The current network configuration is as follows.

5 Servers

  • Server 1: Windows Server 2003 R2 (Server in question to reformat) Primary Domain Controller + VPN + WSUS + DHCP + DNS

  • Server 2: Windows Server 2003 R2, Exchange 2003, DFS, SVN, Secondary DC

  • Server 3: Windows Server 2003 R2, Backup DC, DFS

  • Server 4: Windows Server 2003 R2, Antivirus Server, Remote Access Server.

  • Server 5: Windows Server 2008, Development Server. (not really important in this question)

The back story is that Server 1 (the Primary DC and Global Catalog server) was originally just a WSUS and ACT (Act is like Sales Force) server. Basically a non essential system. We had a disaster and the only option was to upgrade that server to become the Primary DC and GC Server. I do like the hardware on the machine and our current configuration, but feel it should be setup properly if we are going to rely on it.

I would like to know step by step what actions must be taken to reformat the machine.

Can I retain the same computer name? Do I have to demote the server and promote the backup DC (Server 3) then reformat then promote Server 1 back to Primary DC and GC? I am not worried about the services on the machine as those will be easy to move to another server. It is mainly the Domain Controller function that I am curious about the proper steps for this sort of project.

Anything I am missing here please let me know and I will update.


1 Answer 1


Let's start with the basics. There is no Primary and Secondary; all DCs basically equal (except for FSMO roles and such). All DCs can be GCs too; you don't have to have just one. In fact it's a good idea for the DC on the Exchange server to have a copy of the GC for performance reasons (and availability) (though it's not a good idea to have AD and Exchange on the same server).

Side note: Your environment sounds ideal for virtualization like Hyper-V server.

You need to use dcpromo to remove AD from the server before reformatting it. MS has documents on how to remove a DC before decommissioning.

What are you trying to accomplish with all this exactly? You're setup sounds reasonable if you're a small shop. It's not an ideal setup, but it's going to be a fair amount of work to redo without any downtime and if it's all properly documented I don't see any major faux pas.

  • Great response. Thanks. Yes the FSMO roles are owned by Server 1. I can always transfer those. I am familiar with that process. I could virtualize if I had a machine capable of handling it. But I don't... Yes I agree the setup for our small company is very well done and documented properly. My boss put the AD and DC roles on the exchange server. I was and still am very against it. I would not like to add the GC roll as well. I never have any performance issues with this small of an AD. I know this is a lot of work. Maybe you are right. "If it ain't broke don't fix it." :). +1
    – Campo
    Aug 11, 2010 at 14:56

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