SharePoint Tip-of-the-day: Speed up Servicing

Hats off to Russ Maxwell over at MSDN blogs for this hot tip on SharePoint servicing:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/russmax/archive/2013/04/01/why-sharepoint-2013-cumulative-update-takes-5-hours-to-install.aspx

I am getting back (finally) to working on our SharePoint 2013 migration, and being reminded of how much I hate servicing the SharePoint stack.  How can installing a few hundred megabytes of SharePoint bits take so much time?!?!?

It turns out you can speed up installation of service packs and cumulative updates simply by stopping (or pausing) Search services, the SharePoint Timer service, and the IIS Admin service.  I tried it, and it works!  Installation of the SharePoint 2013 September 2014 CU took not more than a minute with these services halted.  (At least, it did on three out of four servers… the fourth failed miserably owing to MSI errors.

More on that…

I found the following old, but still relevant, article on troubleshooting Office software installation problems:

http://support2.microsoft.com/kb/954713/en-us

To summarize, you go to your %temp% directory and look for “Opatchinstall(#).log” and “######_MSPLOG.log.” (In my case, there was a file called something like “wss##_MSPLOG.log.  Old-school SharePoint guys will recognize “WSS” as “Windows SharePoint Services”).  Try to locate a line containing “MainEngineThread is returning”, and look up the error code that was returned here:

Mine was error code 1646, or “ERROR_PATCH_REMOVAL_UNSUPPORTED: The patch package is not a removable patch package. Available beginning with Windows Installer version 3.0.”  Apparently the language pack for SP2013 Standard that I was using refused to uninstall.  That’s the legacy of excessive servicing from early release versions, I guess.  Since I was still running on Server 2012 (R1), I decided to nuke and repave rather than troubleshoot.  Boo.

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