Exchange Server 2007 Bitten By Leap Year Bug

The problem prevented administrators from installing the program, setting up new mailboxes in existing Exchange instances, or making other configuration changes.

March 4, 2008

2 Min Read
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Call it the 2-29 bug. Microsoft's Exchange Server 2007 e-mail and messaging server was hit with a leap year glitch on Friday that prevented administrators from installing the program, setting up new mailboxes in existing Exchange instances, or making other configuration changes.

"We have been made aware that some of our Exchange Server 2007 customers have been experiencing the ... issue," a Microsoft official conceded in a blog post.

The problems occurred if users attempted to start, or restart, the Exchange System Attendant service between 12:00 a.m. UTC on Feb. 29 and 12:00 a.m. UTC on March 1, wrote Nino Bilic, a member of Microsoft's Exchange Server team. UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, Wikipedia says, a high-precision atomic time standard used to measure leap seconds, which are announced at irregular intervals to compensate for the Earth's slowing rotation and other discrepancies. Time zones around the world are expressed as positive or negative offsets from UTC. Local time is UTC plus a time zone offset for that location.

Bilic said users could fix the problem simply by restarting Exchange Server -- widely used by large companies companies as well as countless small businesses -- after the critical hours had passed.

Some Microsoft customers, however, blasted the company for not notifying them sooner about the potential problem. "Un-bloody believable," wrote "Gez", in a post on Bilic's blog. "Just spent the best part of nine hours searching the Web and trying to work out what happened. An earlier warning would have been much appreciated."Another poster said he also wasted an entire workday trying to solve the problem before hearing from Microsoft. "Yesterday took years off my life as I thought our infrastructure was busted," wrote "Anthony".

Bilic didn't post his fix for the issue until late Friday afternoon.

Virtually all computers use an internal clock to carry out their functions. Problems can occur when the computer's clock is at odds with the real-world calendar. In addition to the infamous Y2K bug, many systems in the United States were thrown off by last year's switch to early daylight-saving time unless they had been patched in advance.

The upside for aggravated system administrators: They won't again have to worry about the leap year bug for another four years.

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