Troubleshooting a failed SQL Server 2008 installation

Learn about the various tools and methods for troubleshooting a failed SQL Server 2008 installation.

SQL Server 2008 introduces significant enhancements that make installation even easier and more seamless compared to its predecessors. The SQL Server 2008 Installation Center offers solutions providers a tremendous number of options for planning, installing, upgrading and maintaining a SQL Server implementation. However, even with these new tools and features, an installation may fail, and solutions providers must understand how to troubleshoot these installations.

More SQL Server 2008 resources
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Guide

FAQ: SQL Server 2008 high-availability services

High-availability options in SQL Server 2008
If a SQL Server installation fails, it could be the result of many different factors. Some common reasons why an installation may abort are insufficient privileges, unmet minimum hardware or software prerequisites, version or edition mismatches, invalid instance name supplied during the upgrade, and if Service Pack 1 was not applied for Visual Studio 2008.

The following sections examine some common techniques for troubleshooting a failed SQL Server 2008 installation.

Using the System Configuration Checker

The first step in troubleshooting a failed installation is to ensure that you have met all of the SQL Server and correlated Windows Server prerequisites. The best way to find out is to run System Configuration Checker, which detects conditions that could impede a SQL Server installation or cause it to fail. This tool automatically runs during the initial installation, and you can launch it independently from the SQL Server 2008 Installation Center landing page. It is a best practice to remediate any anomalies before performing the installation and for understanding the minimum software and hardware requirements to install SQL Server.

Inspecting and leveraging the SQL Server Setup Log Files

The SQL Server Setup Log Files are some of the most important elements to inspect when experiencing issues with an installation. The Setup Log files are very intuitive and capture detailed information pertaining to the installation. The collections of log files are located in the following folder: %Program files%\Microsoft sql server\100\Setup bootstrap\Log. It is worth noting that each attempted installation generates its own log subfolder. The subfolder is named based on an automatically generated time stamp using the format YYYYMMDD_hhmmss.

The SQL Server 2008 installation generates detailed and summarized logs within these timestamped log subfolders. Ttypical log files generated include Detail_GlobalRules.txt, Detail_ComponentUpdate.txt, Detail.txt and Errorlog.txt.

Near the end, the installation will create a Summary.txt file that summarizes the status of the installation. The *_summary.txt and the *_errorlog.txt files are definite starting points when reviewing errors associated with an installation. However, you should examine all files to identify the root cause of a potential failure. If you are troubleshooting issues associated with a SQL Server failover cluster, then you should also review the cluster.log file. Once created, the cluster.log resides in the %windir%\cluster\reports directory on each node of the cluster.

Reviewing the Windows Application Event Log

Another area worth troubleshooting is the Windows Application Event Log. If a failure occurs, the SQL Server installation may write event messages to the application event log. The events within the logs are categorized based on the following items: information, warnings and errors. Typically, if an issue arises with the installation, it would be categorized as an error. For example, a dependant server, such as DTC or HTTP service, may not be running, and this would be logged as an error.

Although SQL Server 2008 is considered to be very robust, there are situations where an installation may fail. In these cases, it is beneficial to review the log files, identify the anomalies and then remediate any issues. Unfortunately, some failed installations -- like those that occur during an upgrade -- require you to uninstall the unsuccessful installation. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to use the uninstall command in the summary.txt log file.

About the expert
Ross Mistry is a principal consultant at Convergent Computing, a best-selling author and a SQL Server MVP. He focuses on implementing SQL Server, Active Directory and Exchange solutions for Fortune 500 organizations in the Silicon Valley. His SQL Server specialties include high availability, security, migrations and virtualization. Ross' recent books are "SQL Server 2008 Management and Administration" (Sams) and "Windows Server 2008 Unleashed" (Sams). He is currently working on his latest title "Windows Server 2008 R2 Unleashed," which is scheduled to be released during the 3rd quarter of 2009. Ross frequently writes for TechTarget.com and speaks at international technology conferences around the world. His blog can be found at NetworkWorld.com and his twitter handle is @RossMistry.

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