Windows Network Upgrade

I'm replacing our old Windows NT server with a brand new one running Server 2k3 this weekend.  We have a relatively small network with about 15 client machines and are currently running Exchange 5.5 on an NT server which is also acting as the Domain Controller.  All services are basically running in one box (exchange, NAV, backup), with one more box running ISA 2k as the firewall.  My questions might be basic and to broad, but I'm basically asking what I should look out for while doing the upgrade.

What is the best method for doing the upgrade?  Do I set up the new server as the domain controller, then attach the old server to that domain, then transfer everything over (files, exchange mailboxes, etc)?  If I do this, don't I have to have a different domain name than the current one?  How will this affect the client machines (all clients are win2k or greater)?  I don't want to have to reconfigure every client machine just because I've changed the domain.  In other words, If user A logs in as USER_A on OLDDOMAIN, then logs in as USER_A on NEWDOMAIN, will XP create a new "user" for that computer with whole new settings, desktop folder, my docs, etc?  Is it possible to have the new server use the old domain name, and if I do this, will the change be transparent to the clients?

Also, what should I be concerned about in terms of moving the Exchange mailboxes?

Is there a standard "order of operations" for this kind of thing?

Any help is be appreciated.


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Hi thung226,

Best thing to do is to take the new hardware you are going to load 2k3 on, and load NT4.0, with the lastest service pack.  I know this sounds weird, but here is why.

After you have loaded NT4 with latest SP, promote it to be your PDC.  This will demote your current NT server to a BDC, and provide you with a backup should everything go badly.  

Now, upgrade the new server (just promoted to PDC) to Windows 2K3 (make sure you keep it in mixed mode).  When you get to the point where you run dcpromo, it will ask you for a new domain name.  Choose whatever you want.  

For example, if your current domain name was widgets, I would use something like or widgets.local.  You can use widgets (without a ".com" or ".local"), but MS will gripe to you about it.  Basically, NT4 uses NetBIOS domain name.  It will keep this for backward compatibility while you are migrating everything over.  You won't have to create a new account, as the W2K3 box will act as a PDC emulator and still allow users to log in with their current account.  

I've done this many times, and by doing it the way described, your users won't see anything happen.  Once you get to this point, just move all your users files, folders, etc over to the W2K3 box.  When you are ready, simply shut off your old NT 4 server, and see if anything breaks.  This way, if it does you can turn the box back on and figure out what is going on.  Once you've had it shut down for a week or two and nobody has griped, promote your W2K3 box to run in native mode as opposed to mixed mode.  

As far as Exchange, what version do you plan on running on your new 2k3 box?  
thung226Author Commented:
Well, I don't have any of the NT 4 media.  The person who did the last server upgrade never got around to giving us the media (which we paid for... nice).

Anyway, sounds like loading NT 4.0 on the new server is a novel idea, but I can't do that.

We will be running Exchange 2k3.

Do you only have one server?  If you have a couple of NT4 servers, you could upgrade one of those to W2K3 and then transfer the PDC role to the new hardware with 2K3 on it.  

If not ... we'll have to dig a bit deeper.
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thung226Author Commented:
We have one server and a backup domain controller, both NT.  The NT primary controller is running everything (exchange 5.5, NAV, backup).

I'm unclear as to how the above will work.
So your BDC is just basically there for authentication purposes ... okay.  That is much better, assuming that you can possibly upgrade your BDC to W2K3 (hardware supports 2K3? you'll need to verify this)

If hardware is supported, your steps, in a nutshell would look like this

- Promote BDC to PDC.
- Upgrade BDC to W2K3 server.  
- Install 2K3 server on your new hardware.  Join it to the domain you specificed when upgrading BDC.  (Again, you're NT4 domain is a NetBIOS domain, and will still exists, but you will be able to reference it by the AD domain name you setup "").
-Transfer PDC role from old BDC server (which is now acting as a PDC emulator) to new server.  

