What is the best way to migrate my NT4.0 PDC to Windows 2003 Server DC?

Posted on 2006-04-12
Last Modified: 2008-03-10
Currently I have a NT 4.0 Server (PDC) running also our Exchange 5.5 email server and is basically getting a SCSI Hardware error. The Server is 8 years old and the SCSI controller is virtually impossible to find. Therefore, I have purchased a new Dell Power Edge 1800 server with Windows 2003 server and Exchange server 2003. I want to configure the new server and possibly attach to the network but am not sure if I should make the 2003 server a DC with net new exchange server then once the all computers (12) are migrated to new 2003 server shutdown 4.0 server and scrap it for parts. Any suggestions or information from someone that has gone through this excersie would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time
Russell Dodd
Question by:russdodd
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    Expert Comment


    We've done a similar upgrade, NT4 & Exch 5.5 to Win 2000 & Exchange 2000.

    If you've only got 12 systems and 1 server, would you consider just re-creating the user accounts under a new domain, and copy/re-create files shares and permissions on the new server? Windows 2000/3 and AD is a world apart from NT4. This approach would just be like a new, "greenfield" deployment. You'd create a new domain, with new user accounts, setup internal DNS, etc. If the users are using offline files (.pst files) then you wouldn't need to worry about the exchange database conversion. The new server would just be a "drop in" replacment for a mail "gateway". You'd be creating a "parallel universe" on your network that you would cut over to when the time is right.

    Depending on your experience level with Active Directory, it may help to set up a lab environment where you could do a few test installs and do the DCPROMO and Exchange upgrade several times. When you've finally got it right, one morning just have the new users log on the new domain that you migrated all the user files over to, and also cutover mail services to the new server. You wouldn't want this to be able to talk to the rest of the network while you are doing this, of course, until you did have it right.

    If you did go with the coexist/upgrade path, there are two areas that you'll need to consider. 1) the NT4 upgrade to 2000/2003 Active Directory, and 2) The Exchange migration. Unfortunately, these are largely intertwined.  If I remember, the upgrade to active directory will need to be done first, as Active Directory combines the old exchange directory functionality with all the functions of NT, plus other stuff, so you'll install the Active Directory Connector to port the exchange 5.5 directory information over to 2003 Active Directory.

    You will eventually demote the NT4 DC to a BDC, as DCpromo will make your 2003 server a NT Primary Domain Controller, called the PDCE, or Primary Domain Controller Emulator. The AD Connector would incorporate your Exchange 5.5 information into AD.

    One resource for the Exchange Upgrade would be Microsoft's 2003 upgrade site:

    Hope this helps. You've got a lot of work ahead.

    Author Comment

    Thanks I also, forgot to tell you that there is a win2k server that is a member of the NT4.0 domain. Do you think this enables an easier or harder path??
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    Accepted Solution

    If this is a Member Server, then this doesn't matter. The question is going to be whether or not the domain has been upgraded to Active Directory.

    IF the W2k server is a domain controller, then your NT4 box can only be a BDC, and you are already running the Active Directory Connector for Exch 5.5 - a large part of your work is already done for you.

    It sounds like the W2k box is "just" a server with no domain controller responsibilities, so it would just act like any other client, really.

    Author Comment

    Sounds like a plan - I am going to try the method of creating a whole new domain and installing Exchange 2003 on this server then one by one migrate each user. The only crux to this is that the Windows 2000 server also runs some business critical applications. I hope that during my test phase I can leverage adding the 2000 server to the 2003 domain and then go back to the NT4.0 domain after the testing. If not I will have to just make a drop dead cut over and muscle the installation home.

    LVL 9

    Expert Comment

    you can read up this step by step guide from miscrosoft :

    Start reading from chapter 1 if you want to.
    skip to Chapter 9 if you want to migrate immediately.
    LVL 7

    Expert Comment

    Look at these articles -;en-us;326209

    Migrating_Windows_NT_to_Windows_Server_2003.html" target="_blank" onclick="return openNew(this.href);">
    (downloads a .doc file)

    Some other links from EE :-

    How To View and Transfer FSMO Roles in Windows Server 2003

    If you already have W2k/XP clients, you might have a look at this article before starting the upgrade:
    How to prevent overloading on the first domain controller during domain upgrade

    And you want to make sure your DNS settings are correct:
    Frequently Asked Questions About Windows 2000 DNS and Windows Server 2003 DNS

    Best practices for DNS client settings in Windows 2000 Server and in Windows Server 2003

    And some other links that might be useful:
    Tools and Documentation for Upgrading to Windows Server 2003

    Background Information for Upgrading to Windows Server 2003 Active Directory

    Migrating Windows NT Server 4.0 Domains to Windows Server 2003 Active Directory

    The Domain Name System name recommendations for Small Business Server 2000 and Windows Small Business Server 2003

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