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Sysprepping Windows Server 2008 for new hardware

Posted on 2010-11-14
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I've spent a week or so building a "proof of concept" server box that is to replace our old Server 2003 machine. Everything is good, and I'm happy with the new OS. I'm ready to bring it into production but I've done the proof of concept on a fairly underpowered home desktop machine.

The production machine will be running on a proper server hardware - ASUS server motherboard, ECC memory, Intel Xeon processor, 24gb of ram, hardware RAID etc.

If I follow the instructions here for running SysPrep on my Windows Server 2008 machine:

http://briandesmond.com/blog/how-to-sysprep-in-windows-2008/

Will I be able to image the server over to the new hardware and have it work? I am looking to do the migration without having to reinstall everything again (Exchange, Hyper-V + all my virtual machines, DC, DNS, a number of other proprietary server programs etc.)
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Question by:Frosty555
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edster9999 earned 275 total points
ID: 34130522
The sysprep will take care of wiping the driver/configs out of windows.  It will re-do these as you boot the first time.
The only thing you might want to work on is to have drivers ready to be loaded that the new machine needs.  At its simplest go to the driver download page and create a drive area on the HD with all those files in it.
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by:edster9999
edster9999 earned 275 total points
ID: 34130525
A few things will go (like custom DNS settings).  If you are not getting these from the server then a scipt to add them back into the registry will speed this bit up.
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by:Steve
Steve earned 225 total points
ID: 34130599
server software is designed to work on alternative hardware in disaster recovery situations so its much easier than client OS to move.

> download ALL the drivers for the new hardware and unpack them all to a folder on the HDD of the existing server.

> take the image

>set up the HDDs as desired on the new server

>Apply the image to the new server

>boot up and allow windows to work out its on a new host

>windows will apply new drivers automatically from the folder you included in the image

Some bits of tidying up will be needed, as the new NIC probably wont pick up the right IP straight away etc.
The OS will need reactivating too, as windows will know it has moved and it will need to make sure the windows  license you have used is still valid.

If the hardware is too different for this to work (IE x86 to x64 for example) you may need to rebuild anyway. if it doesn't work you can wipe the new server and try the sysprep route without losing any data or config.
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by:Frosty555
ID: 34130623
totallytonto:

You're suggesting that you actually *can* usually just make a bare metal image and move it to new hardware, and Windows will be relatively okay even if the new hardware requires a different HAL?

(e.g. moving from a desktop running AMD Phenom II X4 onto a server running Intel Xeon Quad Core?)

On any non-server version of Windows this almost undoubtably would result in a bluescreen somewhere during the boot-up process. The server OS's are different?
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by:Steve
ID: 34130657
correct. it doesnt work will all of them, obviously so such a big hardware change as yours may be too much for it, but its certainly worth a try before taking time on the sysprep route.

The main purpose for this is disaster recovery. many servers suffer hardware failures and, in the interests of making recovery to new hardware as quick as possible, the server OS is as leanient as possible.

This facility obviously has some limitations but it is surprisingly good. Id recommend making the HDD layout as close as possible to the existing one (eg same number of partitions etc) otherwise the initial boot may suffer problems locating the wrong disk to boot from.
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by:Frosty555
ID: 34130756
I guess that explains why our Server 2003 box survived its last hardware failure. We had it installed on a decent server which suffered a motherboard failure. In a pinch we moved the hard drive over to an old Dell Dimension home desktop machine and it magically managed to hobble along, slowly, but bearably - hence why we're in the market for a new server.

I think I might go the SYSPREP way anyways even if it is a bit more work - simply because it's the more proper way of doing it. But it's good to know that the server OS's are a bit more resilient.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 34131437
SYSPREP is to prepare an image for CLONING AND DISTRIBUTION.  If you are migrating between two systems, you DO NOT want to sysprep.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 34131476
Put another way, If you are cloning because you don't want to reinstall 2, 3, 4 or more systems you DO NEED TO SYSPREP.

For example, if you need to setup 5 servers and they are all similarly configured (software wise), then you would build ONE system and when you had it configured as you wanted, then you would sysprep and clone it.  Sysprep DESTROYS all machine specific information that makes it unique on the network and allows it to reset that information on next boot in a random manner to ensure the machine, despite being a clone, has it's own unique config.

Further, syspreping an Exchange server MAY work, syspreping a DC will probably not because I would expect sysprep to wipe out the domain information
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