Now all you have to worry about is the Exchange migration.  Best bet there is to read the Exchange deployment guide section on migrating from 5.5

Verify hardware and post if that is going to be a viable solution.
Howdy! since you have a small network, I would consider a clean network install (depending of course, on how much time your given to switch)

simply setup the new server completely independant of the old, create user accounts, data structure, rights, etc, copy over your data.

for the email, just use EXmerge to export all the mail out of your old mail system (by account) then import it to the new one.

this gives you a "clean" system to work from, does not affect the existing data, but does require more work. you will of course need to join all the PCs to the new AD domain as well.

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thung226Author Commented:
the BDC is over 6 years old and has only 96MB of memory, so I don't think I can install Win Server 2k3 on it.  I'm also unsure of the BDCs role in our network.  It hasn't been accessed in 4 years and I think it only serves as an emergency backup to the PDC.

zkrieger:  Will EXmerge move over EVERYTHING, including notes, contacts, etc for each account?  Will it exclude anything?  I can't have it just move over the mail, i need it to move over everything and make it as transparent as possible to the end user.

If I join all new PCs to the newly set up server, what about each "account" on each client?  Will that change?  So if I log in right now as USER_A on OLDDOMAIN, then try to log on as USER_A on NEWDOMAIN, will I have the same settings as before (with the exception that Outlook will have to point to the correct server along with network shares, etc...)
thung226Author Commented:
What about Public folders on the old Exchange 5.5 server?  How do I move those?  It seems as though it only works with mailboxes.
You'll have to setup the user accounts separately and join those accounts to the new domain.  It isn't going to be the same account, but you can set it up almost identical to how your NT4 environment is.  

Like zkrieger said, if you have a really small environment you might be able to do all of this one evening/weekend depending on how many mailboxes/AD accounts we are talking about setting up.  Keep in mind you will have to touch EVERY one of your clients workstations if you go this route.  

Also, we can post the steps here, but you really want to consider going through the deployment document I posted above.  I've used that for Exchange migrations, it is pretty dead on (except with clustering, but that's another story:))
thung226Author Commented:
OK, I don't mind touching every machine since there are only about 12-15 in the office and we only have about 20 mailboxes.  I have all weekend to do this, too.

I can't install NT 4 on the new machine (no media) and I can't install windows server 2k3 on the old machines (too old).

So, let's talk about creating a new domain with the new server.  Here are my concerns:

The president of our small co. uses a crackberry.  If she goes without it for more than a day, she'll behead me and I won't be able to come back to this forum and award any points.  This must work.  I am confident it will since the software never really sees the server and just runs on the desktop, though if there's anything I'm missing, please let me know.

How do I move info from the old server to the new one?  What steps on the old NT server should I take to add it to the new domain, which will be the PDC running AD?

If by info, you mean user files and folders, you can just save those to a backup, CD, workstation, etc. And then move all the data over to the new server when it comes on line.  But since that is a domain controller running NT4, you won't be able to add it to your new domain without doing a complete reinstall of NT4 (which you can't, due to no media).  There is no way possible to decommision an NT 4 server that is a PDC or BDC to a member server (this was fixed with 2000).  

As far as your anti-virus, and other applications, you'll simply install them from scratch.  That's it.  Concerning your "crackberry", unless someone comes along and reads this post that really understands those, I would suggest posting in another area under EE to see what people are saying about this.  I can help with the Microsoft stuff, but I've only implemented blackberries once, and that was about four months ago.  

Probably your best bet concerning Exchange is to post under the Exchange section about this migration.  Especially since you are going to be using Exmerge to move mailboxes.  My experience is limited to setting up connectors in the same domain and just zipping the mailboxes across. This will be your biggest challenge, that is, keeping everyone's mailboxes consistent.  

thung226Author Commented:
I think I might use EXmerge to create PST files and create a new domain, then switch everybody over.  Sure, not the most elegant, but it keeps the current server intact as a viable backup solution in case something bad happens with the new server.

I think that's a brilliant idea!  As mentioned before, good luck!
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