Linked server connection fails with “An error occurred during decryption”


Problem Description

Linked server connection fails with below error


Failed to retrieve data for this request. (Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.Sdk.Sfc)
An exception occurred while executing a Transact-SQL statement or batch. (Microsoft.SqlServer.ConnectionInfo)
An error occurred during decryption. (Microsoft SQL Server, Error: 15466)

Msg 15593, Level 16, State 1, Line 1

An error occurred while decrypting the password for linked login 'distributor_admin' that was encrypted by the old master key. The error was ignored because the FORCE option was specified.



SQL Server service account was changed from services control manager (or) service master key was not backed up and restored when migrating SQL Server to another computer domain.


To change the SQL Server service account, use SQL Server Configuration Manager. To manage a change of the service account, SQL Server stores a redundant copy of the service master key protected by the machine account that has the necessary permissions granted to the SQL Server service group. If the computer is rebuilt, the same domain user that was previously used by the service account can recover the service master key. This does not work with local accounts or the Local System, Local Service, or Network Service accounts. When you are moving SQL Server to another computer, migrate the service master key by using backup and restore.

The REGENERATE phrase regenerates the service master key. When the service master key is regenerated, SQL Server decrypts all the keys that have been encrypted with it, and then encrypts them with the new service master key. This is a resource-intensive operation. You should schedule this operation during a period of low demand, unless the key has been compromised. If any one of the decryptions fail, the whole statement fails.

The FORCE option causes the key regeneration process to continue even if the process cannot retrieve the current master key, or cannot decrypt all the private keys that are encrypted with it. Use FORCE only if regeneration fails and you cannot restore the service master key by using the RESTORE SERVICE MASTER KEY statement.




Regenerate the service master key using ALTER SERVICE MASTER KEY REGENERATE

If you receive the following error message when running ALTER SERVICE MASTER KEY REGENERATE.


The current master key cannot be decrypted. If this is a database master key, you should attempt to open it in the session before performing this operation. The FORCE option can be used to ignore this error and continue the operation but the data encrypted by the old master key will be lost.


We are left with only option to force regenerating service master key using “ALTER SERVICE MASTER KEY FORCE REGENERATE “.

Note: The service master key is the root of the SQL Server encryption hierarchy. The service master key directly or indirectly protects all other keys and secrets in the tree. If a dependent key cannot be decrypted during a forced regeneration, the data the key secures will be lost.


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Karthick P.K