MSDE Strange Install Error resolved…

OK, there is a strange and wonderful issue with MSDE that I could not find a tech note on on, so before I go off to write one up, here is the problem and solution.   This happened to me on a SBS2003 (No SP1) install, but I do not know if that is even relevant.

MSDE install rolls back, and you get no specific error except the default 11708 Error in the event viewer saying:

Product: Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine — Installation operation failed.
For more information, see Help and Support Center at

However, if you enable verbose logging of the install, you will find something like the text below:

Unable to open service.
Unable to connect as the SQL service is not running.
Ending custom action UpgDetectBlankSaLogin().
Action ended 16:21:18: UpgDetectBlankSaLogin.2D02443E_7002_4C0B_ABC9_EAB2C064397B. Return value 3.
Action ended 16:21:18: INSTALL. Return value 3.

For an unknown reason (to me anyway) the installer will reject the SAPWD parameter on your command line install.   However, all is not lost, you can do the following to get around the issue:

Instead of using the SAPWD=”yourpasswordhere” replace that with BLANKSAPWD=1, which installs MSDE without a SA Password.

After you reboot the machine, start the SQL instance, then using the command prompt type:

osql -S (local)YOURINSTANCENAME -U sa -P “” -Q “sp_password NULL,’Typeyourpasswordhere’, ‘sa'”

This will give you a “Password Changed” message, and you are good to go.