Getting Help With ISA Server – Helping Us Help You!

Usability strides in ISA 2004 aside, ISA Server is a powerful product that’s still  quite easy to misconfigure. With great flexibility comes great potential complexity…

Most of the time, there’s a straightforward explanation for unintended results, it’s just a matter of working out what that reason is.

When Asking For Help, It Helps To Include This Information

A few tips when asking for help with ISA Server – fairly generic, this is how we (PSS) break down problems when trying to solve them – that make it a lot easier to suggest how to fix them:

  • What are you trying to do? (What’s the goal?)
  • What’s the problem you’re experiencing?

    • Is there an associated error message? (if so, what?)
    • What do the logs say about the attempt? (check the logs!)

  • What have you tried?

    • What was the outcome of each thing you tried, if it made a difference?

  • What’s the current setup like? (this is where ISAInfo comes in, if it’s needed).


I’ll take a moment to describe ISAInfo – where possible, try to have ISAINFO output ready to send to the person working with you. ISAInfo is a script that exports your ISA configuration to a text file (TXT for ISA2000, XML for ISA2004) and nine times out of ten, something somewhere in there will be enough for someone to explain why you’re getting something unexpected. It’s like support gold!

For more complex issues (more often, possible issues with the underlying platform), we also have the MPSReports reporting suite, which does funky things like dump the event logs and collect other useful information (depending on the edition), output in a CAB file.

I wouldn’t suggest posting ISAInfo output to a newsgroup or other public forum with every question:

  • Most importantly, it contains potentially sensitive information that could be used by someone to attack your network
  • Some people dislike posting of attachments to non-binaries groups

For these reasons, it’s normally preferred to email ISAInfo output directly to the person you’re working with, or arrange a secure private transfer.

How To Find Help

As for how to get help:

  • Quickest, widest and easiest, Google for it. Don’t forget to hit the Groups tab if a Web search comes up without anything useful matching your question – this searches Newsgroup posts that Google have archived.
  • Next, hit – try searching the Microsoft Knowledge Base directly if a wider Web/Newsgroup search comes up blank.
  • If you don’t find an answer and you don’t need a response in a particular hurry, try the ISA Server newsgroups (link is at the top of the ISA Server Community page). Don’t forget to check back for a response; posts are typically made back to the group so that everyone can benefit from them, not emailed directly.
  • I’d imagine the same applies for the forums at
  • Finally, the fastest way to fix a problem is probably to call your local Product Support Services number, and speak to a Support Professional. This is a paid service (except for hotfix requests and problems that turn out to be product bugs – see current terms and conditions, etc, etc), but you’ll be able to work with someone interactively until the issue is resolved.

Good hunting!