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TCP ports and Microsoft Exchange: In-depth discussion
Article ID: 176466 - View products that this article applies to.
This article was previously published under Q176466
In troubleshooting communication between computers running Exchange Server and between computers running Exchange Server and Exchange Client, you often face the issue of the use of packet filtering (firewall), which can result in an inability to communicate. In certain situations, you may need to monitor traffic on your network before introducing Exchange in your network infrastructure, to ensure that communication can occur among the various Exchange components. This article addresses the frequently asked questions of what ports need to be open when firewalls are used and what ports need to be monitored in the Microsoft Exchange organization.
In discussing network traffic associated with Exchange, there are six scenarios:
TERMINOLOGY: When discussing ports, two terms are often used: "well-known" and "ephemeral." "Well-known" represents ports below the 1024 range that are used regularly and have in most cases a standardized assignment for certain types of network service. "Ephemeral" represents all ports inclusive of and above the 1024 range.
An in-depth discussion follows of issues for each of the six scenarios presented above.
Communication between POP3 clients and Exchange Server computersExchange 5.0 supports POP3, a protocol used to retrieve messages from a mail server. In addition to POP3 mail clients like Internet Mail and News, Windows CE Inbox, and Internet Mail Service for Windows, clients such as Pegasus and Eudora Pro are often used to send and retrieve messages from the Exchange Server computer. This introduces a new angle to the discussion of the availability of TCP port access.
- Downloading and retrieving messagesPOP3 client access to messages on an Exchange Server computer is regulated by the authentication method used. There are three such authentication methods. If Basic or Windows NT Challenge/Response authentication (Windows NTLM authentication) is used, downloading and retrieval of messages using a POP3 client requires access to TCP port 110. Exchange Server listens on port 110 for any incoming connection requests from POP3 clients for message download. If the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) authentication method is used, the Exchange Server computer listens on port 995. Therefore, if you are designing the packet filtering requirements of a network that includes an Exchange installation, keep in mind the access to either TCP port 110 or TCP port 995 if POP3 is a supported protocol.
- Sending messagesWhen POP3 clients send messages, the Exchange Server computer is communicating with an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) host. This requires access to TCP port 25. The Internet Mail Connector and the Internet Mail Service use TCP port 25 for inbound SMTP messages as defined by RFC-821. For inbound SMTP messages, the Internet Mail Connector and Internet Mail Service monitor port 25 for incoming connections from other SMTP hosts. Microsoft Exchange Server supports POP3 as defined in the RFC- 1734 and RFC- 1957 specifications.
Communication between IMAP4 clients and Exchange Server computersExchange version 5.5 supports IMAP4, the Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP4 is a superset of POP3 and therefore supports all its features and some additional ones. An example of an IMAP4 enhancement over POP3 is the ability to search messages for key words while the messages are still on the mail server. Users can then choose which messages to download to their local computer. IMAP4 also allows access to public folders and personal folders.
- Downloading and retrieving messagesThe ports that IMAP4 clients use when accessing messages on an Exchange Server computer depend on the authentication method in use. With Basic or NTLM authentication and TCP, the IMAP4 server listens on TCP port 143 for any incoming connection requests from IMAP4 clients for message download and retrieval. If SSL authentication is used, however, the port on which the Exchange Server computer listens is TCP port 993. Router and firewall setups should therefore take into consideration the access to TCP port 143 or TCP port 993 when this protocol is a supported feature for messaging.
- Sending messagesAs discussed above for POP3 clients sending messages, when IMAP4 clients send messages, the Exchange Server computer is communicating with an SMTP host. This requires access to TCP port 25. The Internet Mail Connector and Internet Mail Service use TCP port 25 for inbound SMTP messages as defined by RFC-821. For inbound SMTP messages, the Internet Mail Connector and Internet Mail Service monitor port 25 for incoming connections from other SMTP hosts. Microsoft Exchange Server supports IMAP4 as defined in the RFC-2060 and RFC- 2061.
Communication between Exchange Server computers and LDAP clientsLDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) is a specification for client access to the Exchange Server directory service to provide address book functionality. It allows the client to connect to the directory and allows information retrieval, addition, and modification. LDAP was introduced in Exchange version 5.0.
For the LDAP client to connect to the Exchange Server computer, the ports that need to be configured on the firewall are based purely on the authentication method in use. With Basic authentication, the Exchange Server computer listens on port 389. For SSL authentication, the port that the Exchange Server computer listens on is 636. Microsoft Exchange Server supports LDAP as defined in RFC-1777.
Communication between Exchange Server computers and NNTP clientsThe Network News Transport Protocol (NNTP) is widely used to post, distribute, and retrieve USENET messages. Clients can access these newsgroups as Exchange public folders. NNTP clients need to connect to the Exchange Server computer via port 119. The proxy software or firewall should take this into consideration when NNTP is supported. Microsoft Exchange Server supports NNTP as defined in RFC-977.
