Windows nt to 2003 upgrade

Posted on 2007-08-07
Last Modified: 2013-11-05
I am planning an upgrade from Windows NT to Windows 2003 Active Directory.  There's a new server that's been purchased and I will be installing Windows server 2003 x64 on it.  I've been reading thru the upgrade guides but I need some advice.

I'd like to do as little as possible with the users' computers.  

1.  I would like to know if it's possible to perform a clean installation on the new server. (create a domain with the same name, move all the accounts from the old server to the new one, then power off the old server).  

2.  What will happen to all the client machines?  Do they have to unjoin/rejoin the domain?  Will I have to re-do user profiles?

3.  Would it be any easier to upgrade the current NT 4.0 PDC to Windows 2003 and Active Directory and make the new server a domain controller and then decomission the old server?

I've just had better luck in the past doing clean installs rather than upgrades.  What do you think?

4.  I know there's the Active Directory Migration Tool available.  Does that work pretty well or are there any other tools available?
Question by:Florescu
    LVL 13

    Accepted Solution

    All your questions can be addressed by simply answering question 3... Yes, it would be easier to upgrade your NT4 PDC (make sure you have a recently sync'd BDC as a backup... and upgrade it to Window 2003 with AD. Then you can join the new server to the new domain and promote it to a domain controller. Transfer the FSMO roles to the new server and then you can demote the old server and remove it from the domain.

    Doing it this way, you won't have to worry about question 1 because your client machines won't have to be moved or migrated.
    You won't have to do anything to user profiles (although if they are using any kind of roaming profiles or mapped connections to the old server, they will have to be moved and remapped).
    Yes, there are AD migration tools. Microsoft produces the "Active Directory Migration Tool" or ADMT (currently version 3, which works very well). Or if you want something a little fancier with reporting capabilities and some extra add-ons (of course for a cost), check out for their Quest Migration Manager.

    LVL 82

    Assisted Solution

    Definitely upgrade:
    Install DNS on the new W2k3 machine (but no dcpromo yet!), create a zone with the future DNS domain name you're using; enable dynamic updates on the zone, and let the machine point *only* to itself for DNS resolution. If needed, install WINS as well, set up a replication with your current WINS server(s).
    Let all post-NT4 clients point to your new W2k3 DNS server (future DC), configure forwarders to point to your ISP's DNS server (or rely on the root hints).
    Install NT4 as BDC in your current domain on an NT4 compatible machine (can be a virtual machine!) with a C: partition of 4GB, let the machine point to the W2k3 machine for DNS.
    Do a full replication of your DCs.
    Promote your new BDC to PDC, then shutdown your old PDC (now BDC) as a backup. If you have domain members running W2k or later, you might want to set the "NT4Emulator" registry entry (as described below) *before* you run the upgrade; not (only) to prevent the overloading, but also to prevent your W2k/XP machines to recognize the domain as AD domain and change their logon behaviour (just in case you want to go back to NT4). If you do so, set the value on the W2k3 machine as well, and set the "NeutralizeNT4Emulator" on both machines, too (they have to recognize each other as DCs).
    Upgrade the NT4 PDC to Server 2003.
    Promote the W2k3 machine to DC, make it a global catalog.
    Transfer the FSMO roles to the W2k3 machine, then depromote the upgraded server (never, ever, simply remove an AD DC in an AD domain; you still can simply remove NT4 BDCs, though).
    As usual: Make sure you have working backups, and try the method that's best for you in a lab environment before starting in your production domain.

    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

    How To View and Transfer FSMO Roles in Windows Server 2003

    How to promote a domain controller to a global catalog server

    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

    Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

    Valid for most installations, not only SBS:
    The Domain Name System name recommendations for Small Business Server 2000 and Windows Small Business Server 2003

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