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FAQ: In What Order Should You Install Service Packs, Update Rollups, and Cumulative Updates?

I’m often asked questions about which order Exchange Server updates need to be installed in. In fact, I’m asked it so often that I wonder why I haven’t written this FAQ before. So here it is, and hopefully this will provide the information that people need. If you’re looking for more information to understand which versions of Exchange are supported, and why you should keep your servers updated, please refer to my best practices article.

The order that you install Exchange Server updates in will depend on the version of Exchange that you’re referring to. In this article I’ll focus on Exchange 2016, Exchange 2013, and Exchange 2010. Exchange 2007 is going to be fully end of life soon enough, and it’s the same as Exchange 2010 anyway in terms of how updates are managed.

Exchange Server 2016 and 2013

The servicing model for Exchange 2016 and 2013 uses “cumulative updates”. A cumulative update is a complete build of the product that includes all previous updates, not an incremental patch or update.

What you should install for new servers

When you’re installing a new Exchange 2016 or 2013 server, you should install the most recent cumulative update. You can find details of the most recent version of Exchange 2016 and 2013 on the Exchange Server Build Numbers page on TechNet.

You do not need to install the RTM build, or any earlier build, and then upgrade to the latest CU. Again, each CU is a full build of the product.

Note: Exchange Server 2013 has the confusingly named Service Pack 1. Exchange 2013 SP1 is effectively Exchange 2013 CU4. I am calling this out because some customers get confused and think that they should install SP1, and then upgrade to the latest CU. Although SP1 is supported, you should not deploy new servers with SP1 as it is well out of date in terms of features and bug fixes.

How to handle updates for existing servers

Because each CU is a full build of the product and includes all previous updates, you can upgrade from any earlier CU to the latest CU. For example, if you are running Exchange 2013 CU9, you can upgrade to Exchange 2013 CU13 directly. You do not need to install CU10, CU11, and CU12 first.

Updating from any CU to any CU is supported, however to the best of my knowledge Microsoft only tests updates from N-2 builds. For example, when Microsoft released CU13, they would test the update process from CU11 and CU12 as they were the previously supported builds. This means that if you are updating from CU9 to CU13, it’s possible that you’ll encounter a problem that Microsoft has not identified in their testing. Although that risk exists, in my opinion it has diminished over time as the quality of the Exchange 2016/2013 code has improved.

Exchange Server 2010

The servicing model for Exchange 2010 uses service packs and update rollups. A service pack is a complete build of the product that includes all previous updates. An update rollup applies to a specific service pack, and includes all previous updates that were included in previous update rollups for that service pack.

What you should install for new servers

When you’re installing a new Exchange 2010 server, you should install the latest service pack, followed by the latest update rollup for that service pack. You can find details of the most recent service pack and update rollup for Exchange 2010 on the Exchange Server Build Numbers page on TechNet.

How to handle updates for existing servers

The steps for updating Exchange 2010 servers depends on which service pack you’re currently running. If you’re running RTM, SP1, or SP2, you’ll need to install SP3 first, then apply the latest update rollup. You can upgrade to SP3 from any previous version of Exchange 2010. You do not need to install SP1 and SP2 first.

If you’re already running Exchange 2010 SP3, you can just apply the latest update rollup. You can update directly to the latest update rollup. For example, if you’re running SP3 with UR10, you can apply update rollup 14 without installing UR11, UR12, and UR13 first.

Additional Resources:

Hopefully this article has answered your questions and concerns about which order you should install Exchange Server updates. If you have any additional questions please post them in the comments below, and if necessary I’ll update this FAQ.

Paul is a Microsoft MVP for Office Servers and Services. He works as a consultant, writer, and trainer specializing in Office 365 and Exchange Server. Paul is a co-author of Office 365 for IT Pros and several other books, and is also a Pluralsight author.
Category: Exchange Server

18 comments

  1. Joel Thoreson says:

    Great details, Paul. The other commonly asked question in regards to any update is “Where do I start?”

    We’ve always deployed updates (SPs, RUs) in an “outside -> in” perspective, by role.

    Maybe that can be articulated to make this FAQ more expansive?

  2. Dean J Weis says:

    I’m a little new to the intricacies of Exchange messaging services and I am also responsible for installing windows updates to all the computers on our network. I use a WSUS system to control the updates and limit the bandwidth to the internet.

    Now what I need to understand is:
    Do the cumulative updates for Exchange include the Server updates for the operating system? Do I still need to install windows updates to the Exchange servers or just the cumulative updates?

    Thank you for the article. I found it very informative and I look forward to your next article.

    Dean

  3. James B says:

    I had issues with a roll up deployment once. While installing the roll up, all the services just stopped. They wouldn’t restart after a reboot, so I had to go in and start them manually. I’ve had successful installs since, but I get a little paranoid every patch night. Anyone else have services stop after installing a roll up?

  4. Rommel says:

    Hi paul,

    Hope you do great.

    I’m also one of the beginner in exchange environment. I have a newly installed exchange server 2016 with no CU installed. It is ok to install CU2 without installing CU1?

    Appreciate your response.

    Thank you,

    Regards,

    Rommel

    • Jake says:

      Rommel,

      I started as an Exchange Admin with absolutely no experience or training a year and a half ago. When I was stuck on something, I always found myself back at exchangeserverpro. Most of the time you can just search Google then put exchangeserverpro somewhere in the search and Paul will already have an article about it. For example: exchangeserverpro what order to install cumulative updates.

      This is an article he has that will answer your question:
      http://practical365.com/faq-order-install-service-packs-update-rollups-cumulative-updates/

      Quote from article “A cumulative update is a complete build of the product that includes all previous updates, not an incremental patch or update.”

  5. Darryl says:

    I installed Exchange 2010 Sp3 Ru14 was previously on RU8. There is suppose to have been a S/MIME update in RU13. RU14 doesn’t appear to update S/MIME. Anyone seen this issue before ?

    • Kyle says:

      Christof,

      Don’t know if you still need an answer or not, but as long as your Exchange 2010 SP3, you can update to any UR version past 5 without needing to install the additional ones. We are on 2010 SP3 UR 5, and I just bumped them to UR 15. The UR’s contain all the previous information the other UR’s in them.

      – Kyle

    • Kyle says:

      Som,

      As stated earlier in the comment threads here, “A cumulative update is a complete build of the product that includes all previous updates, not an incremental patch or update.”

      – Kyle

  6. Kurzy says:

    Hi, I am preparing for migration form Exchange 2013 to Exchange 2016. In my environment I have Exchange 2013 with CU10. Can I install Exchange 2016 CU4 and after that install CU15 for Exchange 2013?

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