One of the benefits of being a vagabond consultant is that I get to see a wide variety of SharePoint farms with different combinations of software and configurations. While sometimes that means I have to learn about new configurations, once in a while it means that I get to see something more than once, and I look like a genius when I know the answer off the top of my head. Trust me, there are way more of the former than the latter.

One of those rare “Todd looks smart” moments happened a couple of weeks ago. I had a farm where SharePoint 2007 would not install, no matter what I did. Now I’ve been around the SharePoint block a few times and I’ve been installing SharePoint 2007 for over three years now, and I thought I’d seen it all. Turns out I hadn’t. Before we solve the mystery of why SharePoint wouldn’t install, we need to go back to the week after Christmas…

The Monday after Christmas, we got a frantic call from one of our customers. Their SharePoint 2007 farm, which had been running happily for months, just stopped working, on Christmas Day no less. No Web pages, including Central Administration, were accessible. When the users tried to browse to SharePoint, all they got was a very cold and unfriendly “Internal Server Error 500.”

Someone must have gotten a lump of coal in his or her stocking at Christmas. No amount of IISRESETs, reboots or screaming at the screen would bring SharePoint back to life. They were desperate, really desperate. They were so desperate, they called me. Turns out a Windows patch, KB973917, had patched IIS but broken SharePoint. Removing the patch brought SharePoint back to life and made me look like a hero.

Back to our story about the failed install: After checking all the regular stuff, almost as a joke, I asked the customer if they had KB973917 installed on all these servers. They did. I asked them to remove that patch and try the install again. That was the magic bullet. SharePoint happily installed, and once again I looked like a superstar. That’s twice in a month. I’m pretty sure that’s my allocation for the whole year, and maybe part of next year. You can read more about the adventure I had with that patch in this blog post.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s to test patches in a test environment before rolling them out to production, and no matter how silly the fix might sound, sometimes it’s right.

Todd Klindt is a consultant with SharePoint911.