How to install an Exchange 2013 server on a single Windows 2012 Standard Edition server

The following step-by-step guide shows you how to install an Exchange 2013 server on a single Windows 2012 Standard Edition server.

To install Windows 2012 (Standard Edition), 4GB ram is sufficient for Demo\Test domain. However, You’ll need at least 8GB for a production server running both client access and mailbox roles.

See here for Exchange 2013 system requirements.

Promote Windows 2012 Server as a domain controller
To add the Role Active Directory domain services, use the configuration wizard:

  • Add a new forest and enter a root domain
  • Select Forest and Domain Functional Level (if it’s a new forest Windows Server 2012)
  • Ensure both boxes are checked for: Domain Naming System (DNS) Server and Global Catalog
  • Enter an appropriate password for Directory Services Restore Mode (DSRM)
  • Accept Netbios name for the Domain Name
  • Accept the default location for AD DS, log files and Sysvol
  • When prompted reboot server

Prepare Active Directory and domains for Exchange 2013
Before starting ensure you are logged in as a user with domain admin privileges.

First, insert or present your Exchange 2013 installation ISO image to your Windows 2012 server. Then launch Windows PowerShell and change drive letter of the DVD or installation media drive. Next, run the following command to prepare the schema: 

.\setup /prepareschema /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

Upon successful completion you will receive message, “The Exchange Server setup operation completed successfully”. This will set the schema range upper value to 15137 and can be checked via ADSIEdit.


Active Directory
Run the following command to prepare the Active Directory: .\setup /PrepareAD /OrganizationName:OrgName /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

The Exchange Server setup operation completed successfully. This will set the organisation objectVersion value to 15449.

NOTE: This will create the required Exchange containers in Active Directory and call it OrgName. Please replace with an appropriate name for your organisation.


Run the following command to prepare the domain: .\setup /PrepareDomain /IAcceptExchangeServerLicenseTerms

The Exchange Server setup operation completed successfully. This will set the Microsoft Exchange System Object objectVersion value to 13236.


Install pre-requisites for an Exchange 2013 mailbox and client access server roles
Launch PowerShell from within your newly created Active Directory server and run the following PowerShell Script:

Install-WindowsFeature AS-HTTP-Activation, Desktop-Experience, NET-Framework-45-Features, RPC-over-HTTP-proxy, RSAT-Clustering, RSAT-Clustering-CmdInterface, Web-Mgmt-Console, WAS-Process-Model, Web-Asp-Net45, Web-Basic-Auth, Web-Client-Auth, Web-Digest-Auth, Web-Dir-Browsing, Web-Dyn-Compression, Web-Http-Errors, Web-Http-Logging, Web-Http-Redirect, Web-Http-Tracing, Web-ISAPI-Ext, Web-ISAPI-Filter, Web-Lgcy-Mgmt-Console, Web-Metabase, Web-Mgmt-Console, Web-Mgmt-Service, Web-Net-Ext45, Web-Request-Monitor, Web-Server, Web-Stat-Compression, Web-Static-Content, Web-Windows-Auth, Web-WMI, Windows-Identity-Foundation

This will install and enable all the necessary roles and features from within Windows.


Upon a successful completion of the command you will receive the following details:

You may receive a warning – “WARNING: You must restart this server to finish the installation process” – if this happens, reboot the server so the roles and features are properly installed and started.

Required Microsoft downloads
Download all the above and install:

Then run the Windows update to patch the latest Microsoft updates.

Exchange 2013 Setup
Run setup from the Exchange 2013 DVD\ISO image on your 2012 server and work your way through the wizard.

When you reach the “Server Role Selection”, check the required Exchange Server Roles (now only 2 available in Exchange 2013).


Then accept the default path (if this is a production server we recommend a separate partition from the boot partition for log and database files)


When finished, the Start menu will now display two new additions: Exchange Management Shell and Exchange Toolbox.


NOTE: there is no shortcut for the Exchange Admin Console. This is because the new console is web based. Enter http://localhost/ecp in a web browser from the server, enter your domain admin login credentials when prompted. Once logged in you’ll gain access to the new web based Exchange Admin Center:


New feature highlights at a brief glance
1) There are now just two server roles:

Client access server role
Client access server role is the server that clients (eg Outlook, Outlook Web App, ActiveSync) connect to for mailbox access. The client access server authenticates and proxies those requests to the appropriate mailbox server.

