If you want to try Exchange 2003 without making a commitment, then Microsoft has the solution for you.
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Microsoft provides a time-locked evaluation version of Exchange 2003, generally available free at many Microsoft functions, and downloadable from the Microsoft site. You can go to http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/ and click on "Exchange 2003 trial software", or you can order it for a nominal handling cost directly from Microsoft.
The evaluation version of Exchange is exactly the same as the full release version. The broad majority of optional features for Exchange (language packs, Volume Shadow Copy in Exchange 2003 and so on) are available, and there are evaluation versions of both Standard and Enterprise Edition.
The one critical difference: the evaluation version will only run for 120 days from the date of installation. After that, Exchange services will only run for one hour before logging an expiry error and shutting down. The one-hour grace period allows admins to export existing mail.
While the evaluation version(s) are extremely useful for people who want to get acquainted with Exchange without having to shell out full price for it (along with an equally time-locked evaluation copy of Windows 2003 Server), the Exchange evaluation version has some other limitations.
For one, the Exchange evaluation can't be upgraded to the full version by using an upgrade CD edition of Exchange 2003. The upgrade CD can only be used to upgrade an existing installation of Exchange 5.5 or 2000 to Exchange 2003.
If you want to upgrade to the full version from the evaluation version, you need to get the full installation CD. Once you do, insert the CD, run the setup program and select the Reinstall All option. This will preserve all the existing mail and user settings. Another possibility is to install the full version in parallel on another machine in the same organization and migrate everything over incrementally, but this requires a second computer (and a second licensed copy of Windows 2003 Server as well). If the upgrade doesn't work—i.e., Exchange still thinks it's an expired demo copy—run setup /disasterrecovery from the /i386 folder of the setup CD. This will manually retrieve the Exchange directory information from Active Directory, but after the installation is finished the user must mount the stores manually.
Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter.