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Deploying the Client for Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 : Planning Considerations and Best Practices, Preparing the Deployment

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4/16/2013 6:22:14 PM

1. Planning Considerations and Best Practices

Before deploying the Microsoft Outlook client, organizations should carefully evaluate their messaging needs and take a good look at their existing environment. There are many facets to the deployment of any software solution, and organizations with complex environments and messaging needs will only be successful in their implementation if they plan accordingly.

Identifying and documenting various client needs, reviewing the overall network topology, and reviewing recommended best practices can allow administrators to greatly enhance the performance of each deployment and ensure a transparent client installation.

Network Topology Bandwidth Consideration

When planning the deployment of Outlook clients to end users, administrators should take their existing network environment into account to avoid network disruptions or bandwidth saturation that could impact their user community.

When evaluating the network environment in a single-site deployment, the primary focus should be on ensuring adequate bandwidth for the client deployment. By planning the deployment in small groups, or after normal business hours, administrators can avoid negatively impacting their user community.

With multisite organizations, administrators must review the available network bandwidth on wide area network (WAN) links. Because these types of connections are generally significantly slower than local area network (LAN) connections, it can be challenging to deploy multiple Outlook clients simultaneously without negatively impacting the overall WAN performance. If this is done during normal working hours, or during periods of high network utilization (during the evenings when network backups are being performed, for example), communication problems can result.

One way to avoid passing large amounts of data across the WAN is through the use of administrative distribution points that contain copies of the files necessary for installation. By placing an administrative distribution point at each remote location, deployments can be managed centrally while minimizing the traffic across the WAN link. This can help avoid bandwidth saturation and can improve overall implementation times.

Planning Best Practices

To assist in the planning process when deploying the Outlook client, the following best practices are offered for review:

  • Deploy the Outlook client with the Microsoft Office suite to provide enhanced functionality, such as the ability to utilize Microsoft Word as the Outlook client email editor.

  • Be sure to document all profile settings and configuration options for each transform, PRF, and custom installation file.

  • Always test deployment options and profile generations in a lab environment prior to deploying to actual clients.

  • Deploy Outlook and preconfigured settings to a pilot group prior to full deployment. Administrators should work with these pilot users on testing all aspects of the application prior to widespread distribution.

  • Break users into small, easily managed groups for deployment. Deploy the client software in phases to these groups to ensure “morning-after” supportability.

  • When creating and naming configuration files, use unique naming conventions based on the group or configuration options being focused on. For example, when configuring options for workstations in the Public Relations department, you can name the file public_relations.prf to avoid confusing it with other configuration files.

Addressing Remote and Mobile Client Systems

When planning the Outlook client deployment, special attention must be paid to the needs of remote and mobile clients. With remote and mobile users accessing the business network environment using many different methods, administrators should consider what might happen to clients who access the network over low-bandwidth links, such as virtual private network (VPN) or Remote Access Server (RAS) dial-up links.

One method to avoid this problem is to schedule remote and mobile users to come to a location where administrators can perform the installation manually. This can be accomplished during monthly or quarterly meetings or during sales calls near a corporate office. Alternatively, user workstations can be shipped to a central location where administrators can install the application and return the machine to the user. This method is often used during full software upgrades, or in situations where the installation process requires special know-how beyond the average end user.

As an additional alternative, rarely used except with senior executives, administrators can travel to the client location to perform the needed work.

Managing the Outlook Deployment

Managing the deployment of Outlook clients can be much easier when utilizing a software deployment tool, such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). With Microsoft SMS, deployments can be tracked and managed down to the desktop level. Administrators can identify which desktops need the Outlook client, deploy the Outlook client, and even identify and track any failed installations utilizing the reporting functionality built in to SMS 2003.

When options such as SMS are not available, it can be extremely difficult to track the deployment of the client and determine overall progress. The tools available in the ORK do not present any evidence on the installation progress, nor does the use of Windows 2003 Server Group Policy. However, you can use the following methods to gather a limited amount of information:

  • When using Windows Server Group Policy, administrators can filter the server Application Event Logs to search for any events generated by the MSI Installer.

  • On the local machine, administrators can use the Add or Remove Programs application in Control Panel to determine if the Outlook update package is listed. By utilizing the Remote Desktop feature built in to Windows XP, this option can be accomplished remotely.

2. Preparing the Deployment

As the planning phase of the deployment comes to a close, administrators can focus on preparing the different areas of the Outlook client deployment.

Each of the different methods that will be utilized to deploy the software should be reviewed and tested to ensure a seamless installation.

