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Ask Microsoft: Remotely reinstalling SBS

Microsoft corporate vice president Rick Devenuti answers users' questions on remotely reinstalling Small Business Server and decommissioning a backup domain controller.

On a regular basis, top Microsoft executives answer readers' toughest technical questions about Windows-based systems. This installment of "Ask Microsoft" was answered by Rick Devenuti, corporate vice president for Microsoft Services and IT at Microsoft Corp. To submit a technical question for consideration, send an email to

Question: I have a Windows 2003 Small Business Server installation that needed to be reinstalled. However, the box is hosted remotely and the odds of having someone hand guide the installation on the other end are few and far between. Is there a way to automate the whole reinstallation, including reinstalling products like SQL Server 2000 with it?

Answer: One method to reinstall the OS on a remote server would be through use of a remote management board, like HP iLo or Dell DRAC4. These newest generation "service processors" allow a remote administrator to both interact with the remote server through a virtual console as well as mount virtual media, like a floppy or CD-ROM. This means that the administrator can control power-up/down, configure BIOS settings and drive arrays, then boot from the virtual media. The virtual media could be a Windows install CD, or a network boot floppy, or a WinPe CD.

Another option, if good network connectivity -- reliable, 10 MB or better -- exists, would be to utilize deployment solutions such as Remote Install Services (RIS) or Automated Deployment Services (ADS). RIS is an installable set of services that comes with Windows Server 2000 and is useful for automating simple installs. ADS is a free set of services that only run on Enterprise Editions of Windows Server 2003 and is capable of performing complex deployments. Both RIS and ADS rely on the target server PXE booting. PXE boot is dependant on the server and NIC firmware; most new servers now support PXE boot. The target server would either need to be preconfigured to PXE boot in BIOS, or have someone press the F12 key at POST (this key press can also be done through the remote management board). The PXE service on either RIS or ADS would respond to the BootP packet and send down a start-up code via TFTP. Depending upon the back-end service being used, subsequent steps could either download the Windows installation files or an image and an unattended setup to be initiated.

So, yes it can be accomplished by a variety of means, with the RMB solution being the most expensive but also most flexible.

Question: If I have an NT4 server that was acting as a backup domain controller (BDC), then we upgraded the environment to a Windows 2003 domain, what are the steps to remove that last BDC server?

Answer: To decommission the BDC, you can just power off the server and delete the computer account from the domain controller's organizational units on one of the remaining (2003) DCs. If you had configured a LanMan bridge to replicate policies to the BDC, then you should disable the LMExport server.

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