We have very quickly out-grown our Small Business Server 2008 current hardware and have decided to purchase a complete new server.

What is the best and easiest way to move the server to new hardware?

It is one complete box, we do not have any SAN's or any complicated setup. We do have a couple of SQL databases running on the server and we also use Exchange.

I'm sure there must be some easy way to move everything :-)

Would creating a backup (Using Windows Server backup) and then restoring it on the new server work?

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    Can I ask what you're currently running SBS 2008 on and why you've think you've outgrown it? i.e. how many users? I'm asking because it's pretty greedy for RAM, and simply maxing out your current amount may do wonders. – gravyface Mar 25 '10 at 0:12
  • Both Space & RAM, the hardware is around 5-6 years old and we need to ensure we're not going to have it crash and burn – MikeT505 Mar 30 '10 at 22:30

Microsoft publishes a guide called "Migrating to Windows Small Business Server 2008 from Windows Small Business Server 2008" which describes the process of setting up an answer file and performing a migrate-install on the new hardware. You can find it here:


  • Thanks, I've been looking for this for ages. Although it sounds rather long winded :-( – MikeT505 Mar 22 '10 at 17:54
  • Do you think doing a volume backup and then restoring it on the new server would work? – MikeT505 Mar 24 '10 at 21:09
  • No. Both system-state backup and full volume backup (ala Ghost) will include parts of the registry that are dependent on the computer hardware, and should only be restored to identical hardware. – Nic Mar 25 '10 at 3:33
  • The documentation isn't bad. Pages 10-20 explain the core process that needs to be followed. Migrating a DC (especially SBS) is a delicate procedure; I strongly recommend taking the time to read the WHOLE document. It's so much easier than needing to recover from making a mistake. – Nic Mar 25 '10 at 3:38

My first plan of action would be to read the documentation Nic has provided a link to. If volume based backups are a non starter, this document might explain why, if it doesn't, it's got to be worth a try.

If you have the hardware, perform the install/restore to the new server offline. If you haven't yet purchased the hardware, why not grab yourself a copy of the free version of VMWare server and perform an offline test?

Make sure you document the install procedure, because you might find going off track ever so slightly could cause you a problem when you perform the process for real.

If it fails, nothing lost, delete/format your test system and fall back to the Microsoft recommended method as per Nic's answer.

If it works, make sure you give it a damn good test, (add workstations to the domain, perform logons, check exchange access etc). Once happy, destroy the offline system, and perform the job for real, using the steps you have documented earlier.

One caveat with a volume based backup: there used to be (or possibly still is) issues with backing up Exchange on server 2008, our Exchange server is still going strong on our Server 2003 box, so I'm out of touch in this respect, however I trust this isn't an issue for you (i.e. you are backing up your exchange server aren't you?)

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    +1 for attempting the move in a vmware environment. For risky or complicated systems I always do a proof of concept in VMWare before even bothering to purchase hardware. – Mark Henderson Mar 24 '10 at 23:44
  • Testing in a physically separate environment (virtual or otherwise) is a good idea. It's the safest way to realize that a simple volume backup/restore just won't work. – Nic Mar 25 '10 at 3:42

Have you considered moving to virtualization? This would be a great time, because you're changing hardware, but you want to keep the actual installation. Any of the p2v (physical to virtual) converters should be able to handle that.

  • I agree it would be a good time to move, but because its such a small setup, I don't think there are enough benefits to warrant moving to a virtual environment. If we were to move, what solution would you recomend? – MikeT505 Mar 13 '10 at 0:34
  • Honestly, I think the size would be to your advantage. You're buying a more powerful server anyway. That, plus the ability to do snapshots and the like really lends a lot of advantages (although you should read up on how to do VM snapshots on DB servers, as it isn't completely straightforward). I personally have been migrating my physical machines to ESXi, as it's reasonably simple to use and well documented. There are other free hypervisors with more features, but I found ESXi a nice balance. – Matt Simmons Mar 13 '10 at 1:20
  • Thanks, that does sound like a good idea. Although I'm sure there must some tool available to move the server to the new hardware and use it natively :-( – MikeT505 Mar 15 '10 at 0:13
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    I would recommend NOT virtualizing your domain controller. You could easily encounter logon or dns issues on the host after a cold boot, and you'll probably have timekeeping issues on the domain controller running as a guest OS. Every Active Directory domain should have at least one physical domain controller. – Nic Mar 22 '10 at 3:43
  • I would NOT recommend virtualising SBS 2008. We run it on a Dual Quad Core with 8Gb of RAM and it demands every little bit of it. With all those services on the one physical box, virtualising it would just kill all-round performance. – Mark Henderson Mar 24 '10 at 23:45

I've found a few other guides and they suggest to do a Complete restore, similar to this guide?



I know there's a way to move a physical box to a virtual...If there's a way to move a virtual to a physical, problem solved (there must be tools available, even if they cost money, it would save you enough time to warrant the spend).

Move the old server to a virtual, bring it up on the new hardware and sort out any device driver issues you may encounter, and then take it from the virtual to the physical on the new box.

This is a suggestion for something to look into, I've never done anything like it, but it would be the first thing I look at.

My second thing would be to look at moving the original disks to the new server. Once booted on the old disks, resolve driver issues, and expand your volumes using some new drives.

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