Outlook Systems Requirements

Prior to deploying the Outlook client to user desktop systems on the network, the desktop hardware must be evaluated to determine whether it meets the recommended Microsoft hardware and software requirements to support the client.


Utilizing Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS), administrators can conduct remote hardware inventories on managed systems. SMS can then create a report detailing the current status of all hardware, software, and available drive space on these systems.

Ensure that the desktop systems meet the minimum installation requirements by reviewing Table 1.

Table 1. Outlook System Requirements
RequirementOutlook 2003Outlook 2007
Client operating systemMicrosoft Windows 2000 SP3 or laterMicrosoft Windows Vista, Windows XP2 or later
Processor speed233-MHz processor or higher500-MHz processor or higher
Memory128MB of RAM or higher256MB of RAM or higher
Hard disk space400MB2GB required for installation
Messaging systemMicrosoft Exchange Server 5.5 or greaterMicrosoft Exchange 2000 Server or greater
Monitor resolution800×600 or higher recommendedMinimum 800×600; 1024×768 recommended
Additional componentsMicrosoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or higherMicrosoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher

Although the installation of Outlook 2007 requires 2GB of hard disk space, a portion of that space will be released after installation if the original download package is removed from the hard drive.


If installing Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, a 1-GHz processor and 512MB of RAM or higher is required. Also, prior to installing Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager, administrators will first have to install Outlook 2007.

Planning Predefined Configuration Options

Another area to understand when planning for the deployment of the Outlook client is what options can be configured using the CIW and transform configuration files.

Understanding how to utilize PRF files, transforms, and various ORK utilities enables Exchange administrators to create a baseline plan detailing what options will be used prior to actually creating the individual configuration files.

Using the CIW, you can configure the following features:

  • Outlook User Profile Settings— Administrators can specify how users’ profiles will be created. Using this option, administrators can set new profiles, modify existing profiles, or add additional user profiles.

  • Exchange Server Settings— Settings defining Exchange server names and specific options, such as Exchange connection options, can also be defined.

  • Installation States for Outlook and Features— Using the installation options, administrators can define installation states to make individual features available, available at first use, or not available.

  • Mail Options— Options such as PST and OST settings and synchronization options can be defined using the CIW.

  • Settings and Options— Many of the options available when configuring Outlook from within the application can be defined when creating custom installation files.

  • Installation Path— Ensure that the installation directory path on the desktop where the Outlook client will be installed contains enough free disk space to complete the installation.

Using the OCT, the following features are configurable:

  • Outlook User Profile Settings— Administrators can specify how users’ profiles will be created. Using this option, administrators can set new profiles, modify existing profiles, or add additional user profiles.

  • Apply PRF— This setting imports an Outlook PRF file to define a new default profile. You can use any profile created for Outlook 2007.

  • Do Not Configure Cached Exchange Mode— This setting configures Outlook 2007 to only attach to the Exchange mailboxes directly from the Exchange server.

  • Configure Cached Exchange Mode— This setting creates an OST file or uses an existing OST file. This results in users working with a local copy of their Exchange mailbox.

Creating Administrative Installation Points

If the deployment requires administrative installation points, administrators can create them using the setup.exe program of the Outlook or Office installation software and utilizing the /a switch.

To create the administrative installation point, complete these steps:


In the following example, the administrative installation point is created using the Microsoft Office 2003 installation media.

Insert the installation CD-ROM into the systems where the installation point will be created. Click Start, Run, type setup.exe/a in the Open text box, and then click OK to continue.

When prompted, enter the product key that came with the Office 2003 installation software, and click Next to continue.


Use the Install Location option on this screen to change the installation path that Outlook will use when being deployed.

Accept the End User License Agreement (EULA) and select Install; this begins the installation process.

Select the installation state for Outlook and Outlook options; click Next to continue.

Automating Outlook Profile Settings

You have multiple options for configuring Outlook profiles when deploying. The most commonly used are the PRF files that generate Outlook profiles and apply Outlook settings.

To configure profile settings using PRF files, administrators can use the CIW or the OCT. Profile settings are defined on the Outlook: Customize Default Profile page. This section guides administrators through the standard configuration of the PRF file to generate a user’s profile dynamically after the Outlook client installation has completed. In this scenario, you configure a single PRF file and create the Outlook profile for any user when the Outlook client is launched for the first time.

To create a new profile, open the CIW by selecting Start, Run, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office Tools, Microsoft Office ORK, Custom Installation Wizard. Then follow these steps:

Select the default options until the Outlook: Customize Default Profile page appears. Select the New Profile option, enter Outlook for the profile name, and click Next.


