Upgrading to Windows Server 2003 : Preparing Domains and Computers

6/12/2012 4:37:20 PM
The first step in the actual upgrade process for servers running Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 Server is to prepare the domains and computers for the upgrade. This important step streamlines the upgrade process and makes it go as smoothly as possible.

Reviewing Server Upgrade Requirements

You can upgrade to Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, from the following operating systems:

  • Windows 2000 Server

  • Windows NT 4.0 Server with Service Pack 5 or later

  • Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Services with Service Pack 5 or later

To upgrade to Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, you must be running one of the following operating systems:

  • Windows 2000 Advanced Server

  • Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition

You can install Windows Server 2003 R2 on a server running Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 without performing an operating system upgrade.


You must perform a clean install to switch editions, unless you want to upgrade from Standard Edition to Enterprise Edition, in which case you can perform an upgrade installation. You cannot upgrade from an x86 edition of Windows to an x64 edition of Windows.

Preparing Windows NT Domains

Perform the following actions to prepare a Windows NT–based domain for upgrading to Active Directory:

  • Verify that all PDCs and BDCs that you plan to upgrade are running Windows NT Server 4, or Windows NT Server 4 Enterprise Edition with Service Pack 6a.

  • Clean up the directories and user accounts to eliminate old baggage. When you upgrade the domain, Windows moves all user accounts into Active Directory. Although Active Directory is extremely scalable, disused accounts do take up hard disk space and make identifying valid accounts more difficult. There’s no point in storing and replicating disused accounts indefinitely, so delete them before you upgrade.

  • Clean out unused directories, and uninstall outdated software.

  • Disable trusts that you don’t want to preserve.

  • Synchronize the PDC with all the BDCs, and then implement the recovery plan , including taking one of the BDCs offline and disconnecting it from the network.

Preparing the Computers

To prepare the computers for the upgrade, perform these tasks for each computer involved:

  • Check the system requirements for the version of Windows to which you’re upgrading to make sure the computer meets them. 

    Make sure that servers have large enough hard drives before upgrading, particularly on Windows NT 4.0 PDCs and BDCs—the account database can grow up to 10 times in size when upgrading to Active Directory.

  • Check the Windows Server Catalog on the Microsoft Web site ( If possible, replace components that the Windows Catalog doesn’t list as 100-percent compatible.

  • Insert the Windows Server 2003 or Windows XP CD-ROM (if you’re upgrading a client), and check the system for compatibility problems.

  • If you’re upgrading from Windows NT 4.0, install Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 6a.

  • If you’re upgrading a Windows 2000 server running Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2000, make sure ISA Server 2000 Service Pack 1 or later is installed.

  • If you’re upgrading a Windows 2000 domain controller that has the Server for NIS component of Services For UNIX 2.0 installed, see Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 293783 at for information about a supported hotfix.

  • Read the Read1st.txt and Relnotes.doc files on the Windows 2000 CD-ROM to check for application or hardware issues.

  • Check the Event Viewer. Fix any problems before you upgrade.

  • Uninstall any virus protection programs you have installed, unless you know that they work under Windows Server 2003 without modification.

  • Perform and verify a full system backup, including the system state, and create or update the emergency repair disk.


    Windows NT 4.0 DHCP servers sometimes lose data during the upgrade process. To mitigate this issue, export the DHCP database and settings using the Dhcpexim.exe tool from the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit, and then restore the file after the upgrade is complete.

  • Record the hardware configuration of the system for reference in case of a hardware conflict or problem. Include installed devices, interrupt requests (IRQs), jumper settings, and the hard disk configuration.

  • Disable any Windows NT 4.0 software-based disk mirrors, volume sets, stripe sets, or stripe sets with parity:

    • If you’re using a software-based mirror set, break the mirror.

    • If you’re using any volume sets, stripe sets, or stripe sets with parity, back up the data and then delete the set (deleting all data). After you install Windows Server 2003, restore the data to the appropriate basic disk or dynamic disk. 


      If you absolutely must access a Windows NT volume set, stripe set, stripe set with parity, or mirror set after upgrading to Windows Server 2003, use the Ftonline tool included with the Windows Server 2003 Support Tools.

  • Uncompress all hard disks (unless they make use of NTFS compression).

  • Disconnect the serial cable to any serial port uninterruptible power supply (UPS) devices. (You can leave USB UPS devices plugged in.)

  • Locate all drivers and get the Windows CD-ROM, or connect to the network share with the Windows installation files.

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