Update software or buy new hardware?

I have two windows server 2003 standard 32 bit servers.  One is the Domain Controller, the other an application/print server.  Is it true I cannot upgrade to windows server 2008 standard with a 32 bit system?  What are my best options?  The hardware is now 8 years old.  Should I buy new servers with an upgraded OS?  I  need to make the decision soon because of the end of life support coming for server 2003.  

I have about 12 users on this system with shared printers/folders/applications.  Is it necessary to run a domain controller or would I be better of doing something different?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.Commented:
>>  Is it true I cannot upgrade to windows server 2008 standard with a 32 bit system?

Incorrect.  See here https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc755199.aspx#BKMK_Supported

However you can't go from a 32 bit OS to 64 bit OS.  You'll also need to upgrade by July 14 2015 according to http://www.zdnet.com/article/10-things-to-consider-as-you-move-away-from-windows-server-2003/

>>  What are my best options?

My recommendation.  New hardware and new OS.  Check that your workstation software is supported if you go to a new OS.
Mohammed KhawajaManager - Infrastructure:  Information TechnologyCommented:
As you cannot upgrade 32-bit to 64-bit directly, you would need new hardware.  I suggest you purchase a server with Windows Server 2008 R2 or higher and install the base server with Hyper-V role only.  Create two VMs where one will be a DC and the second one as file and print server.  Install Win2K12 VM and promote to DC after which you could demote the Win2K3 DC.  After that is done, install second VM, join it to domain and add file and print server roles.  You could refer to the link below for migrating file server from Win2K3 to Win2K12:


You also need to ensure to procure Win2K12 CALs.
Upgrading to 2008 (32bit) makes no sense, as also that OS is old. If you go to 2008 r2 or 2012 anything, then you can't upgrade, as those are all 64bit only, and as has been mentioned already, you can't upgrade from 32 to 64 bit OS's.

Besides that, 8 year old hardware should be replaced anyway, it has lasted longer than what one would expect.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I would recommend you buy a new server and an Open License (Volume) for Server 2012 R2.  Then you install it on the new server.  With the new server, you install Hyper-V Server.  Then you install TWO VMs - one as a DC.  One as an application server.  If your application requires a 32 bit OS, you can use the volume license to downgrade the server and even get the license key and media from Microsoft at no additional charge (IF you use an Open License).  You can then use Disk2VHD to create a copy of the data drives and add the VHD to the new VMs.  NTFS permissions will be preserved so long as the domain stays in tact.  Share permissions (if you use them - I generally don't since NTFS permissions are more granular) can be exported via the registry and imported, so long as the storage drive letter remains the same.

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manch03Author Commented:
So true that the hardware has probably outlasted longer than expected.  That is what I was thinking.  Lots of good advice.
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