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I have a server at work (a School) we are looking to upgrade and i not sure where to start.

Here my scenario.

The current (only) server we have is the DC & file server for the site, it currently is running Windows Server 2003 SP1. I am looking to upgrade this to Windows Server 2008 (using the same hardware). Is there an easy method of backing up the AD config, services and files, installing the new OS and then restoring AD, Services and files?

As its a school, this could be done over a holiday so down time isn't much of an issue.

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Why not do an in-place upgrade? – joeqwerty May 19 '12 at 12:07

If an in place upgrade isn't possible the best option would be to temporarily install server 2008 on another machine (doesnt have to be server hardware, a spare desktop system will suffice). You can run it for a few days without entering a license key or get a free trial for 180 days. If you dont have a spare desktop borrow one and swap its hard drive for one that isnt being used.

Add this new "server" as a domain controller and transfer all FSMO roles to it. Copy over any files you need to keep.

On the old server, remove active directory, being sure NOT to tell it that this is the last domain controller.

Then install server 2008, transfer the files back, install AD, transfer fsmo roles. Then remove active directory from the desktop "server" and reimage it back to its normal os or put its original hard drive back in.

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Is there an easy method of backing up the AD config, services and files, installing the new OS and then restoring AD, Services and files?

No. There isn't. For a start, you're not 'backing up & restoring' these things, you're migrating them to a new operating system that delivers these old services in new ways.

The "correct" way of transferring AD to a new server is to bring up the new server alongside the current one, promote the new server to be a domain controller (and add associated roles, e.g. DNS), transfer all Active Directory roles that are on the old server to the new one then demote the old server back to being just a member server. This is what you should do.

I'd also have more than one server acting as a domain controller, by the way, its really not a good idea to have just one domain controller.

As for transferring "files and services", this depends somewhat on what they are.

There's a big difference between copying one or two files and copying everyone's home directory share, for example, when it comes to transferring files.

Same for "services" - there's a big difference between setting up a "simple" service such as DHCP (or even a complex, but mostly self-contained service, such as SQL server) and migrating Exchange from one server to another (especially Exchange on a DC).

If you're honestly not sure where to start then you might be best off hiring a consultant to help.

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