Jack of all that is Microsoft, Master of None

September 23, 2006

Getting OWA to Run on an SPS 2003 Server

I’ve been working over the past few weeks with a colleague of mine, Chris Winn, on a huge MOSS 2007 customization / development effort.  Hopefully pretty soon I will be able to blog a bit about the project, as we’re doing some really cool stuff.  Anyhow, the other day, Chris mentioned to me that he wanted to run OWA on an SPS 2003 box that was also running SQL 2005. We agreed that this isn’t exactly supported and not well documented, but frankly, OWA is just a web site… you could shut down the mailbox stores and such, and just have it connect to the back-end mailbox server.  So why can’t it run on an SPS box?  Well Chris took the initiative and worked on this, and came up with the following… if you would like to get in touch with Chris and ask any questions, post them here and he can respond to them.

Basically, the reason for doing this is that the client required SPS users to be able to seamlessly move between SPS & OWA without having to re-login.  As we all know, the SPS 2003 Exchange web parts are quite lacking in functionality, so this would be a way to give them the full functionality of OWA – only a seemless experience.

So here’s what you will need to do, from Chris W, with a few additions that I threw in…

  1. Perform your typical installation of SPS 2003 (Note: Read Step 3 before installing).  In this case, SQL 2005 was also installed locally on the box and the SPS environment was running SSL with a valid wildcard certificate.
  2. Make sure that you hardcode the SharePoint host headers to match your particular SharePoint application requirements (your host header value should not be blank).
  3. Check to see if your SharePoint web site has an Identifier = 1 within IIS.  You can do this by clicking on the ‘Web Sites’ folder within IIS, and in the view on the right-hand side, one of the columns is identifier.   Only the ‘default web site’ that is created upon install of IIS has this default identifier value of 1.  If your SPS site is using this site, then the OWA installation will not work, because OWA requires the default web site (Identifier = 1).  Therefore, before installing SPS, make sure that you create a new web site to extend Sharepoint on to (typically located on a different logical disk).  Note that if you deleted your Default web site, you will need to go on to another IIS server and save the default web site to a config file, then create a new web on your SPS box from this file… because you need that default web site with the identifer = 1 for OWA.
  4. Verify that you have installed and have the SMTP & NNTP services running.  Check this by going into add/remove programs -> windows components -> Application Server -> IIS.  If you have been using SMTP within IIS, then make a note of your settings, as you will need them later.
  5. Open up SharePoint Cental Administration, and choose ‘Configure Virtual Server Settings’ -> then choose the Portal Server that you want OWA loaded on -> then under ‘Virtual Server Management’ choose ‘Define Managed Paths’.  Now, add in ‘exchange’ & ‘exchweb’ as excluded paths… note that ‘exadmin’ is optional.
  6. Now install Exchange 2003 – Minimal – and make sure you include the Exchange System Management Tools.  Then update it to Service Pack 2 (make sure your back-end is also on SP2).
  7. Run Exchange System Manager and find your SharePoint server (that will have OWA on it) under the appropriate Administrative Group -> Servers.  Right click on the server -> Properties, and check the box to configure this as a ‘Front-End Server’.
  8. Now, delete the Default Storage Group by deleting the child Default & Public Stores.  Make sure you do this only on the SPS / OWA server – not your Back-End Exchange server!
  9. Also stop & disable the Exchange Information Store & MTA Stacks services.
  10. In Exchange System Manager -> Under your SPS Server -> Protocols -> HTTP -> Properties for ‘Exchange Virtual Server’ -> Settings tab -> Uncheck the box for ‘Use forms-based authentication’.
  11. Now, head over to IIS.  If you look in the Default Web Site (identifier = 1), you will notice quite a few virtual folders that Exchange has installed.  You will need to save exchange, exchweb & exadmin (optional) to a configuration file.  You can do this by right-clicking on the name -> all tasks -> Save Configuration to a File.
  12. Now, open up your SharePoint web site within IIS, and right click – New -> Virtual Directory from File.  Create a virtual directory from file for the ones you saved in step 11.
  13. Now, download and install the update for Exchange 2003, KB 911829.
  14. Note that if you created the default web site, edit the host header to make it inaccessible.
  15. Also note that if you were using SMTP before you installed Exchange, go into Exchange System Manager & modify the SMTP settings under the SPS server back to what they were set to earlier (Step #4).

That’s it… good luck, and comments & questions are always welcome.




  1. Alright, trying to find some info on OWA hardware requirements and cannot get any closer than the above article.

    Would you be able to tell me if I can install and configure OWA on a backend server as I have just created a small network/domain and only want to use one server for exchange. I have got mail flowing fine but am unsure how to tackle the OWA config/install.

    Can you advise?

    Thanks in advance

    Comment by Jez — February 20, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  2. use sbs you should get most of the functionality.

    Comment by peanuts — August 14, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  3. I must say, I can not agree with you in 100%, but it’s just my IMHO, which could be wrong.
    p.s. You have a very good template . Where did you find it?

    Comment by hydraulic jacks — March 14, 2009 @ 8:30 am

  4. Awesome post . Thanks for, writing on this blog man. Ill message you some time! I did not realise that!

    Comment by website — May 27, 2012 @ 3:58 am

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