
have already talked about how this service pack modifies the database schema,
but you should also know that installing Service Pack 2 is a permanent
operation. Because of the changes that the installer makes to the database
schema, you will not be able to uninstall Service Pack 2 once you have
Another minor detail that you probably want to know about
prior to installing the service pack is that Microsoft kind of dropped the ball
when it comes to the service pack’s installer. When you install Service Pack 2,
the installation process just sort of ends. There is no dialog box to tell you
that the Service Pack has been successfully installed. That being the case, you
may not realize that when the installation completes, you will have to reboot
your server in order to make the update take effect.
With that said, you can download
Service Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server from the Microsoft Web site.
The file that you will be downloading is roughly thirteen and a half megabytes
in size and is a self-extracting executable. The installation process is
extremely simple. All you have to do is to double-click on the file that you
have downloaded and then accept the end user license agreement. The installer
usually does the rest. Just be sure to reboot the server when the installation
process completes. Depending on how your server is set up though, you may see a
prompt during the installation process asking you if you would like to
configure the error reporting policy for the server. I recommend clicking Yes.
By doing so, you are authorizing SharePoint to send a copy of any error
messages that you receive to Microsoft for analysis.
Verifying the service pack
Since you will never see a message confirming that the
service pack installed successfully, I recommend taking a moment after the
server reboots to confirm that SharePoint Portal Server really is running with
Service Pack 2. In case you are wondering, you don’t have to worry about
confirming the service pack level of Windows SharePoint Services because you
wouldn’t have been able to install Service Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server
if Windows SharePoint Services had been running an incorrect service pack
There are a couple of different ways that you can check to
see which service pack SharePoint Portal Server is using. Being that you just
installed the Service Pack, the easiest thing to do is to check the event logs.
To do so, open the Event Viewer (found on the server’s Administrative Tools
menu). When the Event Viewer opens, select the Application log, and look for
event ID number 1022. The event’s description should say something like:
Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003--Update "SharePoint Portal Server
2003 Service Pack 2" installed successfully.
Patched and ready to go
As you can see, Service Pack 2 for SharePoint Portal Server
is an essential patch that should be applied right away. The deployment process
can be a little tedious to complete, but I have provided you with step by step
deployment instructions in this article.