Renaming a Windows 2003 Domain

Posted on 2007-04-06
Last Modified: 2010-07-27
Hi there,

We are a small organisation with one Windows 2003 DC running Exchange 2003 SP1.  This server also hosts all of our applications we run as well as being a central storage point for our shared data.

We need to change the domain name from our present name to another.  I am reluctant to use the rendom.exe tool as it seems more trouble than it is worth and I have been warned away from it from people who have used it before.  I have full backups of our server, and I am thiking that a full re-installation of the OS and Exchange might be easiest.

If I do this however, can I use my backup to restore the C: drive, or will that overright the new installation I have done.  Do I have to do all of our applications from scratch again as well?  It seems like a long winded way to basically have to rebuild our server from the ground up again just so that we can have a different domain name.

Any advice would be appreciated!



Question by:peterkennedy
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LVL 38

Accepted Solution

Hypercat (Deb) earned 500 total points
ID: 18865291
No, you can't restore your complete backup after renaming the domain.  The domain name is integral to AD and your system registry.  You can restore data from the backup, but you can't restore the AD structure or the registry, so you'd have to recreate your user and computer accounts, email account, etc., etc.  The only way to do this without having to completely rebuild AD would be to do a migration to another domain on a new server.  Then you could migrate your user and computer accounts.  You'd still have to reinstall software, however.  

What is the reason for wanting to change the domain name?  If it's primarily for external use, you can change your external domain name without renaming your internal domain.

Author Comment

ID: 18868401
Thanks Hypercat.

Basically the organisation that is currently "Domain1" is breaking into two.  One of the partners in the organisation is starting a new business and the agreement is he takes their one and only server (which is the DC with Exchange, applications, etc with him.  This server is currently configured as "Domain1" with all of their applications, data, email, etc.  When he leaves to start his own business he will have a new business name and wants the domain name to reflect this change so that he logs onto say "Domain2".  It is really only a housekeeping thing I know, but so that the organisations are completely separated they want this done.

He wants his PCs to logon to the "Domain2" domain name at logon time and have no reference to "Domain1" whatsoever.

Is the easiest way to do this to exmerge their mailboxes out, backup their data, then rebuild the existing "Domain1" server from scratch to become "Domain2" (eg reformat, reinstall Windows 2003, Exchange, etc), then restore the data, exmerge the email data back in and re-install the applications onto the server?
LVL 38

Expert Comment

by:Hypercat (Deb)
ID: 18913992
If I understand your situation correctly, here's how I would do it.  If you need to preserve at least some AD info from Domain1, for the portion of the business that is remaining in that domain, then you need to purchase a new server for Domain1 first, with the required licenses, etc., for the new domain.  Then, follow the steps I've outlined below.  .  

1.  Install the new server into Domain1, run dcpromo to make it a DC and make sure Active Directory replicaton is complete.  

2.  Install Exchange on the new server and move ALL the mailboxes onto that server.  Also, move all FSMO roles, global catalog, etc. to that server.

3.  Install any other software you are keeping, and move any data that is to be retained in the old domain onto the new server.

4.  Run exmerge to export all of the contents of the mailboxes that will be moved to the new domain.  

5.  Remove the old server from the Exchange organization and uninstall Exchange using the steps in this article:

6.  Run dcpromo to remove the old server from the domain.  Once it's a member server, unjoin it from the domain.

7.  Check your old domain and make sure that all traces of the old server have been removed.

8.  Run dcpromo again on the OLD server and create a new domain.  You now have Domain2 created.

9.  Reinstall Exchange on the new server.  

10.  Migrate the users, mailboxes and computers from the old domain to the new one using the Active Directory Migration Tool.  For help downloading and using the tool, look at :

If you won't be preserving the old domain, then I would recommend:

1.  Unjoin all the computers from Domain1.

2. Run exmerge to export all of the mailboxes.

3.  Make a complete backup of all data, including Exchange.

4.  Uninstall exchange.

3.  Run dcpromo to remove AD.  This will effectively delete Domain1 entirely.

4.  Make sure all remnants of the domain are gone.

5.  Make another backup.

6.  Uninstall both DHCP and DNS and make sure all data related to both is gone.

7.  Reinstall DHCP and DNS cleanly.

8.  Run dcpromo again to create the new domain.

9.  Reinstall Exchange.

10.  Recreate your users and mailboxes.  Run exmerge again to restore the mailbox contents.

11.  Rejoin the computers to the new domain.

This should leave any other applications on the server intact, unless you have something that is strongly integrated into AD.  If that's the case, you may have to remove and reinstall those applications.  I would recommend checking with the software company if you have any doubts.

Logically, either of the above methods should work.  I know method 1 is solid, but I can't guarantee that method 2 is, as I can't find any documentation  to support doing what I've suggested.

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