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SQL Server 2005 and Express Installation Tips and Tricks

By: Yuli Vasiliev
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If you havenít yet installed SQL Server 2005, youíll want to make the right choices the first time and minimize the number of steps. The installation process is slightly different depending on whether it is an upgrade from 2000 or a clean install. SQL Server 2005 Express has some differences from the purchased version of SQL Server 2005. By understanding documented, undocumented, and obscure features, you can get relief from installation pain points.

Copying the Installation Files to Disk
One of the first steps in having a smooth installation experience is to copy the SQL Server 2005 installation media (Developer, Workgroup, Standard, or Enterprise) to disk. This allows you to replace the Books Online (BOL) msi file from the original installation media with the latest and greatest BOL msi file. Updating installation media with later versions of files is sometimes referred to as slipstreaming.

If you have a DVD, copy all of the files to either a local or network disk. You must maintain the same directory structure as the DVD or you may experience an error such as the one described in Knowledge Base article 916760.

If you have an iso image file of a DVD, youíll need to get access to the individual files contained within the iso file. You can burn a DVD from the iso file, extract the individual files contained with the iso file, or mount the iso file as if it is a normal drive letter in Windows. Once an iso file is burned to a DVD, the files can be copied from the DVD to disk. Extracting individual files from an iso file is similar to extracting files from a zip file. IsoBuster is a free utility for extracting from an iso file. To mount an iso file as a drive letter, you can use Microsoftís reliable but officially unsupported VirtualCD or use the freeware tool Virtual CloneDrive.

Updated Books Online File
Of course, youíll need to download the latest version of BOL from Microsoft. At the time of publication, the latest BOL was available here and contained in an msi file named SqlServer2K5_BOL_Jul2006_v2.msi. Since new updates are released regularly, make sure you get the latest version.

Updating the Installation Files
Once all of the files are available on disk, just a simple file copy and rename is all thatís needed to slipstream the updated BOL into the SQL Server 2005 installation media. Copy the SqlServer2K5_BOL_Jul2006_v2.msi file to the ...\Tools\Setup folder underneath the top-level folder containing your installation files, delete the original SqlServer2K5_BOL.msi, and rename the updated BOL msi (e.g., SqlServer2K5_BOL_Jul2006_v2.msi) to SqlServer2K5_BOL.msi. When a new version of BOL is released, repeat the process.

You have multiple options for installing from your updated version of the SQL Server 2005 installation media. Go to your ...\Servers\Setup folder underneath the top level folder containing your installation files. You can run setup.exe from a command prompt or from Windows Explorer by double-clicking either setup.exe, default.hta, or splash.exe.

Itís also possible to create a new DVD containing your updated installation files. Some companies like to keep master copies of installation CDs and DVDs in a fire resistant safe so that any system configuration can be recreated after a disaster.

By updating your SQL Server 2005 installation media, you can save yourself a post-installation step and reduce the likelihood of an outdated Books Online being installed. Unfortunately, you canít slipstream SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 1 files into your SQL Server 2005 media files. Youíll have to install Service Pack 1 as a separate step.

Making an Installation CD from an Installation DVD
The non-Express versions of SQL Server 2005 have installation DVDs and not all machines have DVD drives. If you absolutely must have an installation CD for installing on 32-bit hardware, you can make your own installation CD. The installation DVDs contain both 32-bit and 64-bit installation files as well as other files that donít really need to be on an installation CD. Hereís a list of the files and folder on the DVD that you donít need on a 32-bit installation CDs:


..\Servers\redist\Windows Installer
..\Tools\redist\Windows Installer


After you copy an installation DVD to disk, you can delete all of the files and folders detailed above and fit the remaining files onto a CD. Extracting SQL Server 2005 Express Files

SQL Server 2005 Express presents a special challenge because it comes packaged in a self-extracting executable that extracts the files, does an unattended installation, and then deletes the installation files. To take control over an Express installation, youíll need to extract all of the files out to disk. Microsoft self-extracting installation executables can be run from the command line. By using the /x switch on the command line, the installation is not performed and instead you are prompted for a directory to which the installation files are extracted.

C:\Media\SQL>sqlexpr.exe /x

As with purchased versions of SQL Server, you can install SQL Server Express by running setup.exe from a command prompt or from Windows Explorer by double-clicking either setup.exe, default.hta, or splash.exe. You will find these files in the top level directory you specified when you did the extraction. Using the extracted files in this manner makes installing SQL Server Express follow the same process as any other version of SQL Server 2005.

Preparing a Machine for Installation
Before you can install any version of SQL Server 2005 (including the Express edition), the host machine must have Windows Installer 3.1 and the .NET Framework 2.0 installed. In a large enterprise, you can use Microsoft SMS or a third party deployment tool to install these two items prior to installing SQL Server 2005, perhaps scheduling the task for off hours. Installing Windows Installer 3.1 (read more about it and download it) requires a reboot, so youíll want to plan accordingly.

Upgrading from SQL Server 2000
Upgrading from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005 requires a minimum of Service Pack 3 on SQL Server 2000. If your SQL Server 2000 instances are below Service Pack 3, you must upgrade them. I found it slightly easier to upgrade to SQL Server 2005 from SQL Server 2000 with Service Pack 4 than from SQL Server 2000 with Service Pack 3. If you donít have the proper SQL Server 2000 service pack level, you will be blocked from upgrading to SQL Server 2005. You will not be able to select the instance as the following screen capture illustrates.

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