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Moving SBS and Exchange to new hardware using the 'swing migration' technique

SearchExchange.com expert Brad Dinerman explains how to move a Small Business Server 2003 installation to new hardware -- including all the Exchange Server and Active Directory data -- using the simple "swing migration" technique.

I have an existing Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 and I would like to know how, if at all possible, to copy all the existing data (Active Directory and Exchange Server) over to a new server. Would I just simply backup and restore, or is there a trick to it that makes it even easier?

Based on what you write, it sounds like you are trying to move your SBS 2003 installation to a new hardware platform. There are many ways to approach this task, as well as many reasons for doing it, and some of them could take many pages of writing to explain.

I am a big fan of the "swing migration" technique, which utilizes tools and procedures provided by Microsoft, but recently consolidated, documented and clarified by Jeff Middleton (SBS MVP). I prefer this for its relative simplicity and the fact that most of the work is done offline and will not cause any downtime, except for the few hours of actual server transition.

In addition, you will not need to modify workstations at all. As far as they are concerned, the SBS has the same machine name and Active Directory has not changed. They will function as always.

In a nutshell:

  1. Build a temporary server (call it TempDC, for example) and promote it to a domain controller on the existing SBS domain using DCPROMO.
  2. After replication has occurred, take TempDC offline and seize all the FSMO roles using the NTDSUTIL application. With a bit of additional cleanup, TempDC will be THE operations master for the domain and will have no record of any other domain controllers on the network.
  3. Build your new server (the one that you want to ultimately contain SBS and Exchange Server), give it the same computer name as the original SBS, join it to the domain hosted by TempDC and then promote it to a domain controller.
  4. Once again, go through steps similar to #2. Take the new server offline, seize all the FSMO roles and do your additional cleanup.
  5. Upgrade the new server to SBS 2003. When complete, you will have an exact replica of the original SBS in terms of Active Directory.
  6. Copy the Exchange databases from the original server to the new server, and then mount them using Exchange System Manager. Now you have not only a replica of the original domain controller in terms of AD, but also with respect to Exchange Server.
The points above are only a very brief summary of the steps involved. For details on this technique, see Jeff Middleton's Web site. It will definitely be worth your time.


I have a few questions regarding this response.

  1. Step 2 says" take TempDC offline." Should it say "take original server offline"?

  2. Step 3 says "build your new server," but it doesn't indicate which operating system -- [Windows] 2003 Standard or Windows SBS?

  3. Step 5 says to upgrade the new server to Windows SBS 2003, but upgrade from what?

—Neal B.


Regarding your questions...

  1. Step 2: This is correct the way that it is.

  2. Step 3: Build the new server with Windows Server 2003 using the media for Windows SBS. Install the OS to the point of the first secure logon (meaning the user is prompted by CTL-ALT-DEL).

  3. Step 5: Upgrade the server from the OS installed in Step 3 to Windows SBS 2003 (assuming that is your final goal).

Per my original response, there is a hyperlink to Jeff Middleton's Web site that gives all the gory details of this technique. You should go to that site to get the information that you need, because my description is only a general outline.
Brad Dinerman, Exchange Server and SBS Expert

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Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Tip: Exchange Server replication and synchronization
  • Expert Advice: Exchange Server in-place upgrade vs. migration
  • Step-by-Step Guide: How to spec your Exchange hardware needs
  • FAQ: Exchange and Small Business Server issues
  • Learning Guide: Exchange Migration
  • Reference Center: Exchange Server and SBS tips and resources
  • Reference Center: Exchange migration tips and resources
  • Dig Deeper on Exchange Server setup and troubleshooting