Sitecore install error: Web Client Service is Unavailable

I recently had a client who was trying to install Sitecore and they got this error.

I know that I’d seen the error before but I couldn’t remember needing to take any special steps to fix it.. or find any issues that resulted from it.  When I tried to find more about it, I also didn’t find a lot of meaningful documentation without a lot of digging around.  Although this is not a serious error.. and really not even an error, it can be distressing to someone who is trying to install Sitecore for the first time.  I thought I would share what it means and what to  do about it.  First off, let me give props to Sitecore Guild for this post which pointed me in the right direction.

As it turns out, this error is happening when Sitecore tries to configure Webdav support during the installation process… which in case  you’re not familiar.. is a protocol that allows for transfer of files via a web share (as opposed to having to map a network drive or using FTP).  The support for Webdav in Windows happens via the web client service and the error is occurring because it is unable to properly configure IIS to support Webdav for your site without the service running.  It happens in particular when you try installing Sitecore on a Windows Server 2008 install because the default installation does not install the Desktop experience package.  This service is not needed for any other purpose other than to enable Webdav, so if you’re not using Webdav, it won’t matter to you at all one way or another.  In Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 it’s available and enabled and Windows Server 2003, it’s installed .. although it’s not enabled by default.   I suspect that a lot of developers (myself included) probably installed Sitecore for the first time on their own laptop.. which would have it enabled by default.  Once they played with it and felt comfortable, they go to install on the server suddenly this unknown error pops up.

Now.. to answer your next question.. what do you do about it?  The answer, quite simply, is click ok and proceed with the install.  As I said, this is really more of a warning than an error.  Sitecore still configures your installation to support Webdav.  It doesn’t (as near as I can tell) change much of anything with the installation and mostly affects the configuration of the new IIS site.  If you know that you’re going to need Webdav, you have 2 options.  The first is that you can still do nothing.  Webdav requires additional configuration in addition to what is set up during the install process and you can wait til later.  The SDN  has a whole document that covers Webdav configuration, including the steps to enable this service.  If you would rather, you can also back out of the installation and go enable the service and then try installing.  You can find detailed instructions on how to do that here.

Either way, this error is not serious and should not stop you from finishing up with your Sitecore install.  It’s merely a warning about a lack of Webdav support and unless you’re using Webdav, there’s no reason at all for you to worry about it.

Hope this was helpful!  Happy Sitecoring!

Sitecore upgrade assistant?

So welcome to my first post on my Sitecore experiences blog.  As a Sitecore Solutions Engineer, I thought it was about time to start my own blog of my experiences with Sitecore and hopefully be able to pass along some of my own knowledge and experiences to all of you.  What I am currently working on and would welcome feedback on is the upgrade process for Sitecore.

I recently had a customer who was trying to upgrade from Sitecore version 6.1.x and they wanted to get to the current Sitecore recommended version.  In doing so, they would have had to go to the upgrade page and go through the process of mapping out all the individual updates they would need to install to get them to the current version.  We ended up providing them with the update versions to install.. which was done via a manual process of looking at each update and finding out a prereq and then adding that prereq version to the list.  With Sitecore there isn’t a clear upgrade path that allows for you to just install “the upgrade” and be done with it.  Since there are so many different updates and most updates have a prerequisite update that you have to have installed before you can install that update, this can be quite tedious and involve installing 4-5 installs.  This still doesn’t sound like that big a deal until you throw in the fact that you have to walk through about 8-10 steps per upgrade.. which doesn’t include counting all the steps to adding things to .config files.. which can be several steps as well.   To further complicate this, not all upgrades are needed.. only certain ones.. and there are also “optional” steps to the upgrade process.  All of this has to happen and if you miss a step, you could potentially have to start again (i.e. my customer didn’t have a backup for each update and had one of the upgrades gone wrong, he would have had to start at the beginning after doing a restore).  The more complex the Sitecore install is, the harder this whole process is going to be.  I also have to mention that there are lots of modules out there that also have upgraded separately from the actual upgrade.  All of this makes for quite the undertaking and there doesn’t seem to be an easy route to doing all this.

I have decided to try to build a web based upgrade assistant.  No.. it won’t do the update for you… but it will help you in figuring out what you NEED to install.. what files you’ll need to do so.. give you some step by step instructions, provide you with links to modules (at some point.. not sure how easy that will be since there are so many that are 3rd party) and then if there are optional steps to consider in the update, .. it will help you make informed decisions about those decisions (sometimes this is rather complex.. and given that there are going to potentially be a lot of times where a developer isn’t even familiar with Sitecore going into the install process, making these sorts of decisions really ends up requiring some help from Sitecore Support).  So this is my goal.   Wish me luck. 🙂

If you have any feedback or comments.. I welcome them.