Deploying the Client for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 : Understanding Deployment Options

2/16/2011 2:35:00 PM
When deploying the Outlook client, administrators can take advantage of several existing Microsoft technologies that have been designed for software distribution. In addition, by utilizing tools found in the installation media and the Microsoft Office Resource Kit (ORK), custom installations and settings can be preconfigured and deployed using one of several software distribution methods.

As organizations begin the planning process, administrators can pick and choose from the available deployment methods and can implement custom client installations that are based on the specific need for each type of client desktop.

Available Methods of Deployment

With Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007, the installation of the client software to the desktop can be performed in ways not available for previous versions. By implementing the tools available in the installation media of Office 2007 or the Microsoft ORK, administrators can elect to use one or more of the following methods for deploying the Outlook client:

  • Manual installation— Manual installation enables administrators to incorporate wizards, profile generation tools, and configuration files into the client installation process. Using these methods, administrators can define baseline settings and standard configuration settings, and they can manually test the installation when complete.

  • Windows Server 2008 or Windows 2003 Group Policy— Leveraging Windows Group Policy Software deployment technologies and Microsoft Office Security Templates, Outlook clients and client updates can be pushed to desktop systems on the network. Using Group Policy, administrators can also centrally configure Outlook security and user options to enforce a baseline configuration to all client systems on the enterprise.

  • Imaging technologies— Whether upgrading to a newer version of Outlook or deploying Outlook in a new environment, organizations can image the Outlook clients to the desktop or refresh the entire desktop image to implement updates or the latest company standards.

  • System Center Configuration Manager— Using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), you can centrally deploy and push the Outlook client and updates to large numbers of desktop systems in multiple locations throughout the enterprise. This option also enables tracking and reporting information to manage a full Exchange Outlook client deployment.

Outlook Profile Generation

Often, one of the biggest challenges Exchange Server administrators face when deploying Outlook is configuring the profiles to communicate with the Exchange server. To automate this task, profiles can be scripted using tools available with the installation media of Office 2007 or the ORK from Microsoft.

Outlook 2003 client profiles and their associated Exchange server settings can be configured using the Office 2003 Custom Installation Wizard (CIW) and configuration files can be created with Outlook option settings.

Outlook 2007 can be similarly prepared utilizing the new Office Customization Tool (OCT). The OCT is a new application that is included with Microsoft Office 2007. With the OCT, administrators can preconfigure components and settings within the Office 2007 suite to simplify deployments.

Creating Custom Profiles by Using PRF Files

By creating an Outlook profile (PRF) file, administrators can quickly create Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) profiles for Microsoft Office Outlook users. A PRF file is a text file that contains syntax that Microsoft Outlook uses to generate a profile. By utilizing a PRF file, an administrator can configure new profiles, or modify existing ones, without affecting other parts of your Outlook (or Office) installation. PRF files can be manually edited to include custom Outlook settings or MAPI services that are not included in the Custom Installation Wizard interface.

Because Outlook PRF files are executable, administrators can update profiles by double-clicking the filename to run the file directly. When executing a PRF file, Outlook ensures that services that should be unique are not added more than once.

The easiest way to create a PRF file is by using the Custom Installation Wizard (CIW) for Office 2003, or the OCT for Office 2007. Administrators can specify the settings desired, and then export the settings to a PRF file. The PRF file can then be manually edited if the need should arise, for example, if your organization wants to add a new service that is not included in the CIW or OCT. The PRF file can be manually edited in any text-editing application (such as notepad.exe).

To create a PRF file with Office 2007, use the setup.exe file on the installation media. The steps to create a PRF file follow:

From the root of the Office 2007 media, enter setup.exe /admin to launch the Office Customization Tool.

Click OK to create a new setup customization file.

Select the Outlook profile under Outlook from the left tree.

Select either the Modify Profile radio button to use the default profile named Default Outlook Profile or the New Profile radio button to create a different named profile.

Select Specify Exchange Server settings under Outlook from the left tree.

Select the Configure an Exchange Server connection radio button.

Enter the Exchange Server name.

Select Remove Accounts & Export Settings under Outlook from the left tree.

Click the Export Profile Settings button.

Browse to a save location and enter a filename to save the PRF to.

You can use the resulting PRF file to set the profile automatically.

You can set additional settings to customize even further. PRF files can be applied to Outlook in several ways:

  • Import the PRF file in the CIW or the OCT to specify profile settings in a transform, and then include the transform when you deploy Outlook.

  • Specify the PRF file as a command-line option for outlook.exe, without prompting the user, as follows:

    outlook.exe /importprf \\server1\share\outlook.prf
  • Specify the PRF file as a command-line option for outlook.exe, but prompt the user before importing the PRF file, as follows:

    outlook.exe /promptimportprf \\localfolder\outlook.prf


    Although the PRF file can be located on a network share (as shown in the first example), it will not be applied if the file is not found or if the user account used to execute the installation process does not have the appropriate permissions to access the file.

  • Administrators can also configure the Registry to trigger Outlook to import the PRF file upon startup. Both the CIW and the Custom Maintenance Wizard contain a feature that allows you to Add/Remove Registry Entries.

Using the CIW or the OCT to preconfigure Outlook options and apply the initial profile configuration through PRF files is a very effective means of deploying Outlook profiles.


The CIW and Microsoft Exchange Profile Update tool, along with additional utilities, can be found in the ORK, which can be downloaded from Microsoft. These are needed for configuring Outlook 2003. The tools for Outlook 2007, such as the OCT, are included in the Outlook 2007 setup program and you can access them by running setup.exe /admin.

Configuring Outlook Client Options

Even after the Outlook client software has been installed, administrators can define configuration settings and apply them dynamically to the existing clients. This task can be accomplished in one of several ways.

Custom Installation Wizard

To deploy the Outlook 2003 client to desktops on the network with configuration options predefined, powerful tools such as the CIW, along with Office configuration files such as PRF files, can be leveraged to define Outlook client options for large deployments that have the need to specify client user options. Using these tools can potentially eliminate the need for administrators to visit each desktop to configure profile settings and Outlook options.

The resulting files are Microsoft Windows Installer Transform (MST) files.

Office Customization Tool

What the CIW is to Office 2003, the OCT is to Office 2007. Administrators can preconfigure components and settings to simplify the deployment of the product. The resulting files are Microsoft Windows Installer Patch (MSP) files.

Windows Server Group Policy

Another effective configuration option is the centralized management available through security templates for Outlook. With the Group Policy feature of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2003, standard and advanced options can be configured and established after the client software has been deployed.

This option can also be useful when deploying new settings to existing clients after a policy change.

Deploying Non-Windows Systems

In organizations with non-Windows–based systems, such as a Macintosh desktop, special considerations must be made for accessing an Exchange Server environment

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