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Restoring Windows 2003 SBS R2 Exchange

Windows 2003 SBS was always a bit weird for me. I’ve been playing with computers all my life and I know Windows Vista and earlier versions like the back of my hand but when it comes to server software on Windows I always have this unnerving feeling.

You should know that most of the time my presence is required when a server is almost dead or acting strangely so my experience shows that an unstable Windows server is usually ‘fixed’ by a complete reinstall – something I have never had to do to my linux servers.

Right now I am installing Windows 2003 SBS R2 for somebody I know. Their previous administrator never felt the need for finishing the setup or actually buying the license so when I came in, all I could do was reinstall the whole system.

I created a backup using NTbackup from the Exchange Store (which was half disabled on their server) and now I am trying to restore it. Guess what: it won’t.

I hate Microsoft for its poor practices and this is one of them: supplying backup tools that work within a very very confined space. In this case a fresh install will kill the option of restoring it without extensive Google-ing.

To be exact: I unmounted the Mailbox Store, marked it for restoration in the properties and fired up NTbackup to restore the backup. After setting a temp path (C:\temp) I hit restore and immediately see the whole thing fail. Of course NTbackup can’t tell me jack so I need to dig in the Application Log and I find this:

Event Type:  Error
Event Source:  MSExchangeIS
Event Category:  Exchange Backup Restore
Event ID:  9635
User:  N/A
Computer:  WIN2003
Description:  Failed to find a database to restore to from the Microsoft Active Directory.
 Storage Group specified on the backup media is 581cb7ee-5fec-4d93-8f71-dcfe55a73319.
 Database specified on backup media is Mailbox Store (SERVER1), error is 0xc7fe1f42. 

After searching high and low I finally get a blog post from someone who solved this. The error is in fact so simple, they should execute the team that thought that this was a funny way to describe it.

The names don’t match. Seriously.

In the Server Console –> Advanced –> Exchange –> Servers –> Win2003 –> First Storage Group you will find a store called ‘Mailbox Store (WIN2003)’ – assuming your server is called win2003 – whereas the backup has a store called ‘Mailbox Store (SERVER1)’. NTbackup can’t fathom the possibility that we actually want to restore to a store on this server without the exact name match so it fails.

Solve this by right-clicking on the store, renaming it to the old name and restarting the restore. It will run now.

On a side note – this was not the end for me. I got event id 1088 after I managed to restore it: Distinguished Name is not the same for the Store and the server. I can’t grasp why them Redmond idiots haven’t made it possible to simply rename the DN of the store to make it work in case of a migration like now.

I tried renaming the legacy DN using the ADSI editor and the LegacyDN tool from the site. I couldn’t get it to work after trying 50 guides so finally I tried to uninstall the server software. This failed (of course) and left me with a system in which I couldn’t resume the setup. So after a new installation and 2 hours of waiting/babysitting I am back where I started, ready to restore my Exchange backup…