Building, replacing and renaming Windows servers

Have you found yourself building new virtual servers to replace old physical boxes?

Usually this is the case when you need to upgrade an application, migrate to new hardware (even virtual hardware) or when you find yourself needing to upgrade the operating system to one that is still supported (I’m referring to the recent end of life of Windows Server 2003).

I have found that the best approach is to build the server (with a different name) and get as far as your can through your build process (including the patching) before any applications are installed. No matter how much you think you have everything covered in a server rename, something will always go amiss. You could build the server in a virtual environment off your network, but you leave yourself that arduous task of installing all the required security updates.

So what are the steps you take to ensure you have it all covered. Do you have your server build process scripted? Do you have a checklist of what needs to be completed on each and every server? Do you even have a deployment server for new server builds?

With the options of virtualisation, building servers has become so much easier. No longer are we required to go looking for drivers for specific hardware devices (which has always been one of those annoyances). We can now build and deploy in minutes, if we have a good template to work from, our process is well defined and documented and all our configuration files are up to date.



You have an old physical Windows Server 2003 system and you want to migrate the application to a new virtual Windows 2012 R2 server.

  • Build the new VM with the same disk sizes
  • Install the Window 2012 R2 operating system
  • Name the server ‘server1-new’
  • Configure everything you need to configure on the new system (with the exception of you IP and server name)
  • *NB* – Check that you have all the configuration files you need from the old server, if you need to, copy them all to the new server.
  • Ensure that you have all you need from the old server

Your new server is now ready to have the application/s installed – STOP

You want to use the old name and IP address, so what next…

  • Power down the old server (you could just disable the network cards if you have some sort of ‘Lights Out’ access to the server).
  • Delete the server account in Active Directory.
  • Wait 30 minutes for Active Directory to replicate

Log into your new VM and remove the server from the domain by adding it to a WORKGROUP and change the IP address of the new server to the IP address of the old server. You will need to restart the system after the name change.

Once the system have come back online, log in and add the server to Active Directory.  Another restart is required.

Once the system has restarted for the final time you are ready to go ahead with your application/s install.

As always, feel free to leave comments and share your own experiences.

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