Exchange Setup Logs - Best Practices

One of the great things the Exchange Product Group did, starting with Exchange 2007, was to start generating informative log files as part of the installation/upgrade process.  Gone are the days when you had no log files and you got 75% of the way through and the setup program bombed with some generic error and that's all you got (maybe an event in the Event Viewer as well, but still not a whole lot to go on).  These logs are written to C:\ExchangeSetupLogs by default.

However, I recently worked on an issue with one of my customers on an Exchange 2010 SP3 upgrade.  They had all the setup logs, but hadn’t followed any of the best practices I’m about to talk about.  This resulted in having to deal with VERY large log files in the C:\ExchangeSetupLogs directory that had everything in them since the server was first built.  So, I wanted to post some information out on best practices related to these files…

One of our best practices *is* to keep all your setup logs…which most customers do.  However, there are a few related best practices I wanted to share that go along with this:

  1. You should at least copy out or rename the log files after an upgrade is completed.  We recommend doing this at least after a Service Pack, although some customers do this after every Rollup.
    1. Either rename the C:\ExchangeSetupLogs directory after a SP/rollup is complete to either have the date (e.g. C:\ExchangeSetupLogs-070113) or maybe with a descriptive name (e.g. C:\ExchangeSetupLogs-AfterSP3).
    2. Another variant/option is to compress the directory into a ZIP file (or another format) and then delete the contents.  Again, name the file either with a date or a descriptive name.
  2. The other related best practice is to copy/move these logs off the Exchange server to a separate/central location such as a file share or SharePoint site.  That way, if the server is down and you’re having to recover if there’s any question as to what was done to the server in the past, you have access to those logs.
    1. At a minimum, it’s recommended you move these off the C: drive once done so that they’re not taking room on the system volume, especially if disk space gets low.

The biggest advantage to following these best practices is simply that if you run into issues with an upgrade (or after), you’re not dealing with the huge log files (especially if opening them with Notepad) or a directory with hundreds and hundreds of files in it.  This can make troubleshooting a little easier.  Hopefully, you’ll never need these files, but that never seems to be the way it works out.