To configure the PRF file to run when Outlook is launched for the first time, use the Add/Remove Registry Entries page of the Custom Installation Wizard.

To enable the run-once option, make the following Registry changes:

Delete the following key:


Expand the Registry tree to the following:


Add the string value and enter the path of the PRF file share created earlier.

To configure the PRF file to dynamically configure each user profile, enter the %username% variable in the User Name field. Also, enter the name of your Exchange server.

Because this PRF file is a default profile configuration file, click Next at the Add Accounts screen.

On the Remove Accounts and Export Settings screen, select the Export Profile Settings option. Enter the name “Outlook” for the name of the new PRF file and save the file to the desired location. Select Finish to complete the PRF file creation.


Microsoft PRF files can also be configured with additional Outlook profile settings, such as Personal folders and Outlook option settings. To understand more about configuring PRF files, go to http://www.microsoft.com/office/ork and search for .PRF.

Creating Transforms and Profile Files

Several different types of configuration files can be used to deploy Outlook client configurations to the desktop. In this section, you complete the steps needed to configure Outlook using the CIW to create transforms and PRF files.

Creating Transforms

Transform files, designated with a .MST extension, are created using the Office CIW or the Office OCT. Transforms can be used to create detailed custom settings when installing and configuring the Outlook client.


Use the Transform option when extensive settings are required for the Outlook deployment and when deploying Outlook with the Office application suite. Transforms can be configured with custom settings and Outlook profile information, making this option the most comprehensive of all configuration options when deploying.

Be sure to document all settings expected to be used when creating configuration transform files.

To create a transform file, download and install the appropriate ORK, launch the utility, and then follow these steps:

From the Welcome to Microsoft Office Custom Installation Wizard screen, click Next.

On the Open the MSI File page, enter the path and filename for the Outlook MSI Installation package. Use the Browse button to locate the MSI installation package being used for this Microsoft Transform file. Click Next to continue.

Because this scenario is creating a new Transform file, on the Open the MST File page, click the Create a New MST File option, and click Next.

Select the location where the new MST file will be created, and click Next.

Enter the location where the Outlook installation will be placed on the desktop when the client is deployed, and then enter the name of the organization that will be used for registration information.

If previous installations of Outlook and Microsoft Office exist on the desktop, select which installation version to remove.


Selecting the option to remote a previous version of Outlook removes the selected version and all components of the Microsoft Office suite existing on the client desktop prior to installation of the new Outlook client or Office Suite.

On the Set Feature Installation States page, select the Outlook components that will be installed. Select the Microsoft Outlook for Windows and the Run from My Computer options.

Use the Custom Default Application Settings page to define and add an Office Application Settings (OSP) file. If upgrading, select the Migrate User’s Settings check box to maintain the existing user-defined options after the upgrade.

Use the Change the Office User Settings page to define the settings and options to be applied to Outlook after the installation is finished.

Use the Options pages to modify the Outlook installation; continue through the configuration pages to create the transform files.

Continue through the installation and configure the following:

Add/remove additional custom installation files.

Add/remove custom Registry entries.

Modify shortcuts and Outlook icons.

If deploying across WAN links, select an additional installation point for the deployment.

Establish Outlook security settings.

Add additional programs to be installed with Outlook.


For more information regarding options on each page and additional settings, use the Help option on each page to review the Microsoft Custom Installation Wizard help file.

Configuring Profiles with Transforms

Customizing the configuration of a profile during the installation can be accomplished using the Customize Default Profiles page. Using the options available, administrators can select the method in which to create the client profile with the Outlook Deployment tool.

For this transform, select Apply PRF File and select the PRF file created in the previous section. If you want to use an existing profile, modify an existing profile, or create a new profile, you can select one of those options instead.

  • Use Existing Profile— Use when upgrading the Outlook client; this option maintains the existing settings.


    When Use Existing Profile is selected and no profile is found on the client desktop, this option prompts the user to create the profile.

  • Modify Profile— Select this option to customize profile information and Exchange Outlook options.

  • New Profile— Use this option to create a single new profile and configure connection settings.

Additional options are available, such as Send and Receive Options and Mail settings; continue through the configuration screens by choosing the desired options for your organization’s deployment. The creation of the PRF file can be completed at any time by clicking the Finish button on any setup screen.

After the PRF has been created, the command syntax required to implement the transform file will be shown for you. Copy the command as it is shown for future reference.

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