Weighty Decision in an Exchange/Windows Upgrade

Upgrading from Windows NT 4.0/Exchange 5.5 to Windows Server 2003/Exchange 2003? Simplify your decisionmaking and choose the ADC method.

Bill: I'm the engineer/administrator for a small, 10-person shop. We're running NT 4.0 (with the latest service packs, etc.) and Exchange 5.5. The "shop" is a non-profit organization and has little money. Our current implementation uses a single server which houses both the NT domain and the Exchange 5.5 database.

We want to move to Windows 2003 Server Standard Edition, but I'm told that you can longer use a single Windows 2000/2003 server to be both the domain controller and the Exchange 2000/2003 server. Is this true? If it is true, then we're forced to either shell out the dollars for two servers (one to host the domain and one to host Exchange) or go back to peer-to-peer networking.
Can you please comment?

Robin: You can indeed run Exchange 2000 or 2003 on a Windows 2000 domain controller. The problem will be getting from Point A to Point B. Here's one way to do it:

Get Help from Bill

Got a Windows or Exchange question or need troubleshooting help? Or maybe you want a better explanation than provided in the manuals? Describe your dilemma in an e-mail to Bill at mailto:boswell@101com.com; the best questions get answered in this column.

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Bring up a desktop-class machine running NT 4.0 and Exchange 5.5. Transfer all your mailboxes and connectors to the temp machine, then remove Exchange from the PDC. (Test that users can find the new server in Outlook. The most common cause for failure is a WINS configuration problem.)

Now do an in-place upgrade of the PDC to Windows Server 2003, which takes the content of the SAM and imports it into Active Directory. If this is an old machine, you might want to consider buying new hardware and doing a leapfrog upgrade. Install NT 4.0 on the new machine, make it a BDC, promote it to PDC, then do the in-place upgrade to Windows 2003.

Here's where life gets interesting. You have a couple of choices for setting
up your Exchange migration:

  • You can install the ADC on the new Windows 2003 DC, then sync recipient properties between the Exchange directory service and Active Directory then install Exchange 2003 on the Windows 2003 DC. (Whew, that's a BOA—Boatload of Acronyms!) Migrate mailboxes and connectors from the temp Exchange server, then decommission the temp machine.


  • You can install Exchange 2003 on the Windows 2003 DC and make a new organization, then spend an afternoon using Exmerge to dump everyone's mailbox to flat files and import the .PST files into the users' new mailboxes.

Frankly, both of these have their advantages. If you were me, I'd use the ADC method because Exchange 2003 makes it very simple to configure.

Hope this helps.
—Bill Boswell

In the "Small Correction Dept..."
In last week's column, I wrote that you could run a shared disk cluster on Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. This is not the case. You must have either Enterprise or Datacenter Edition to run a shared disk cluster.

Some of you caught it the error and quickly wrote back; the sentence has since been corrected. Sorry for the error.

About the Author

Contributing Editor Bill Boswell, MCSE, is the principal of Bill Boswell Consulting, Inc. He's the author of Inside Windows Server 2003 and Learning Exchange Server 2003 both from Addison Wesley. Bill is also Redmond magazine's "Windows Insider" columnist and a speaker at MCP Magazine's TechMentor Conferences.

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Aug 30, 2005 mani bangalore, india

how to differentiate primary domain controller and additional domain controller.

Fri, Aug 6, 2004 Anonymous Anonymous

After read all coments, I found that you need to concern the group policy, otherwise, you will get the 1013 error or permission error from 2000 to 2003

Mon, Dec 1, 2003 Danny Anonymous

Just upgraded my 5.5 on 2000 to 2003 on 2003. Use swing method, worked beautifully. Took about 3.5 hr to move 5.7GB mailbox from 5.5 to the swing server and another 5 hr to the production server.

Mon, Dec 1, 2003 Kristina Anonymous

I would also highly recommend Small Business Server 2003! I am an admin in a 20 user shop and we use it and LOVE it! We get all the super cool expensive stuff for a Small Biz price. It includes Windows, Exchange, ISA and SQL (if you buy premium, standard includes Windows and Exchange). Really... I urge you to consider this. My first reaction when I read your question was "SBS!" and it looks like I'm not the only one...

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 Gene Joplin, MO

I'd go with the SBS 2003 as well. It's a vast improvement over the earlier versions and also ships in two versions, one without SQL and one with. The "standard" version comes with Exchange and is VERY keenly priced -- typically less than Server 2003 by itself! (Dell has an entry level server with a 5-seat version of SBS 2003 Standard preinstalled for around $1300.00) Also, for moving the boxes, the new Exmerge (you'll have to download it, it's not included) will move mail directly from one Exchange server to another. It does create temporary PSTs but you never have to mess with them -- just create a folder for them and they'll be deleted when the merge is complete. Also, the migration tool that comes with Exchange 2003 does a pretty nice job of moving mailboxes (and accounts!) from one organization to another. The accounts will be disabled and the passwords aren't migrated (you can choose between a random password or use the account alias for the initial password) but in a small outfit like the one described, it wouldn't take long to enable the accounts and reset the user's passwords -- or just let them do it themselves on the first logon.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 BH SG

Would recommened SBS 2003.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 Jason DC

I would absoultey go SBS2003. Not onyl do you get everything for far cheaper, but you add the Remote Workplace features.

Also, commenting on the migration, why would you move the Exchange info to the spare desktop? Install a spare desktop as a NT 4.0 BDC, promote it to a PDC, then upgrade that to Win2K3. From there, follow the MS provided upgrade steps. I JUST did that last weekend. Worked like a charm.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 Nathan Winters London

I would add to the suggestions of SBS2003 it is a really capable and stable product which would be more than enough for a small business.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 AlanS Solutions Unlimited

Again, take a strong look at MS Small Business Server 2003 Standard Edition or Premium Edition if they also have use for ISA andor SQL Servers. And the pricing available thru DiscountTech makes it a no brainer.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

A lot of work for a simple task. Just change the LDAP port the Exchange 5.5 Server used to something other than 389. Updrade the DC to 2003, use the ADC to integrate 5.5 into AD then upgrade exchange to 2003. Done.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 David Boston

I second the recommendations for SBS 2003. Also, nonprofits should look into the Microsoft donation program through DiscountTech at www.techsoup.org. Even less expensive than Charity Open License. But new hardware will probably be required no matter which upgrade this organization chooses.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 John McGuire Huntington, West Virginia


On my largest customer, I tried an in place upgrade from NT4, Exch5.5 to 2000. 400 mailboxes, just the type of migration where an in place upgrade should be beneficial. It was miserable. Word from MS support at the time (too late for me) was to dump the user mailbox data with exmerge and recreate everything fresh. In a 10 user organization, this should be MUCH simpler than the in place process, to the point that in place isn't really even an option.

Also, he should have pointed out that as a non-profit, they qualify for charity open licensing. MS and resellers don't publicize this too well, but it will save a non-profit 75% or more of their software cost.

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 John Hall

Robin, Remember you can get Microsoft Charity pricing for the 501 non-profit. (Also, I would shy away from Windows Small Business Server. SBS has always caused us maintenance issues.)

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

I think SBS is the best way to go!!!!!

Tue, Nov 25, 2003 JayDee PDX

If I could make a small suggestion, I would look into Windows Small Business Server 2003, which will give them everything they need and be easier on migration and administration.

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