There are two main components:

  • Client access service – this handles the client connections to mailboxes
  • Front end transport service – this performs various email traffic filtering functions, as well as email routing between the Exchange servers and the external mail\smtp servers.

Client Access servers can be made highly available by configuring two client access servers and setting up Windows network load balancing between the two servers for ports 80 and 443.

Mailbox server role
Mailbox servers host the databases that contain mailbox and public folder data. Exchange 2013 mailbox server role can be made highly available by configuring a database availability group between two or more mailbox servers.

The Mailbox server also runs two transport services:

  • Hub transport service – similar to the Exchange 2007/2010 hub transport server role, this service provides email routing within the organisation, and connectivity between the front end transport service and the mailbox transport service
  • Mailbox transport service – this service passes email messages between the hub transport service and the mailbox database

2) New streamlined Outlook 2013 and Outlook Web App user interfaces, and offline access for OWA.

3) No more Exchange Management Console. All administration is now performed using the new web-based Exchange Administration Center and the Exchange Management Shell (using PowerShell 3.0).

4) Improvements to high-availability features and manageability.

5) Public folders are now stored in mailbox databases and can take advantage of Database Availability Groups for replication and high availability.

6) Data loss prevention capabilities.

Upgrading to Exchange 2013
If you are currently any previous version of Exchange, at present there is no upgrade path to Exchange 2013. In fact, if you already have an Exchange deployment in your Active Directory you cannot deploy an Exchange 2013 server as any co-existence isn’t supported.

Microsoft has announced that they will support co-existence with the following versions of Exchange:

  • Exchange Server 2010 SP3
  • Exchange Server 2007 SP3 and an update rollup

NOTE: both of these updates are currently unavailable from Microsoft!

If you are running Exchange 2003 and wish to upgrade to Exchange 2013 an interim upgrade to Exchange 2010 first will be required.

The following clients will be supported in Exchange 2013:

  • Outlook 2013, Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007
  • Entourage 2008 for MAC, Web Services edition
  • Outlook 2011 for MAC

In terms of Active Directory requirements, Exchange 2013 will support an Active Directory at Windows Server 2003 Forest and Domain functional levels with Windows 2003 Server domain controllers at Service Pack 2.

The Schema will need to be updated as per the installation instructions.

Ryan Godfrey, Infrastructure Consultant

Author: Ryan Godfrey, Infrastructure Consultant
Ryan has ten years’ experience with a broad range of skills and knowledge within the IT industry, designing and delivering projects to Foundation IT’s customers. He has been working with Microsoft Exchange from version 5 through to Exchange 2010 during this time, and more recently testing Exchange 2013.


5 thoughts on “How to install an Exchange 2013 server on a single Windows 2012 Standard Edition server

  1. Greig

    Thanks for writing this as I am building a single server later this week. Just to add SP3 is now available for both 2007 and 2010 Exchange

  2. Robert

    I have built two window 2012 standard servers, both are on different domains, made them global cat servers, loaded exchange 2013 on each as per your guide, both been running for over a month with no major dramas or reboots needed. The only thing is I am receiving Event 6002, MSExcange Mid-TierStorge. Ping of mdb ‘xxxx’ time out afte ’00:00:00′ minutes on both servers which seems to a pretty standard error code that lots of people are reporting as having. Does cause any problems and it seems Microsoft are not to worried about it either.

    This a great guide and would recommend to use it if you wish to have Exchange 2013 on the same server as your Global Cat & Domain Server.

  3. John Moore

    HI, Thanks for the tutorial, the last time I used exchange was version 2003, I followed your instructions to the tee, and when I open the ecp, it gives and error 403 forbidden, I then add :81 to the end of local host and I get to the Outlook web app for administrator, cant seem to get to the Exchange Admin centre, Please help

    1. Ryan Godfrey

      Hi there John,

      apologies for the delay in replying to you.

      Are you accessing the URL from the server itself?
      What happens if you add /?ExchClientVer=15 to the end of your URL, so for example:
      Typically Exchange 2013 will install with a self signed certificate using port 443 so the above address should work for you. If however you have installed Exchange and bound the IIS server to a different port, 81 in your case then this will need to be:

      Let me know if this helps at all.


  4. Arafath

    I have configured evaluation windows server 2012 domain controller and in same server exchange server 2013 also installed but when I purchase volume license and tried to installed , then only I came to know that we cant activate evaluation version if it is domain controller.

    Please help me to do below
    Either activate both server with volume license or steps to backup and restore complete server.

    Thank You,


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