Communication between Exchange Client computers and Exchange Server computersAn Exchange Client computer on a LAN or WAN link uses remote procedure call (RPC) to communicate with an Exchange Server computer. The Exchange Server computer, an RPC- based application, uses TCP port 135, also referred to as the location service that helps RPC applications to query for the port number of a service.
The Exchange Server computer monitors port 135 for client connections to the RPC endpoint mapper service. After a client connects to a socket, the Exchange Server computer allocates the client two random ports to use to communicate with the directory and the information store. The client does not communicate with other components of the Exchange Server computer.
If security concerns for a network infrastructure require blocking of any ports other than the ones used, then the random assignment of ports for communication with the directory and the information store can become a roadblock. To avoid this, Exchange Server versions 4.0 and later allow you to statically allocate these ports.
At this juncture, for successful communication between client and server, the firewall needs to be configured to allow TCP connections to port 135 and all statically allocated ports. If you need to monitor traffic for analysis, these are the ports to monitor.
Communication between two Exchange Server computers in the same siteAll intrasite communication between Exchange Server computers uses RPC. Consequently, access to TCP port 135 becomes an important variable in the ability of Exchange Server computers to communicate if they are separated using routers and firewalls.
Communication between two Exchange Server computers within a site is between the two message transfer agents (MTAs) and the two directory services. No other components of the Exchange Server computers communicate directly.
As discussed above in client to server communication, an Exchange Server computer monitors port 135 for connections to the RPC endpoint mapper service. When an initiating Exchange Server computer connects to a socket, the receiving Exchange Server computer assigns two random ports to use to communicate with the directory and the MTA.
Already discussed above was the possibility of static allocation of a TCP port for the directory to listen and communicate on a specific port number. With the release of Exchange Server 4.0 Service Pack 4 and all releases of Exchange Server 5.0, a similar adjustment can be made for the MTA. The endpoint mapper will then relay the appropriate port number, so that further communication can be achieved by going to the port number specified. For establishing a static allocation of port for the MTA, refer to the latter part of Knowledge Base article 161931
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/161931/EN-US/ ), "XCON: Configuring MTA TCP/IP Port # for X.400 and RPC Listens." This explains the use of the registry value "TCP/IP port for RPC listens".
Consequently, for successful communication between two servers, the firewall needs to be configured to allow TCP connections to port 135 and all statically allocated ports. If you need to monitor traffic for analysis, these are the ports to monitor.
For more information about the ramifications and guidelines for static port assignment of Exchange services, please see the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/180795/EN-US/ )XADM: Intrasite Directory Replication Fails with Error 1720
Communication between two Exchange Server computers in different sites
- Intersite link uses site connector (RPC)Most of the discussion on intersite communication via site connectors mirrors the situation of intrasite communication between Exchange Server computers. The only difference is that communication between Exchange Server computers installed in two different sites is only via the corresponding message transfer agents (MTAs).
Although you continue to need the services of the RPC locator service and thereby port 135, the only adjustment you may need for static allocation of a port would be for the MTA. Again, refer to Knowledge Base article Q161931, "XCON: Configuring MTA TCP/IP Port # for X.400 and RPC Listens." This article discusses the use of the registry value "TCP/IP port for RPC listens". This feature is available with Exchange Server Service Pack 4 and all releases of Exchange Server 5.0.
- Intersite link is an X.400 connectorIf the intersite link is an X.400 connector, then the communication between the two Exchange Server computers continues to be between corresponding MTAs only. However, RPC is not the means of such communication. Communication between the MTAs follows the RFC1006: ISO over TCP/IP. Consequently Exchange Server computers, by default, use TCP port 102 for all such communication between the MTAs. There is no need for TCP port 135 as far the Exchange communication is concerned, because no RPC traffic is involved.
Exchange Server Service Pack 4 and all releases of Exchange Server 5.0 provide the ability to change this default port assignment of port 102. Article 161931
(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/161931/EN-US/ ), referred to above, discusses the use of the registry value "RFC1006 Port Number".
In this setting, for successful communication between two servers, the firewall must be configured to allow TCP connections to TCP port 102 or the manually assigned replacement port. If you need to monitor traffic for analysis, these are the ports to monitor.
IMPORTANT: If the port number for RFC1006 is changed from the default value of 102 on one server, then it is absolutely essential that all servers communicating via the X.400 connector incorporate this change. All MTAs must use the same port number.
Finally, as you analyze your specific situation, keep in mind that several combinations of the above situations can exist in an Exchange infrastructure.
Article ID: 176466 - Last Review: October 28, 2006 - Revision: 3.4