TECH: Authrest on Exchange 5.5

Original Problem???

In early March an initial attempt to install Exchange 2003 into our existing Exchange 5.5 site was attempted. However, an unanticipated disaster followed this attempt that resulted in the contents of the Exchange 5.5 Directory on all Exchange 5.5 servers to be removed. This resulted in loss of functionality of all DLs and loss of custom recipients.

The Exchange Directory was eventually restored from backup on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server, however we quickly noticed that the restored Directory was not replicating back to the other Exchange 5.5 servers. I was able to find an old application called authrest.exe that can be used to increase the USN (unique identifier) of the Exchange Directory on a server to force it to be the authoritative Directory Server. This will force Directory informationto be replicated to the other Exchange servers. This process was run on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server which did allow the Directory information to replicate back to the other Exchange servers. Shortly after this we noticed that changes made to Exchange objects on any other server but our primary Exchange 5.5 Server would not replicate back to our primary Exchange 5.5 Server. This was because Bobafetts USN was increased beyond the USN of the other servers, and was so far ahead and the changes on the other servers did not exceed our primary Exchange 5.5 Server USN and therefore would not replicate to our primary Exchange 5.5 Server. Changes made on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server would replicate to the other servers without a problem. I did however notice several side effects of restoring the Exchange Directory on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server. First, Backup Exec stopped working. I started getting Access deniederrors on the backup jobs. Permissions were checked for the backup exec account used to run the backup jobs, and no problems with the permissions were found. I tried using other Exchange admin accounts but I still received Access Denied errors. I then tried creating a new user account, and followed the Microsoft guidelines for assigning a backup account permissions to an Exchange organization. This also did not work.

As a last resort, I tried using NTBACKUP and I found that NTBACKUP was able to access Exchange and proceed to backup the exchange information on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server. I have been running manual backups on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server since then. Apparently something in the restore process of the Exchange Directory on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server has caused some type of problem with Backup Exec. We are running the latest version that is compatible with NT4, so upgrading is not an option.

Synchronization Information???

On Friday, March 31st, another sysadmin and I began running authrest on all exchange 5.5 servers in hopes that authrest would set the same USN on all Exchange 5.5 servers to the same level. This would effectively force all Exchange servers Directories into synch. This theory was based on the emergency recovery documentation that was used during the initial problems in early March.

We ran authrest with an increase value of 101000 on each Exchange server. After the reboot, I tested to see if the replication issues were fixed. I modified a DL by removing my user account from the DL. I then checked that the changes replicated to all other exchange servers. I found initially that it did, so it appeared that the process fixed the replication issues.

Upon further testing and someverification it was verified that the Directory Synch issues are indeed not corrected. Changes made on other Exchange servers are still not replicating to our primary Exchange 5.5 Server. I began to do more in depth research on the authrest application andtried to find more operational details. What I found is that Authrest only increases the existing USN on the Exchange Directory and its objects, it does not reset the USN to the specified value you use when running the application. What this means is that we only accomplished increasing the USN on the Exchange 5.5 servers by 101,000. They are still not in synch. our primary Exchange 5.5 Server replicated the same directory information back to all other Exchange 5.5 servers; authrest did not bring them all to the same level as was previously thought.


Currently our primary Exchange 5.5 Server is still acting as the authoritative Directory server in our Exchange organization. Its USN is the highest among all of our Exchange 5.5 servers. Based on this updated information, here are the options that we have in dealing with this situation…

1. Continue to use our primary Exchange 5.5 Server as the master Exchange 5.5 Directory server. All changes to all exchange objects should be made on this server. This includes DL membership modifications and new user mailbox creation. (Mailboxes for other servers can still be created on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server, under the advanced tab of the new mailbox wizard, simply select the home server you want the mailbox created on).
2. Exchange logs an event to the application log during replication of the Exchange 5.5 Directory. We could identify each servers USN level (or number), then based on these results, use authrest to increase each servers USN to a specific number with the goal of individually increasing each other Exchange 5.5 server to thesame number. So authrest would be run with different increment numbers based on that servers existing USN number. Using this method we can correctly use authrest to re-synch the Exchange 5.5 Directory.

I recommend option 1. I dont see any real need to cause further exchange downtime to fix an issue that wont cause us any problems in the Exchange 2003 migration. I can live with running manual backups on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server until its replaced. Backup and restore on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server using NTBACKUP was verified to be working.

Summary Information???

The emergency documentation used to restore the Exchange 5.5 Directory in early March did not include the functional information on authrest that is now known. The attempt that I made to re-synch the Directory was based on the information I had of authrest from the emergency restore that was performed earlier. It took several hours of research to find more information on this tool as it relates to Exchange 5.5. Most of the available information is in reference to an updated version that runs on Exchange 2003. Only passing references to this tool were located. Since support for Exchange 5.5 has ended, its been increasingly difficult to find information on Exchange 5.5.

Continuing to use our primary Exchange 5.5 Server as the authoritative Directory server will not adversely affect the Migration to Exchange 2003. If all changes to Exchange 5.5 objects are made onour primary Exchange 5.5 Server, it will always have the updated and correct Directory information. We can then proceed as planned and use our primary Exchange 5.5 Server in the ADC connector as the source of Exchange 5.5 Directory information to be imported into AD and Exchange 2003. By using option 2 above, any exchange 5.5 servers could be used for the ADC connector, but only 1 server is needed. ???

Once Exchange 2003 is successfully implemented for the first time, it will be much easier to add more servers later on. We can then migrate users and other Exchange 5.5 objects to Exchange 2003. From that point on, most of these issues we have been experiencing lately should be a thing of the past. The new infrastructure will prove to be much more resilient and easier to work with.

NOTE: Changes made on our primary Exchange 5.5 Server may not be immediately visible on the other Exchange 5.5 servers. Replication should take place within 5-15 minutes. A manual directory refresh can be done through the Exchange Administrator by highlighting the exchange server you want to update, double click on the Directory Service, and then click Update Now. Choose the option to update only new or changed items. Then click ok. This will force the remote server to update its Directory.

Thanks for reading! Hope this helps someone!]]>


About Joe

I am the author of this blog, IT engineer, husband, father, and somewhat of a nerd.

Posted on April 4, 2006, in Job related and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on TECH: Authrest on Exchange 5.5.

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