SQL server service pack installation may fail if your instance name is a Windows reserved word

Okay, so I woke up one morning and decided that this was a good day to patch my SQL Server 2008 R2 instance (named LPT2) to Service Pack 1. So I just downloaded the service pack from the Microsoft Website, ran it, went through the screens and clicked on Upgrade. Unfortunately, the Service pack setup failed right away. And even worse, I did not even get the basic error prompt that I feel is the least DBA’s like me deserve. So I decided to take a look at the setup logs.

I pulled up the C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Setup Bootstrap\Log folder, selected the folder with the date modified that most closely matched the time of the ill-fated installation attempt, and opened the summary.txt inside it….but alas, no clues there. No problem, I thought to myself, lets dig in deeper. So I opened the Detail.txt in the same folder, and searched for the common error strings like “Return value 3” and “at Microsoft.SQLserver”, etc. Surprisingly enough, still nothing…!!!
So I just switched to the basic “failed”, and found this error message:-

2011-10-19 11:08:50 Slp: Attempting to run patch request for instance: LPT2
2011-10-19 11:08:53 Slp: Error: Failed to run patch request for instance: LPT2 (exit code: -2068774911)

By now I was pretty sure this was not a simple, every day issue. Upon doing some (okay, a lot of) research, I arrived at the following conclusion:-

The root cause of the issue was that my instance name was the same as a windows reserved keyword. You can find a list of the Windows reserved keywords here (under the “Naming Conventions” section):-

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa365247(v=vs.85).aspx

The issue occurs because from SQL 2008 onwards, the service pack/CU installation creates a folder with the instance name inside the respective "date_timestamp" folder in C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\100\Setup Bootstrap\Log folder. Since the instance name is a windows reserved keyword, the installation is not able to create the folder, and is hence unable to proceed beyond this point.

Yes, I know you're surprised that we're able to install an instance with such a name in the first place, but that's because the instance folder is named MSSQL10.<keyword>, or MSSQL10_50.<keyword>, so Windows allows the folder creation at the time of running the RTM installation.

The bad news is, there is (did I say unfortunately?) no resolution for this situation. The only way to proceed from here is to use a different instance name i.e. you have to install a new instance and move all the databases over to it.

So if you’re still reading this post, I hope it leaves you with the same lesson that it left me with:-

“DO NOT install instances with names that are windows reserved keywords”

Written By:
Harshdeep Narula,SE,Microsoft GTSC

Reviewed By:
Akbar Farishta. TL,Microsoft GTSC

Vijay Sirohi, Sr.SEE,Microsoft GTSC