AD Certificate Services not starting due to database in Dirty Shutdown


I had a customer running SBS (Small Business Server) 2011, which runs Exchange 2010, who needed to renew their SSL Certificate as it had recently expired. I have quite a bit of experience with SBS since we have a large Support customer base running it & while it can be a pain to troubleshoot because of so many moving pieces (AD/Exchange/SharePoint/WSUS/SQL/RD Gateway all on one box) there are a few cool features. One of these features is the “Setup your Internet Address” wizard. Because SBS is also its own Certificate Authority the wizard will generate a certificate for you & assign it to Exchange/IIS/RD Gateway. It will also configure all the Exchange virtual directories for you as well as create a certificate install package for you to deploy to non-domain joined systems so your Outlook Anywhere clients will trust your CA.



However, when going to re-run the wizard to renew the certificate I received an error regarding the Active Directory Certificate Service not running. The System event logs had a 7024 event from “Service Control Manager” stating “The Active Directory Certificate Services service terminated with the service-specific error %%939523546”.

So we were unable to request a new certificate & the customer was hoping to avoid purchasing a third-party certificate since they had been working fine (for an extremely small shop) like this for several years.



After researching the error, I found that the error code given pointed to the Certificate Authority database being corrupted. So I navigated to C:\Windows\System32\Certlog & I found an old friend; an ESE (Extensible Storage Engine) database file.  If you didn’t know already, ESE isn’t just used for Exchange.

AD Certificate Services, DHCP (C:\Windows\System32\dhcp\dhcp.mdb), & Active Directory itself (C:\Windows\NTDS\ntds.dit) all use ESE databases.

The caveat however is that instead of ESEUTIL, you should use ESENTUTL to work with them.

(Additional references 1 & 2)

So I ran esentutl /mh <CA Name>.edb to view the header of the database file & found that it was in a Dirty Shutdown. I then tried to run a Recovery against the database by running Esentutl /r edb but this failed.

If this were an Exchange database then this would be where I would try to restore from a backup. Unfortunately this customer did not have a backup of their CA database file (I think a lot of customers would fall into this category) so I had to move onto running a Repair which is the dreaded “/P”.

Microsoft Support offers strict guidance around running a “/p” on Exchange (like performing a Defrag or a Mailbox Move followed by an Integrity Check/Mailbox Repair immediately after having to run a /p; Also, it should be considered a LAST resort) but no such guidance exists for Certificate Services since it is a much MUCH simpler database structure. But a ‘/P” is almost always a destructive action, with associated data loss, so if you have a backup you should always pursue that option first

I ran esentutl /p <CA Name>.edb & after it completed I was then able to start the Active Directory Certificate Services Service. All the proper data (including Issued Certificates & Templates) were still there & after re-running the SBS “Setup your Internet Address” wizard the customer now had a renewed certificate.





5 thoughts on “AD Certificate Services not starting due to database in Dirty Shutdown

  1. Pingback: NeWay Technologies – Weekly Newsletter #95 – May 15, 2014 | NeWay

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  3. Pingback: Weekly IT Newsletter – May 12-16, 2014 | Just a Lync Guy

  4. Pingback: Interesting things that i see on the internet, 30th May. | 503 5.0.0 polite people say HELO

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