Converting Server 2003 to Server 2008 Using Virtual Machines

Has your IT team got the go ahead to upgrade your old Windows Server 2003 machines to Server 2008? I know I have been upgrading servers where I work, so I thought I would put together a little article on how to make the move to 2008. My place of employment has been using virtual machines in the last little while to cut costs and make more efficient use of our server hardware. We use Hyper V to accomplish this task, and the following notes have been created based off that. However if you are running VMWare, Virtual Box or even a physical machine these instructions can help you too.

1. Copy any shares and the permissions associated with each share to paper. If you have your shares on a separate hard drive from the Windows installation such as D, then you will not need to worry about copying the security permissions, as these will be stay intact if you move the drive to the new machine. Next you will want to copy the roles of the server to paper and the configuration for each of these roles. Also copy the hosted printers to paper making sure to note the model number, type of driver (PS or PCL) and the ports to which the printer is located. If you have any installed programs on the server make sure you have a way to install these on the new machine. If your servers host licenses for network programs be sure to create a copy of these licenses to a safe location such as your workstation. Lastly you will want to copy the static IP settings of the server down, as these will be replicated to the new server.

2. Create your new virtual machine in HyperV and install Windows Server 2008.

3. On the old server enable a local administrator account and if it is a domain controller demote the server using DCPROMO in the command line. When demoting a server it is very important to NEVER delete the last Global Catalog in your domain, or you are sure to be in a world of hurt! Next rename the computer and remove it from the domain by placing it into the WORKGROUP workgroup of your computer's properties.

4. Now you will need to power down your old virtual machine and and cut or copy the D drive (if in use) or any other drives making the transition to the new machine. If you have large drives copying the HyperV VHD file can take a long time. I suggest using cut to save time as the data doesn't need to be replicated to the new location. When moving the VHD file, if you receive a error telling you that the file is in use check to see that the virtual machine using the file is turned off. Still this error may persist. The file can be unlocked by deleting the VHD (yes I said delete it!) then immediately hitting ctrl-z to undo the delete operation. It doesn't really need to be said but I will anyway: BE CAREFUL! If all that feels too risky to you, you can download the program “Unlocker” to remove the lock placed on the VHD file. After the file has been copied rename the VHD to something meaningful such as D drive. Repeat these steps for any other drives you want to attach to the new machine.

5. Add the D drive to the new virtual machine using the HyperV interface. Now power up the machine and check to see that you can access the new drives through My Computer. If not, this is due to User Account Control in effect on the computer. To solve this launch a run command and type msconfig in the run and select OK. Now select the tools tab and launch “Change UAC Settings” move the slider all the way to the bottom. Next reboot the VM and then go to my computer. Change the ownership of the D drive to your admin user or domain admins, depending on the situation. The D drive should now be accessible thru My Computer.

6. Now name the server to its proper name and join the computer to the domain. Next add the active directory role using an existing forest and add DNS and a global catalog from the options and then run a DCPROMO from the command line to promote the server to a domain controller (if required). Lastly add the last of the roles that you copied to paper and configure them with their settings.

7. Install the programs to the new server and configure them. Next recreate the shares that are on the server. In most cases the permissions for the share should be set to everybody as the security permissions of the folders will be the determining factor on whether they can be accessed or not. Because shares are tied to the operating system, all the shares will have died with the old Server 2003 installation. Now recreate the printer ques and any licenses that the server may handle.
8. If you installed DNS on this server check to see that the DNS has replicated on the new server. This can take some time usually 20 min to 2.5 hours or more depending on the size of the network you are working on. Be Patient!

9. Check to see that you can access active directory from the new server, also check to see if your client programs accessing network licenses can receive one from the new server.

10. Lastly if you installed DHCP on the server check that your workstations can get an IP address in the range you specified when you setup DHCP. Depending on the number of computers on your network this can take some time before a certain workstation receives an IP.

Congrats! You have now upgraded your server to 2008! Now go home and enjoy the rest of your weekend! ;)


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